Notes on short story writing

 

One of the creative outlets I’d like to attempt and explore for this blog is short story writing. At the moment I have none on here, my progress has been extremely slow on them I must admit. But I’ll eventually get there, I hope. I’ve no formal education in creative writing so I’m not overly sure how to approach it, but I figure even if the end product is poor I will enjoy the process as I fumble my way through it. As I wanted to explore fiction with a horror/Sci-Fi theme, I decided to pick up a couple of Stephen King’s short story collections, specifically the first two from his earlier years called Night Shift and Skeleton Crew. I thoroughly enjoyed them and found that reading them I gained a few pointers I could apply to writing my own stories. Whether these are the messages he wanted to convey, or whether I put them together only in my mind, here are a couple of tips I’ve learned.

– You don’t have to explain it all. One thing that somewhat holds me back from completing a story is that I feel obligated to explain the antagonist or evil that exists. I’ve noticed that on multiple occasions, there is no origin or explanation given and the reader simply has to accept it. A clear example of this is Mr. King’s story “The Raft”. Nothing is mentioned regarding how this blob floating on water came to be, only what happens if you touch it or stare to long at it. Where it came from is anyone’s guess. I feel knowing this tidbit gives me more freedom to write creatively and not worry about explaining all the logic to the reader. After all, it is fiction.

– A little backstory on a character can help the reader connect to them. Certainly not all protagonists or antagonists require a comprehensive backstory, but adding a little background allows the reader to empathize with the characters. I’ve noticed this used repeatedly, and sometimes the background can connect to the main story or display a character’s motivations. But sometimes it’s just to give a little realism or flavor to the story without being utilized. While that may violate the Chekov’s gun principle, I still find it can be effective in getting the reader engaged when they’re more familiar with the characters.

– An idea, even if partially absurd or dull, can come from anywhere. Many of the short stories I’ve read from Mr. King can have very simple premises, and in Skeleton Crew he explains some of the inspirations for a few of his short fiction works. For instance the idea behind “The Mist” came to him standing in line at a grocery store with the thought of how could someone defend a place like this? But this is only a starting point. After the initial idea, expanding it is important and the writing, of course, can make even a mundane idea a gripping read. Take a simple idea or thought that pops in your head and follow a train of thought. It might go off on some wild tangent and you could have a great idea on your hands thereafter.

– Write. This isn’t necessarily a lesson I’ve learned from reading these collections, but rather a general guideline that Mr. King seems to live by. Besides his classic horror stories, he’s also know for the pace in which he completes them, even George R.R. Martin has praised Mr. King’s pace. The point is to keep doing it and make a habit of it, with this regular practice your work will only improve. Slightly related to this, is to keep writing even if you’re not happy with the progress, you can always go back and edit it later.

These are not the “be all or end all” tips for short story writing. But for me they offer a couple of options that can get me over my hurdles that prevent me from writing. Another pointer that sometimes kicks me back into the writing mood I received from a comic book writer at Fan Expo Toronto back in 2016. It goes along the lines of this: If you’re discouraged about your idea, walk into any book store and look around at how many books there are. Then remind yourself they can’t all be amazingly great and yours is probably comparable to many of them or could even be better. But the difference is the writer sat down and went through with writing the whole thing. That’s not a word for word quote and nor can I remember the writer’s name (I would gladly give him credit if I could), but it does sometimes reassure me to use an idea or finish a story whenever I feel the negative self-criticism creeping in telling me it’s trash. I hope that if you’re working on a story and are stuck or questioning it at times, that at least one of the points above can help motivate you to work on it.

Woooop woo woo woo woop woop

I can’t really explain where this idea came from, besides the obvious Drake meme I’ve seen used a lot. But as to the whole Homer vs Marge spinning, and Clinton being the Drake, I really can’t explain that sorry. However, it wasn’t a complete waste of time making this animation. I can’t say I’ve made any gifs in Premiere, nor did I tinker with multiple still images and animation. So I can say at least I learned a few things making this no matter how stupid it is.

Ace, Clutch, or Flop? #26

A 1v3 with me on CT and the Ts get the plant down. A couple of comical things happen in this one. First I definitely didn’t notice the T with the scout by the tree the second time I checked. And second, that same scout took a shot right at my ass. I only had 19 HP and the shot connected, fortunately for me it must’ve come through the wall because it only stung me a little bit it would seem. Funny thing is that shot that could’ve ended me, also gave away their location.

Album Recommendation: Welt

 

Despite KMFDM being my favourite group of all time, I can’t say that I exclusively listen to industrial music, or really even all that much outside of KMFDM. While I do have some tracks and albums from other acts such as PIG, Combichrist, Ministry, or Nine Inch Nails, I find that my collection of music isn’t too heavily composed of the genre. Surprisingly enough, it also has very little Skinny Puppy which is basically an industrial legend. Perhaps it’s because most of the Skinny Puppy tracks I listened to were from a long time ago and just didn’t gel with my tastes or I didn’t give them a fair chance based on my first impression.

Later in the early 2000s I was introduced to a track called “Cracker” by ohGr. I found it stuck in my head for quite some time. To me it was electronic industrial music (rather than industrial metal or rock) with a mix of fast glitch pop, granted I didn’t know what glitch pop was at the time. Stuck in my head for days, I had to get the whole album called Welt and give it a spin. Now over 15 years later, I find myself listening to it again and again in my office and I think it’s safe to say this is one of my favourite of all time and deserves to be one of my recommendations. Here’s the kicker, Welt was primarily made by a fellow named Kevin Ogilvie, better known as Nivek Ogre who was a founding member of (you guessed it) Skinny Puppy and has served as the front man for the group since 1982.

While I’m a fan of almost every song on this album, two in particular stand out to my ears. As mentioned, “Cracker” was one of the first I heard on the album even before I had the album. I find this one to be a bit more upbeat than some of the others and perhaps even a little catchy, not unlike a pop song. As mentioned earlier, I instantly loved the glitch sounds used and think it complimented the light bass riff. Not to mention in the music video there’s a faux Eminem doing a little rap, which the younger me found amusing. The second track that caught my attention even before I got my hands on the album, is one called “Pore”. But this track caught my attention for different reasons as it’s a very different song. It almost seems like a light and simple drum loop with various sound effects put together to form riffs that would stand in place of a vocal choruses and lyrics. Throw in some fast talking lyrics (not rapping though) and a great warped bass riff and you got something that seems to be tuned into the essence that is experimental industrial music. My description doesn’t do it justice, but this one seems to be fairly difficult to describe, so just YouTube it and check it out.

Those are my two highlights, but the rest of the album is great too. Most of it will sound closer to “Cracker” though rather than “Pore” so if you find yourself not being a fan of the latter, this album is still worth giving a shot. I’d highly recommend “Suhleap”, “Solow”, “Lusid” and “Water” as those are my next picks after the first two. When I first heard the album “Welt”, it was a fairly different change from the usual industrial music I was used to that leaned towards rock. As a good friend of mine always put it “When I listen to industrial I usually imagine a factory with giant gears and hammers with lots of clanking” (I’m paraphrasing that but you get the idea). Something like the older KMFDM albums is what industrial is to me as well. But “Welt” is much more electronic, doesn’t use guitar, and even feels like it relies on riffs and choruses that seem to be inspire by pop music. If any of that sounds like your cup of tea I highly recommend giving this a listen.

As a side note, “Welt” came out back in 2001 and since then ohGr has released three other albums. I gave the next album, “SunnyPsyOp” a listen though I never found it as good as their first. And since then I haven’t listened to their newer albums either, though I hear good things. Maybe it’s time I get the newer ones and also a bunch of Skippy Puppy albums and give them a fair chance.