8 Great Horror Movies for Writers, about Writers

I’m a woman deep in love with the horror genre—the films, the books, the art, the freaky mechanized sculptures crawling across the floor. For this Halloween, here are a few great horror movies (in no particular order) that star some unfortunate, powerful, tragic, bloodied-up writers.

  1. Hush (2016)

This movie is amazing. It takes a very classic, often problematic premise—lone woman in the woods, no cell service, a mysterious masked attacker—and makes it new again.

2. The Dark Half (1993)

A classic Stephen King story, classic movie, Timothy Hutton, yes, yes, yes. This one might not be “scary,” but it’s a horror film through-and-through, and a great watch for anyone looking to be thoroughly creeped out.

3. Secret Window (2004)

Another Stephen King story, this is one of my favorite film adaptations of his work. Writers haunted by their work … and more.

4. TWIXT (2011)

Francis Ford Coppola, Val Kilmer, Bruce Dern, Elle Fanning, Tom Waits, the ghost of Edgar Allan Poe for some reason … What more can I say? This is a (sort of?) comedy, (sort of?) horror movie, (sort of?) tragedy. Whatever it is, it’s awesome. An eerie surreal romp through some dark, dark woods.

5. Deathtrap (1982)

This movie may not be a “horror” movie per say, but it does have a good deal of murder, backstabbing, and writerly wickedness (not to mention some handsome young Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve).

6. A few other of Stephen King’s…Misery, Salem’s Lot, & The Shining (NOT the Kubrick version)

Because Stephen King is, first of all, amazing, and second of all, constantly writing about writers (I’m not complaining), I’ve decided to just throw in a good word for a bunch of his other adaptations. I’ll make a special note though about The Shining—forget Kubrick’s nonsense. Want an actually frightening film? Give the 1997 version a spin. It’s long—like, multiple disks long—but it’s absolutely worth it.

7. Sunset Blvd (1950)

There are few horror movies more classic or more unsettling than Billy Wilder’s Sunset Blvd, a movie about actors, a movie about screenwriters, a movie about artists (aka wild-eyed, lonely, self-absorbed, control freaks).

8. Capote (2005)

An eerily beautiful, deeply unsettling look at Truman Capote’s work in writing and researching his genre-bending creative nonfiction book In Cold Blood.

 

Happy Binge Watching!

Publishing Advice for the Unpublished Writer

Check out my essay on writing with The Review Review!

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Step One:

Only submit something you actually enjoyed writing, something you’re passionate about, something you’ve edited and reedited and performed aloud and hated and loved and obsessed over, whether it’s funny, frightening, serious, or melodramatic. I’ve read enough passionless gimmicky pieces to last me a lifetime.

Step Two …

6 Great Essays on Craft: Talking Plot, Sex Scenes, & More

1. Claire Rudy Foster’s “Considering the Sex Lives of Your Characters” for The Review Review

Allowing sex to take its proper place in a story adds the third dimension, a dimension of flesh, and sets the reader’s animal self twitching. Even the deliberate omission of sex begs the question: where did it go? Who are these comic characters, gleefully reassuring one another of their button-eyed innocence? It is possible to leave sexuality as an implicit force in the text, but suppressing it entirely does a disservice to both the reader and the story.  …

2. Emily Barton’s “Literary or Genre, It’s the Plot That Counts” for Literary Hub

We writers like to talk about elements of craft. Character, theme, setting, voice, point of view, language. But I seldom hear fellow writers talking about plot. When I first taught a seminar on non-traditional plot construction at NYU’s Graduate Writing Program, some students signed up because they hadn’t previously given the topic any thought. …

3. Alison Mattison’s “How to Write Coincidence the Right Way” for Literary Hub

One way to use coincidence and make it work is to have nothing turn on it. Coincidences feel illegitimate when they solve problems. If the story doesn’t benefit from the coincidence, it’s simply pretty and suggestive. Another way to make a coincidence work is to begin a story with it. Make it the reason there’s a story to tell in the first place. …

4. Bartleby Snopes’s Dialogue Writing Tips

One tendency people have when writing dialogue is to try to write everything exactly how it “sounds.” This often results in dialogue that sounds too slangy or forced. While you may know someone who says “like” after every other word or drops twelve “f-bombs” per sentence, this doesn’t translate well on the page. …

5. Linnie Greene’s In the Mines: A Craft Essay on Creative Nonfiction for Cleaver Magazine

In her MFA vs. NYC essay “The Invisible Vocation,” Elif Batuman argues that the classic maxims “Write what you know” and “find your voice” are sometimes damning, convincing writers that if they don’t know some sort of spectacular, novelistic trauma or oppression, their stories aren’t worth telling. …

6. Steve Almond’s “How to Write a Sex Scene: The 12-Step Program” for Utne

Nipples are tricky. They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and shades. They do not, as a rule, look like much of anything, aside from nipples. So resist making dumbshit comparisons. …

Happy Writing!

Literary Magazines with Fast Response Times, Part II

Here’s Part II of a short list of literary magazines who have (or offer for a fee) super-fast response times to submissions:

Driftwood Press

Submission Period: Rolling

Genres Accepted: Fiction, Poetry, Visual Art, & Lit Crit/Interviews

Response Rate: They accept simultaneous submissions and, for $5, offer a premium submission option that promises a one-week turnaround.

Maudlin House

Submission Period: Currently Open

Genres Accepted: Fiction, Flash Fiction, Visual Art, Video, & Poetry

Response Rate: They accept simultaneous submissions and say they respond to all submissions within approximately two weeks. You can also pay $5 for an expedited submission with a 24-hour turnaround.

Carve Magazine

Submission Period: Rolling

Genres Accepted: Fiction

Response Rate: They accept simultaneous submissions, but not multiple submissions. If you become a subscriber, you can submit under a “premium” submission option, which promises a one-month turnaround.

Nat. Brut

Submission Period: Rolling

Genres Accepted: Fiction, Flash Fiction, Comics, CNF, & Poetry

Response Rate: They accept simultaneous submissions and, for a fee of $4, they promise a turnaround time of six weeks.

Gargoyle Magazine

Submission Period: Currently Closed

Genres Accepted: Fiction & Flash Fiction

Response Rate: They accept simultaneous submissions and usually get back to submitters within a week (personal experience has been fewer than three days!).

Hermeneutic Chaos Literary Journal

Submission Period: Rolling

Genres Accepted: Fiction, Flash Fiction, Visual Art, & Poetry

Response Rate: They accept simultaneous and multiple submissions, and have a turnaround time of ten days or fewer.

Blue Mesa Review

Submission Period: Open September 30 – March 31

Genres Accepted: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, & Art

Response Rate: They accept simultaneous submissions and, for a $3 fee, will expedite your submission with a promised turnaround time of thirty days or fewer.

Clarkesworld Magazine

Submission Period: Currently Open

Genres Accepted: SF&F

Response Rate: They do not accept simultaneous or mutliple submissions, but they usually get back to submitters within two to three days.

The Dark Magazine

Submission Period: Currently Open

Genres Accepted: Horror & Dark Fantasy

Response Rate: They do not accept simultaneous or multiple submissions, but they usually get back to submitters within two to three days.

 

Click here for Part I of this list*

Happy Submitting!

 

Editing Your Novel? Give Adaptation a Try

First, the inspiration behind this post: I am incredibly proud to announce that I sold the teleplay version of my fem scifi novel-in-progress, The Fire Eaters! Huzzah! I sold the teleplay (not the book; important distinction) to an indie book publisher that’s now in the process of shopping it around Hollywood. But, regardless if it ever gets picked up by a studio (wouldn’t that be a trip?), I couldn’t be more proud that my story and characters have garnered such sincere interest. It gives me a real boost of confidence about the prospects for the novel as a whole.

The idea of adapting my own novel was a daunting one at first, even though I’ve adapted plenty of other books in the past. This was partly because I wasn’t even sure I wanted a film/TV version to be made at all (the novel, after all, is still what’s closest to my heart), and also partly because I plain wasn’t sure I’d be able to do it. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to divorce myself enough from the book-version to make the plot and character changes that are (almost) always necessary when adapting for film/TV.

In the end, though, I decided to approach the adaptation as an exercise in revitalizing my energy/creativity/brutality for editing the novel: What subplots and characters truly are unnecessary? Could certain characters be combined, streamlined, or better developed? Could certain symbols and themes be cut, added, or made to work harder?

Stripping the book down to an almost purely dialogue format was also helpful in getting me to reconsider different conversations and dialogue-heavy scenes throughout the book. It allowed me to zero-in on conversations that sounded unnatural, but that I hadn’t noticed before due to all the crowding narration. It also helped me realize when certain conversations weren’t contributing anything at all, just taking up space.

Bottom line: If you’re feeling stuck or uninspired with one of your longer prose projects, try adapting it into a teleplay or screenplay format (and force yourself to be diligent and honest with the genre shift; no teleplays over 45 pages or screenplays over 110!). You might be surprised at how helpful an editorial exercise this can be. Alternatively, you can try your hand at things like Bartleby Snopes’s 8th Annual Dialogue-Only Contest. Submissions end on September 15th, but the perks and usefulness of the challenge itself apply all year long🙂

P.S. If you’re interested in trying out some screenwriting software, I would recommend either Final Draft or Adobe Story.

Keep Writing! Keep Reading!

 

 

Feature image owned by KC Mead-Brewer

11 Exhausted SF Tropes You Should Avoid. Really.

Basically…YES. Read this post from Carrie Cuinn. Live by it. Write by it. Beginning of story.

Two more things to keep in mind:

1. If you do decide to incorporate alien languages, but translate them to some human language for your readers, do NOT translate them into broken English/Spanish/etc (à la Avatar). And why not? Because this makes absolutely no sense! The only possible reason for this is to make your foreigners sound more “foreign” and less intelligent. Why would any translator translate something into a broken version of their language? They wouldn’t. And why? Because that makes no sense!

2. Stop using violence against women as a plot device! Does violence happen?–sure. Does violence often happen in books and stories as a logical/tragic/critical part of an overall plot?–sure. But why does it so often have to be that a flat, undeveloped female character is raped/killed/beaten for the sole purpose of giving some male character a blank check to then wreak whatever violence he wants in the name of this tragedy? –This is tired, annoying, and offensive. I am utterly exhausted of seeing violence against women used as an excuse to justify yet more and more violence. Because female characters are so expendable? Because they exist for no other reason but to spur someone else to action? Because violence against women/girls is somehow worse than violence against men/boys? Because there’s no other possible reason for someone to start off on a journey/quest/rampage? C’mon, people. This trope is just lazy and, again, offensive. Let’s move forward already.

Carrie Cuinn

Some ideas have been done to death in science fiction. We all know there are no new ideas anymore, and what matters most is the execution of the idea you stole have, but there are a few things that are not only over-done, they’re either incredibly stupid or offensive, as well. Here’s a partial list of tropes I’d love to never see again:

Stupid/Lazy Writing

  1. Funky Alien Language: your aliens from across the galaxy speak perfect English, except for a few “untranslatable” slang phrases? Or the language is made entirely of clicks and apostrophes? Hey, I know! All of your proper names are made with the 5, 8, or 10 point letters from Scrabble. Worst yet is when all of the men have harsh, hard-sounding names, and all of  the women (or other effeminate species) have soft, vowel- and f/l/sh-heavy names. This is an instant clue that you’re dealing…

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A strange journey through the worlds of writing and publishing

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