It's been awhile since I wrote the popular "5 Elements of a Good Horror Story", which made me wonder if there was anything more I could add to the list. As I worked a bit more on Ashland's Asylum, I realized there is a great concept I completely missed - the concept of false antagonists and allies. After all, shouldn't any good horror story keep you guessing who's the bad guy and who's the hero?
But it sure is a lot to me!
We're only 6 away from breaking 100 likes on the C.M. Humphries facebook Author Page!
You're already getting the free story in 2014, but I've challenged my self as a sort of early New Year's Resolution.
Lately there's been a major buzz about print publications, copyright infringement, our education rate, and what role literature will have in the future. Luckily, it seems many people are acting out to insure a better tomorrow. The times have changed, so have publishers, news sources, print and digital technologies, as well as our educational systems. All of these things combined show three signs of hope for the future.
The last few days you might've noticed I sort of fell off the map. Reason 1 is that I'm currently work on some music, which takes some time. Reason 2 is because I had the great fortune of having my computer malfunction.
After a few days without access to my main writing device, I found myself diving deeper into music and writing out a new version of His Daughter by hand, and that's when I realized there were even more benefits than I previously mentioned.
One-Way Streets & The Hybrid Writer.
There are many writers who either go indie and/or self-publishing; or there are those who will only follow the path to traditional publishing. The argument behind traditional publishing is merit. There's a label on your book and check to say this book was seen to be worth at least this much. Some self-pub writers will argue their method is the only way to truly express your writing. It brings so much freedom and a much higher royalty rate.
With that in mind, I was furious and than impressed by this article by Rob W. Hart on Salon.com.
Hart seems to hold a mutual viewpoint of the many publishing media. He traditionally publishes his manuscripts, while some of the smaller ones that don't fit into a specific commercial market, he reserves those for self-publishing. He considers himself a "hybrid writer."
Although I think the term is a bit inflated, I fall into the category. For instance, many of my works involved signatures, but then there's No-Injury Policy which has been fairly successful since its release in October 2012.
The short story collection might found some sort of accreditation in the traditional market, but I knew a book of its nature wasn't expected to be a bestseller. However, it is a collection of stories I believe many people will find--or already have found--interesting.
There's just not real a demand for short story collections in the general markets, especially a work like #NIP that crosses between genre fiction and not.
During my morning ritual of reading random articles, I stumbled upon "The State of Serious Fiction in the Age of Games and Pornography" by Nathan Englander.
In this article, he summons the topic of media progression. What I mean by that is, sometimes one medium replaces another. According to the article, by large, we are a society that indulges in video games and pornography more than any other medium of expression. These trends have flipped on the panic switch for many fiction lovers and writers. Will video games, for example, murder fiction? With so many other sources of information and entertainment, why read?
If you haven't heard about it yet, Robin is dead. Again. Although this was planned nearly six years ago, the death of the new Robin is something that's got me thinking about character development.
See, one of the golden rules of writing is to avoid killing off the main character. There is a lot of thought behind the rule. For instance, what good is a character who kills himself at the end of the book? If your story is in first person, it's rather difficult to tell a story once you're dead. Another thought is that main characters shouldn't die unless it is absolutely necessary and fits the overarching plot.
So does killing Robin accomplish any of these things?
Any curmudgeon out there will tell you the problem with the kids these days is a sense of entitlement. I think that's what every generation says. "You mean, some bus comes to your house and picks you up for school? In my day I had to walk 20 miles, along a snow mountaintop, to reach the 10-mile-away point . . . ."
The second thing they might tell you, is that more and more youngsters aren't doing their homework. That is, social media ruined our true connection with people & the spoken/written word. If no one's reading and writing, they're losing out big time. However, that's just not the case.
I've roamed around the web a few times, and now there seems to be a combination of recreational social media use and, of course, the homework. And guess what? Youngsters are online and writing more than ever.
One reason why horror stories may not be as popular as they once were has little to do with vampire-/zombie-/monster-romances and is more related to the difference between sight and perception. While certain sub-types have watered down the genre as a whole, the real problem is film.
See why I say horror literature will always trump film. Let me know if you agree.
There's a lot of talk these about digital copying ("piracy") in the literature world.
While torrents and other methods of illegally downloading copyrighted material seem like the concern of yesteryear, the truth is, it's relatively news for the publishing world.
Moreover, the music industry changed due to illegal sharing, and the film industry is adapting as well. It's as though when people started downloading media, they spaced out the part about books, and to compensate they're stealing whole libraries.
But honestly, it doesn't bother me too much. Here's why:
Today I want to chit-chat about the notion of video games adapting books and films. When you consider the video game, it's easy to see how one the aforementioned media can take on life anew. However, as we've seen in movies, it's much harder to create a great adaptation of a video game. The reasons I believe stand in the way are the very same ones that determine the answer to a question I've come across (admittedly, not as much as print versus digital publication questions.) Would you ever wanna see your book as a video game?
As it stands, I wouldn't have much interest in writing for a video game unless it came with paycheck that would even make Jesus cry. That doesn't mean I'll never take the offer if it came around. There's simply a few things that need to happen with video games before I'd say "yes", and these things might be the same ones limiting video games - stopping them from being the most powerful medium.
Today I was spoiled with an opportunity to interview author Andrew Cyrus Hudson, the mastermind behind Somewhere in the Shadows: The Anthology. See, he's the guy who designed the book and had it made.
He's worked with multiple aspects of publishing, and his passion resides in producing a book from the ground up. He's also the guy who asked me to be in the short story collection.
You know that "Charlatan" thing I've been, admittedly, self-promoting like crazy as of late? That's the short story I contributed.
For now, here are the publishing-related questions and his uncensored response to them all.
C.M. Humphries (C):
C: How did you decide which authors would be in the anthology?
C: What were the overhead expenses for producing such an anthology?
C: What are your future plans for Somewhere in the Shadows or for other story collections?
C: Where can everyone find you online?
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Ask Andrew Cyrus Hudson Anything About Somewhere in the Shadows or independent & self-publishing in the comments - and earn points towards a hand-bound edition of No-Injury Policy!
At some point in our lives, most of us have spent time with another human being, who at first seemed quite lovely and breath-taking, but later wanted to take our breaths away literally. While there might be some sort of attraction to said person or a deep case of sympathy, someone who is genuinely frightened or concerned by their significant other would make the hard choice of walking away. However, for those of us who were not the "psychopaths", we might've made the worst decision ever. Why? Well, you'll have to continue reading. You might just be surprised by what follows.
By nature, literature has always remained somewhat conservative. I don't mean this in any political way, and I don't mean the content is too PG (I think that wave is almost over). When I say literature is a bit too conservative, I mean the concept of a book or publication. Literature has always been slow to react, as we saw with the Big 6's hesitance towards eBooks. And even though we're somewhere in the transition from print to digital, I don't think the eBook will ever save literature, so to speak. I've come up with 3 ideas for literature to save itself, or otherwise it might contribute to it's own death.
It's getting closer to bedtime and you're looking at your loved one, thinking about the ways you would love to express your love. The day was a long one, and now you want to share the excitement of a relationship and reduce stress in one fell swoop. You start with the sweet nothings and pillow talk shortly before your loved one turns to you and says they're too tired, too stressed, or they have a headache. Now, making love would be the cure-all in this instance, but it takes two to tango. Getting two people to agree about anything is difficult. So there you are, wanting to embrace your lover and wishing the stressors keeping you awake at night would go away. What do you do?
From day one, we learn plagiarism is a big no-no. Likewise, we tend to dislike anyone who "borrows" our hard work, whether in the case of a story or a witticism.
But can someone borrow just a little and get away with it?
For instance, music producers tend to pay an "homage" to other artists by sampling their tracks. We've seen in the past how record labels can sue each other for sharing too much of the same work. Does the same rule apply to literature?
Halloween is already in the past, but for me the scares have only begun. Most people will read eerie stories or watch one of the thousand Stephen King adaptations they play on every channel before and after FX - just for one night! To me, this is the time of year during which I wolf down numerous eerie tales. However, as of late, I'm having a hard time finding some good, scary tales. It seems the villains have been watered down. You can save that stuff for the kiddies. If you want a better villain, consider what's next in this entry.
Awhile back I wrote about the benefits of Writing Drunk. If you're too busy or too lazy to review the post, it is about the inability to focus under the influence of alcohol, which prohibits individuals from comprehending the complexity of brain teasers; therefore resulting in some very creative answers.
While under the influence of alcohol, people (especially writers) are more inclined to be creative and think outside of the box. In fact, studies show subjects who volunteered for an analytical analysis scored higher when they hovered around the legal limit.
As far as writing is concerned, a little rum n' coke alongside the keyboard (be careful, you might spill your drink) could potentially lead to more creative, inside-out writing. However, how does writing drunk affect you in the long run? You probably just finished sploshing bourbon in a slutty Halloween costume, so maybe this is a topic worth a glance.
When expectations are high, money is tight, love is tainted and stress is ubiquitous, the citizens of Chase County will do anything to make sure they survive. From the deconstruction of a town to frivolous intercourse with strangers, No-Injury Policy explores the dark depths of human nature when social pressures peak.
No sooner than the meek taste retribution, however, they encounter the demons that have aided authority figures to the top - demons that refuse to lose control no matter what it takes.
No-Injury Policy is the 1st short story collection by C.M. Humphries, showcasing seven of the eeriest tales from every town in Chase County: Raven's Crook, Lovington, Lakeside, and Long Brooke.
Following along as I provide a snippet of each story in the collection. If there's a picture to the left of the premise, that means I blogged on a topic from the story. Be sure to check them all out.
(BLOG ETHIC NOTE: You might notice I use "they" instead of "he" or "she" in many of my posts. This is an effort to remain gender-neutral and a choice of craft I implemented during linguistics courses at Ball State University,)
The reason show is more of focus than tell in a story is all due to the way we perceive information as human beings. Interestingly enough, Amanda Davis, a Byrn Mwar student, wrote, "It's become clear to me that humans' primary sight organ is our brain."
Even the recent democratic speech made by Bill Clinton tried to apply this notion. Rather than making promises to change America, he spent time getting the audience to visualize the democratic plan step-by-step with actual facts and practical explanation. Whether you side with democrats isn't relevant in order to see the way Clinton came off more emphatic and believable than any of the other speakers for any side of the presidential race.
If you apply this theory to the page, you'll quickly realize why certain books entertain and inform better than others. Sure words can be written on the page that tell the story. With a little more craft, a great description can provide an excellent visualization of geography and set the tone. But what's more effective, is constructing a story in a such a way that the reader can relate to multiple layers of the story, especially a character's actions - what a character does without much explanation.
In No-Injury Policy, I strive to showcase stories that rely more on character interaction than anything else. I haven't neglected eloquent description, and sometimes a little tell sets the scene like the beginning to a theater production. But if a character does something, then it's important that they don't need to say why. It should be obvious. And as for the things said character does, readers should be able to think, "Yeah, I thought about doing something like that before."
The general concept is to set characters in pressing social constructs (that nature of trangressive fiction) and have them live out the reactions we all wished we could live out. One example is the story "Sleep" from No-Injury Policy. In this story, a character named Adam Hope is a recent graduate/writer (how creative of me, right?) who is pressed by the norm of finding a "real" job. In short, he loses a lot of sleep while trying. We've all been in situations during which stress kept us wide awake through the night.
However, Hope is sickened by the expectation of having a great career right off the bat. The thing is, he's not alone. The rest of Long Brooke can't sleep, and soon they'll all going to show society just what they think. The idea of demonstrating our angers and frustrations to someone or something pressing is a dream for many of us; therefore I hope many of you will enjoy the tale. Admittedly, the story's a little off-the-wall.
It's this kind of retaliation that I think makes a good story. A character is in an extreme version of everyday life, faced with crushing social constructs, they want to break free, show people what they think of their norms, and pursue a vocation they truly enjoy. In most cases, a character who acts out the way we all think about doing is always the protagonist in our eyes.
Occasionally the bad buy will make us cheer on the inside, but that doesn't mean the character is the antagonist. He could simply be the anti-hero, or he could be the antagonist in the literal sense: The opposing force in front of a hero's goals. Then again, every protagonist is someone else's antagonist.
The same argument could be made for recent college graduates. You spend four years deep in ideology and practice, but once there's a taste of the real world, things change. Some of us live out our dreams. Some of us keep trying. And the weaker of us simply gives in. As the butler from "No-Injury Policy" says, "You're too young to understand now. You might say you would't do things just for money, but when you're an adult you'll be surprised at what you won't do for money."
Of course, the longer you live, the more you'll become for which you'll become responsible. In this sense, priorities need to be made in order to fulfill those responsibilities, but the dream still lives on somewhere. And this is where a good story comes in: It can at least allow us to imagine the things we always wanted to do. It only makes sense a good story can relate to us in such a manner.
While I aim to have my characters live out our best and worst ideas, it's important to note they are all "manning up." This is the difference between a great speaker and mumbler. It's the difference between a good character and a flat one. And it's crucial to real-life. In college, you learn all the things that are important to you. In some cases, you might even have a strong sense ethics. Unless you act out what you know, the information can dry out and render itself useless.
If you wish the world would operate a different way - a better way - practice that method in front of it in a manner is relatable to many, one which they can support. You might just be the catalyst for revolution.
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Freddy Hope is the victim of some serious insomnia in the story "Sleep" from my upcoming short story collection No-Injury Policy. The reason sleep is the topic of many of my stories is due to the one writer stereotype that is true about me: I often can't sleep or forget to sleep at a reasonable time when I'm working on a new story or novel.
However, the cure for both Freddy and me might be as simple as taking a nap. In the Rethinking Sleep article of The New York times, there are many theories on how sleeplessness arises, and now it's not just for the creative types. You could find yourself forgetting to sleep even if all you have is a cell phone.
If you're reading this blog right now because you have nothing better to do, then this entry might be for you. Don't despair, though, I aim to show you how being an outcast or even a loser is one of the greatest things that can ever happen to you. Bill Gates, Stephen King, Lady Gaga . . . All these people had rough starts. They sat alone during high school lunch periods. They were the last picked for sports. Now they're the most prominent names in their fields. Why? Because losers are more creative and make the world not only go 'round, but they also change it. Don't believe me? Believe science.
Almost anything can inspire me to write. As Stephen King would say, "Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, while the rest of us just get up and go to work." There's no reason to force inspiration, and sometimes, it's best to make time and push out some creativity. However, when it comes to my fiction, a story really fleshes out when I discover a new fear.
While no one enjoys the sensation of being lost, I always feel I have a good handle on location and rarely panic when I make a wrong turn. Let's face it, some of us aren't as geographically savvy as others. When we're totally lost, we're scared shitless for a moment. That's me in New York last summer. And the following is what both provided inspiration for a story and the fearful turn it needed.
Fear, focus, and the future. C.M. Humphries talks about writing, horror, and whatever.