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#AmericanHorrorStory 6: A Lesson in Exposition

*This post contains SPOILERS for American Horror Story Season Six.*

I’m a pretty huge fan of American Horror Story, and I won’t lie, I have been super disappointed in this season for multiple reasons.

  1. The idea of doing a dramatic recreation show in itself wasn’t clever enough, and we all knew it, and thus knew there would be a twist.
  2. There was no dramatic tension with the characters being alive.
  3. The new haunted house just didn’t have a personality to it, and each episode felt like ideas were being ham-fisted down my throat.
  4. I couldn’t stop focusing on Sarah Paulson’s amazing wig.

Because of this, the idea that somehow My Roanoke Nightmare would become a worldwide phenomenon is just…ridiculous. (Sorry). I watch those horror re-enactment shows when I’m at my mom’s and nothing else is on, and they’re campy time-passers—a little creepy and fun, but nothing amazing, definitely not something that would captivate a nation. Even the fake version, with its ability to do anything, didn’t captivate the fanbase.

When the episode six “twist” came about, which most of the viewers had already figured out, I kept feeling myself wishing THIS was the first episode, and the rest of the details were filled in throughout the season, layering the story and creepiness, creating mysteries for us to solve, like the usual AHS that we all know and love.

Think about the first episode of Hotel. We had so many hints to think about. I remember theorizing about what could be “the thing in room 33” for weeks.

With Roanoke, or whatever this season is called, I had none of that. I felt myself semi-patiently waiting each week for something to captivate me, but every week I was disappointed, finding the story never really moved forward.

So in a story like this, there are stages. First, we introduce the characters, then we show how they are being haunted and drop some hints about what’s haunting them, then they see a psychic, things get worse, they discover the twist about why they’re being haunted, and there’s a final showdown. It’s a formula that’s hard to get away from, but when it’s done well, it works.

The issue with the first five episodes of AHS 6 is that they never really got past the “infestation” stage. Even though there was a brief psychic interlude, it didn’t really present itself in a way that moved the story forward.

So how do we learn from this?

As a writer, exposition is your enemy. On one hand, you want to show as much of your world to the reader (or viewer), as possible, but on the other, you don’t want to bore the audience with details that won’t add to the plot.

If I had a chance to “fix” this season, here’s what I would do:

Episode 6 would be episode 1. Don’t feel like you need to start at the beginning. Start at the most optimal place for the audience to get hooked. In this case, it would be when the exciting story of the new reality show is introduced.

With this in place, we lay down the groundwork that the Roanoke show was successful without having to show five episodes of (frankly boring) content. Instead, the most exciting scenes could be weaved into the story to layer over what’s happening in the present, giving the audience the details they need while keeping a forward-moving pace.

This would also give room for clues about what’s going to come. There are elements of what could be really creepy in this season, but I just don’t really know what they are, yet, and for being halfway through, that really worries me.

Of course, episode 7 is going to air tonight and I could be completely wowed or underwhelmed. I do think the concept of this series really missed the mark in the way it was developed, and had the writers thought a little more about the overall season, it could have been gracefully weaved together to create something unique and amazing, as opposed to a hodgepodge mix of some borderline bad re-enaction and cheesy characters.

What are your thoughts? If you had the option, would you have changed the way the season began?

Horror Business by @TheRyanBradford- Not Just Another Creepy Story

Disclaimer: I don’t do many book reviews these days, but I love this book so much I just have to promote it.

Disclaimer 2: I edited a previous version of this book.

Okay, with that out of the way, let’s talk about HORROR BUSINESS by Ryan C Bradford.

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When I first read this book in draft version I was SO EXCITED. Horror is a fickle genre. There are a lot of cliches, and a lot of repeated story lines, but this book is different. It explores mixed media, film, and the meta of horror itself all entwined in an energetic book that has just the right amount of creep and atmosphere. It was exactly the kind of book I’d been looking for.

Armed with a passion for classic B-grade horror movies, a script co-written by his twin brother, and a wicked crush on his death-obsessed neighbor; hardcore horror fan Jason Nightshade must finish his student film.

But his plans are derailed when the children of suburban Silver Creek start disappearing – his twin brother among them. Battling a possessed video camera, a crazy zombie dog, a monstrous bully, and a frighteningly broken down family life, Jason embarks on a mission to find his lost brother so the two can write an ending for his story.

As any horror fan knows, saving the day won’t be easy, as Jason finds himself forced to face the real world where death isn’t just a splash of fake blood on a camera lens.

HORROR BUSINESS taps into the minds of any horror lover-especially those of us who were fans as kids. It also makes amazing use of old horror references and all the scary elements of old-school horror that made most of us fall in love with creep.

The format of the book is part script, part narrative, and this gets the pace going and introduces a stylistic atmosphere that sets itself apart from your usual scary story.

Basically, if you loved Stranger Things, you’ll love Horror Business. It captures that nostalgic feeling of being a weird kid in Autumn while introducing a modern take on horror fiction.

Halloween is coming. Do yourself a favor and check this book out. I promise you won’t regret it.

Stranger Things

On #StrangerThings and Nostalgia

Kids and El

When I look back on my childhood growing up in the ’90s, my mind floods with memories of riding bikes through forest trails, playing games on consoles that now look ancient, and creating worlds that dripped from my imagination and into real life. I look back at this time fondly, even through bad or awkward memories, because being a kid in the ’90s held a certain sense of wonder and hope, like anything was possible if we just dreamed hard enough.

Curiosity Door

This is the atmosphere I felt when I started watching Netflix’s Original Series Stranger Things, and is probably why I finished it within 24 hours of watching that Dungeons and Dragons opening. It brought me back to a time when I remember being safe, a time before we had world news and fear media pushed in our faces every waking hour, at least from my point of view.

Chapter OneStranger Things

Stranger Things starts with the disappearance of Will Byers and what that means for a small town in 1980s Indiana. The cast includes different groups of related people, starting off with the kids: Will’s friends Mike, Lucas, and Dustin. Mike’s older sister Nancy opens another layer with boyfriend Steve and Will’s brother Jonathan. Finally Winona Ryder leads the adult crew, with police Chief Jim Hopper.

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As one child disappears, another is found, this one being a young girl with a shaved head and supernatural powers like telekinesis. She takes up with the young boys and lives in Mike’s basement in secret.

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This layered view of the show’s events provides multiple layers of discovery and nostalgia. We see the silly innocence and imagination of the kids, then the ever-changing whirlwind of being a teenager, and finally the helplessness of what comes when you’re an adult without all the answers.

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The characters are all pretty fantastic. The dialog of the kids is refreshingly realistic, with arguments, jealousy, and discovering feelings for the first time.

Cute look Mike El

Nancy, Mike’s older sister, presents a character I really started to enjoy as the show went on. She starts out as someone not in the “popular” group, but emerging into it, which leaves her best friend Barb in a pretty rotten situation.

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Love you Barb

I loved the awkwardness of showing this era of teenagedom, where friendships change, not always for the best, and the emergence of actual sexual relationships are unbelievably complicated, yet so simple at the same time. Nancy grows from a self-conscious girl who follows along with the cool kids, to a pretty kick-ass lady who decides she’s going to follow her own path and be friends with who she wants to be with.

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I’m not going to do a full rundown of the show, because I want you to go watch it if you haven’t. Suffice it to say that I loved it, and I’m incredibly pleased to see it’s being green-lit for a second season. I’m ready to fall back into that world and see what other secrets lie in Stranger Things.

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Wreditor Post: My Writing Process

Every writer has their own way of plotting and writing. Some do it completely on the fly, while others are fastidious organizers. I like to think that I fall in between the two, but am more on the organized side. I have a step-by-step process of working on a book. Once I know which of my 20 or so book ideas I want to work with, I put it through my process.

 

Step One:

First I do a very rough outline of what I want to do: characters, main plot ideas, big scenes, ending. No one sees this rough sketch (and half the time I can barely read it myself!)

 

Step Two: Setup

Once I have an idea of my basic themes, I create a few references for myself. The first is a gallery of inspiring pictures.

 

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Then I put together a playlist of appropriate music. In the case of this WIP, it was a mix of classical tunes and soft music with great lyrics.

 

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Step Three: Plotting

 

Once my Inspiration Bank is ready, then I break out my plotting book. (I used to do this on a bulletin board, but find the book easier to use, especially if I have many scenes).

I write an entire page plotting the basics of the book from beginning to end, then I break up chapter by chapter and write down the main points on index cards.

 

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When I finish each chapter, I jot down the word count, when I finished it, and then write down some notes for items  to remember for later or notes for the second draft.

 

Once I’m done the first draft, I’ll let it sit for at least a month and work on something else. Then I’ll do a read-through and create new cards for each chapter with revision notes. I don’t have an example for this WIP (still first draft).

 

Basically, that’s how I write. When I actually write I go wherever the story takes me, but I like to have an outline so I don’t run into a block, and to keep track of spontaneous ideas and changes.

 

So, are you a plotter or a pantser, or something in between? What’s your writing process?

Odeum Movie Rec: Ruby Sparks

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This movie was so adorable. The premise is that Calvin is a young writer who can’t live to the pressure of writing a second novel. He’s in therapy, he can’t write, and he’s miserable. Then his therapist suggests to him that he should write a page about someone who would naturally like his dog. Calvin has a dream about Ruby, and begins to write about her obsessively.

Then… she appears in his house in the flesh. Once he comes to terms with her existence, he introduces her to his brother, who thinks Calvin has gone insane. They pull a test to see if Ruby is a product of Calvin’s writing, by writing that she speaks fluent French without knowing it. After this is confirmed, the love story really begins.

This movie is adorable and yet so real at the same time. It deals with actual “New Adult” issues like finding your place in the world and learning to be happy with yourself. It also deals with the ways people change in relationships, and how sometimes, even though you want to change something about someone, if you ever could try, the results would be disastrous.

Check it out if you have a few hours to kill and are looking for a cute film with some substance.

Sunday Scribbles #writingprompt

Hey All,

 

I hope you had a fantastic holiday weekend and stuffed yourselves silly!

 

This week’s post is a new thing I’m doing to encourage writing beyond my novels and to keep up with my photography. So, since this is the first time, it’ll be two-for-one.

This is how it goes: I post a photo, and your challenge (along with mine) is to write something inspired by it. Could be a poem, could be flash fiction, could be the first chapter of the next awesomesauce novel. Then for fun, post your work in the comments section if you want to.

 

Here are the photos, both taken at one of my cottages up north.

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Scribble Away!

Author Interview: Lindsay Leggett

No Wasted Ink

I met Lindsay via twitter where I chat with many fellow writers and authors. I am pleased to introduce her to you here on No Wasted Ink.

Author Lindsey LeggettMy name is Lindsay Leggett and I currently reside outside of Toronto but originate from Northern Ontario. Beyond writing, I am also an editor, marketer, and hobby collector. Some of these hobbies include learning languages and many instruments. It can be a problem.

When and why did you begin writing?

I’ve been writing since I can remember. I think my first ‘novel’ was about thieves who stole my cat. It was ten pages and included (horrendous) illustrations. From then on, writing became as big in my life as breathing. Poetry, short stories, epic novels; you name it, and I was working on it. I’ve since learned how to rein in my imagination (sort of).

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I…

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