One of my all time favorite works of fiction has to be “Frankenstein,” by Mary Shelley. I assume most of us know the premise of the novel and why it is so well known, as a small child I even knew about the story (without even reading it) simply because “Frankenstein” was so deeply embedded within pop culture and references to the novel were littered throughout television. However, when I was in my sophomore year of high school I finally got to read “Frankenstein” because of an English course. It was an amazing experience.
Mary Shelley’s ability to craft horror within her novel must have horrified most of her audience back when the novel was originally published, 1818, but that ability to scare still remains, as I found her work to be very believable and realistic. Shelley created Dr. Frankenstein and his scientific method with the intent to make it seem believable and she was even influenced by some of the advancements in science during that time period.
However, to me, the most interesting aspect about the birth of her masterpiece is the inspiration she had to create it. The Atlantic does a better job of explaining her initial inspiration, even covering the belief of many skeptics that say she probably exaggerated her account of the inspiration in order to enchant readers, but supposedly it was a combination of the scientific talks she had with her “group of intellectuals,” and a horrifying nightmare where she saw a sequence involving a mad scientist standing over the body of what appears to be a monster (resembling a man) who comes to life.
To read more about Shelley’s inspiration, check out this article written in The Atlantic:
Margaret Atwood, author of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which is the dystopian tale of a totalitarian Christian theocracy that has gotten rid of the U.S. government. Her novel focuses on a group of women known as “handmaids,” who are subjected to bear children for one of the leaders of the theocracy, he is known as “the commander.” If you haven’t gotten the chance to read this tale of the future, containing powerful commentary on the present, then I highly recommend it. Atwood makes her horrifyingly disturbing world come to life through her detailed description of the world, through the eyes of the heroine, Offred.
Besides Atwood’s novel, her tips on writing are fascinating because of the way she talks about the methods she uses when writing a book. She delves into the actual practice of beginning to write a story, with one of the most interesting pieces of advice being to carry around a notebook for whenever the writer gets those quick moments of inspiration, adding that “there is nothing worse than having that moment and finding that you are unable to set it down, except with a knife on your leg or something.”
Throughout the interview, Atwood emphasizes the importance of always writing down your ideas on whatever you can find and she recommends using sticky notes. I believe that this is effective because whenever I get moments of inspiration I write them in the notes section of my iPhone, so that I can revisit them later and expand upon them.
Have an appetite for a good zombie story? Well, you’re in luck, because Max Brooks’ “World War Z” does something new with the over used genre.
“World War Z” is composed to look like a recollection of historical accounts told by survivors of a global outbreak, which caused the war of humans versus the undead. It is divided into various parts according to the stages of the outbreak. My personal favorite section is titled “Total War,” because we get to read the first-hand accounts of the men and women who fought against the hordes of undead.
I feel that this book caters to audiences of all types because of Max Brooks’ unique method, which involves the main character (a journalist of sorts) traveling around the world in order to get the accounts of survivors all around the world. Brooks explores a variety of different cultures through the characters he creates, which range from a Japanese man who survives the apocalypse with a katana he finds amongst the dead, to an American mother who kills a zombie with her bare hands in order to defend her children.
This expansive tale of the zombie apocalypse is especially impressive because Brooks’ ability to garner such emotion within many of the stories. The emotional aspect pertaining to the novel is explored more closely within an article published in The Atlantic (the link for it is below). Brooks also gives us a variety of perspectives, which come from scientists, soldiers and citizens, among many others. All of these aspects make this zombie novel a worthwhile read for anyone seeking an innovative entry into the genre.
Note: I also recommend Brooks’ “Zombie Survival Guide,” because it is essential if we are all to survive the impending doom of the zombie apocalypse.
Here’s an extra thing that goes with the October theme:
House of Leaves author Mark Danielewski (read that book if you haven’t) talks about five other books that are scare, horrifying, and beautifully moving all at the same time.
I don’t really need to say much other than that. Enjoy the recommendations! Cheers!
This is one of the most helpful articles on writing that I’ve ever read. Written by a writing coach and faculty member of a writing program in Texas, this author has seen his fair share of drafts, both professional and amateur. And he sees patterns. This article highlights the most common pitfalls a novice writer makes when telling a story. And he makes it entertaining to read, too. (Although he does have kind of a potty mouth, so be forewarned.)
It mostly centers around this: writing is most successful when people want to read it. So, he goes in depth about how to make your story as exciting and readable as possible.
Some tips include draw out the conflict – easy problem, conflict, resolution plots don’t quite cut it anymore. There has to be complications, tension, etc. Steepen the narrative arc as much as you can.
Also, he writes about where to start the story. He argues that you should start it as late as possible but where it still makes sense. If it begins with a ton of development, nobody is going to want to read the first 3 or so chapters. Unfortunately, readers have short attention spans. So grab them quickly and let the development and exposition unfold naturally at a later time.
Read the rest of the profanity-laden tips here:
Here’s a link to an interview with Chuck Palahniuk, author of Fight Club, Invisible Monsters, and others. He talks about the influence of the book Fight Club, the (overrated, in my opinion) movie, his new book (at the time), Choke, and his writing philosophy.
The most important thing I got out of this interview is to pull no punches. Don’t try to get on Oprah’s Book Club. Write what YOU want to write, not what you think will please the most people. Don’t dilute your inspiration.
Palahniuk evidently puts this philosophy into use in his novels, which are often balls-to-the-wall satirical and hilarious yet dark and disturbing tales with twists around every corner. Yet they come across as genuine and sometimes even touching, as he completely puts himself into his work. They evidently aren’t for everyone, but he’s found a niche and continues to write what he wants.
Here’s a site that aggregates all the writing contests with no fees that can be found on the internet. It’s an extremely useful site that I haven’t used yet, but plan on in the future. Definitely worth keeping an eye on to see if a contest pops up that’s right for you. You can sort by date, prize amount, etc. Knock your silly selves out.
It’s a well known fact that I’m somewhat of a DFW fanboy, despite him often being called pretentious, overrated, and dangerous to look up to (while looking for this article, I came across multiple articles where publishers laugh at submitted drafts where the author is trying to be the new DFW.)
Despite all this, it’s inarguable that he definitely had something to say, and a very unique way of saying it. Linked below is excerpts from a longer interview where DFW talks all about his writing process and how to improve yours. Not only is it helpful, DFW has a way of speaking that makes it an extremely entertaining read as well. Check it out below:
One of the most polarizing figures in recent literature has been Tao Lin: Pioneer and poster kid for the Alternative Literature movement, consumer of only raw fruits and vegetables, casual adderall/MDMA/LSD/heroin user, instigator of “K-mart realism.”
Brett Easton Ellis has called him the “most interesting prose stylist of our generation.”
He also called him boring.
What Lin does is he writes, very realistically, often autobiographically, about the depersonalization of our modern society via technology, drugs, consumerism, etc.
What sets him apart is he’s not criticizing this depersonalization; he’s reveling in it. He’s writing about how its just another time period we just happen to be a part of, and he’s making the best of it. While other doomsday sayers are saying the “selfie generation” is completely ruining our culture, Lin is making a bold statement about how that just might be okay.
Still, this gets him a lot of hate, saying he’s glorifying the wrong things, especially drug use.
So, is he a junkie hack that will soon be forgotten? Or is he really one of the most interesting prose stylists around today? You be the judge.
Here’s a link to an article where a vulture writer stays up all night with him on Adderall. It’s an interesting read. Be sure to check out the comment section, where there’s a lot of hate, and a lot of Lin responding to said hate.
When writing a short story I often figure out how I want the plot to start, I set up the scenario and chug along through the beginning; developing my characters and figuring out which point of view to use (1st person, 2nd person, 3rd person) and adding other elements to make my story come to life. The problem I often run into is when my plot needs to change, whether it be because I have discovered I can’t successfully get from point A to point B or sometimes m characters develop in a different way and my original ideas just don’t make sense anymore. One solution I have started to practice is brainstorming. Now I know this is an activity many of us have probably ben doing since kindergarten, but it’s a process I don’t always think to do once I’ve started writing. Sometimes the idea of pausing mid-story and taking time to brainstorm can feel frustrating because discovering the many different routes a story can take can be overwhelming, but this fact should be celebrated and not feared. If you’re struggling to come up with what decision your character should make or how to move along the plot, simply pose a question to yourself and compile the answers in a brainstorm to really consider the possibilities.
For example: Suppose your protagonist just witnessed a murder from a far. What would your protagonist do?
- Call the police and run away
- Pretend they didn’t see anything and deal with the burden of walking away.
- Call police and enter the witness protection plan, new identity and everything
- Try to be a hero and stop the murderer from getting away
- Have the murderer spot your protagonist and a chase could occur
- The protagonist could know the murderer or the person who was murdered
These are just a few ideas I came up with in less than a minute; I already have extended plot ideas just by making this list and using it to figure out what fits best for my protagonist.