Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Writing craft: Getting ideas from movies

One piece of advice I would give to all writers is this - read a lot. By reading a lot, you can not only learn things and get ideas, but you can see how the execution of ideas works (or doesn't work, and frankly, often you can learn more from a bad example than from a good one).

But your sources of inspiration shouldn't be limited to books. I often get ideas from watching movies - in particular, by paying attention to how movies are structured and how they use imagery.

For example, one of my future book projects is a novel about a serial killer bumping off college frat boys at a Midwestern college (most of my friends, being academic fraternity members or GDIs, are very enthusiastic about this idea). I'm taking a cue from Frenzy, one of Alfred Hitchcock's last films, which is about a serial rapist/murderer. Though the murderer kills several people over the course of the film, only one of the killings is shown in detail (in perhaps too much detail - it's a very unpleasant scene, so be forewarned). But none of the others are. What's perhaps more distressing than the first killing is the second, in which the killer goes to the apartment of a likable female character, and the camera does a long, slow pull-out. We see and hear nothing of what is going on in the apartment - we don't need to.

I'm thinking of using this technique in that future book - because my killer always uses the same method, I only need to show one of the murders in any sort of detail once. The rest can all be done off-page if I so desire.

Of course, the problem with getting inspiration from movies is that certain scenes work well in one medium and not in another. And there's the problem of film-makers who work more with atmosphere, imagery, and emotion rather than plot or dialogue. See my post below with the "The Voice of Love" link to the final scene from Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. I desperately want to write something that's as transcendently lovely as this scene. I'm not sure I will.

But I'll have fun trying!

Review: What Have You Done to Solange?

Now playing on the iPod: "The Voice of Love" - Angelo Badalamenti

My review of the sleazy-but-smart thriller What Have You Done to Solange? is up at Horrorview. Check it out.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Read this now

And this post is why Janet Reid is, in addition to being a great agent, a good person as well. As a writer, I thank you, Janet!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

What will YOU do this November?

Now playing on the iPod: "Song to the Siren" - This Mortal Coil

November is fast on the way, and if you've always said, "I ought to write a book one day" - why, now's your chance!

National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo to use Internet-speak) challenges aspiring writers to write a 50,000-word novel in a month. It sounds tough but it can be done.

So go on, give it a try. Yes, nothing may come of this novel. Does that matter? You'll have done what many people say they will do but never even attempt. There are few things as satisfying as finishing a novel, and that's especially true of the first.

You may like what you've done well enough to take the next step. Edit, revise, edit again. Show it to those whose opinions you respect and find out what they think. (Remember, you can't go directly from NaNoWriMo to being published!)

And who knows, you may even decide to write another novel! (You know what they say - First one's free!)

Go on and do it. You know you want to!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Now that's what I call writing: Stephen King and Peter Straub

Now playing on the iPod: "Magic and Ecstasy" - Ennio Morricone *

The following passage from Stephen King and Peter Straub's Black House is a favorite of mine. Usually I don't like my foreshadowing quite this blatant (I prefer the "sucker punch" approach to Bad Things Happening to Good Characters), but something about this passage resonates with me.

Still, they are safe. And our guys are safe, too. All of them came back in one piece from the other side, and surely we did not expect that; most quests of this type usually demand at least one sacrifice. All's well that ends well. And this can be the end, if you want it to be; neither of the scribbling fellows who have brought you this far would deny you that. If you do choose to go on, never say you weren't warned: you're not going to like what happens next.

Ooooh, yes! And you know what? They were right!

* Stealing an idea from the Pub Rants blog. Agent Kristin starts every blog entry with what she's listening to at the time, and since I don't talk about music enough on this blog, I'll follow suit.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Bargain time!

Didn't believe it til I saw it with my own eyes, but Stephen King's new book Under the Dome is available for $9 pre-order at Amazon. That's right, $9. For a 1008-page book, that's quite the bargain, methinks. See for yourself at Amazon if you're so inclined.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Review: The Werewolf's Guide to Life

My book review for The Werewolf's Guide to Life is up at Check it out.

This picture is a beautiful thing

I adore this. Thanks to Jim at for sharing this with me.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Review: Rain of Fire

My review of the Omen-ripoff Rain of Fire (starring Kirk Douglas and his manly square jaw) is up at Horrorview. Check it out.

Fragment from a conversation

Constant Reader Gerry: "You can't smite characters just because it will make your friends mad."
Me: "Why not?"

Gerry need not be alarmed; I was being facetious. I would never smite a character just to annoy my friends who like that character. Character deaths are determined solely by the story.

Making my friends mad is a bonus. ;-D

Nonfacetiously: A reader's reaction to a character's death was the first time I truly felt the power a writer can wield. I thought of all those times I cried out, "No! Not [character's name]!" because I'd come to care for that character, and then realized that a reader was saying that to me, about one of my characters. (The reader also called me a bitch - goodness me, such language! - but I did take a perfectly nice character and turn him into roadkill, so I may have earned that epithet...)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Can I borrow a book?

See, I am very excited about James Ellroy's new book, Blood's a Rover. I've loved almost everything I've read by Mr. Ellroy and the new one is getting very good buzz.

Problem is, it's the third in a loose trilogy, and I haven't read the first book in said trilogy, American Tabloid. Problem is, I have American Tabloid but Mr. Ellroy signed it for me at last June's Los Angeles Times Festival of Books (very nice personal signature) and I don't want to read that copy lest I drop it in the bathtub or something (I'm not always the most careful person with my books, hence all the dog-ears and coffee stains).

Anyone got a copy I could borrow? If I drop your copy in the bathtub I'll buy you another one.

Opening chapters: What NOT to do

From the Guide to Literary Agents blog, a list of agents' pet peeves regarding opening chapters.

Are you checking your opening chapter to see if it includes any of those. Good, because I am too!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Bradbury season

It means cooler weather and that I can finally make chicken and dumplings again! (Did that tonight, as a matter of fact. Mmm-mmm good!)

More importantly, it means we're in Bradbury season. If you know what I'm referring to, good for you.

If you don't, by all means educate yourself. Your assignment will be to read a Bradbury story a day for the month of October. Don't worry, they are short (some are only a couple pages long). But if after reading these you still don't know why October is Bradbury season... well, can't help you any more.

My recommendations, in no particular order:
  1. Homecoming
  2. The Lake
  3. There Will Come Soft Rains
  4. Mars is Heaven
  5. A Sound of Thunder
  6. Skeleton
  7. The Jar
  8. The Small Assassin
  9. The Black Ferris
  10. The Women
  11. The Aqueduct
  12. The Shoreline at Sunset
  13. The Emissary
  14. The Scythe
  15. Usher II
  16. The Fruit at the Bottom of the Bowl
  17. Let's Play "Poison"
  18. The Veldt
  19. The Kilimanjaro Device
  20. The Fog Horn
  21. Exorcism
  22. The Next in Line
  23. The Haunting of the New
  24. The Playground
  25. The Parrot Who Met Papa
  26. Fever Dream
  27. Boys! Raise Giant Mushrooms in Your Cellar!
  28. The One Who Waits
  29. The Screaming Woman
  30. The Trolley
  31. The October Game
Happy reading!