Tag Archives: tropes

Women in Horror: Kala Godin

WiHMX-horizontal-WhiteCanadian author, Kala Godin talks about research and horror tropes today in Women in Horror.

I actually write in multiple genres, though I’m currently published in paranormal horror, and most recently, poetry.

Paranormal horror is definitely the genre that I can produce the fastest. I only ever write short stories because I’m fairly strong with short fiction. When it comes to horror, my process is quite a bit different than my process for another genre as I believe horror needs a little research.

Godin FB_IMG_1547266864181

Not Just a Pretty Face, published by Deadlight publishing.

That’s not so say, “research everything and have no originality.” Just in my experience I’ve noticed that there are some stereotypes/tropes that are helpful and others that will seriously hurt your reviews later on. Especially if you aren’t careful with their execution. That’s the kind of stuff you want to research. Are you wanting to write more traditional horror? Then try to find some popular stereotypes/tropes specific to your writing. Make sure you are picking ones that you actually like. If you aren’t interested and passionate, the reader can tell.

When you are writing in your chosen tropes, see if you can expand on their ideas. Grow them. Even though you’re using something old or seemingly unoriginal, you still need to make it yours. What makes your horror different? I’ve learned that completely new ideas are rare. You’ll find yourself asking, “Why does my book sound kind of like book X,Y, and Z?” And unless you are outright stealing someone else’s work, then it is not really a problem. Putting your spin on old ideas is a great way to write horror. Or anything really. One thing that’s really popular right now is retellings!

Don’t assume that horror is written to offend people. It’s not. Horror is meant to spark fear. Being scared and being offended are two very different things. You need to know the difference. Now, not everyone is going to like your work. That’s just how it is. Someone is likely going to be offended. But if you are purposely attacking a group of people, brace yourself for the whirlwind of bad reviews that is coming your way.

Specifically attacking groups of people is a cheap trick that is used in a few genres but it’s in horror quite often. It’s used as shock value, thrown in to make the audience cringe and gasp. But is it used for the right reasons? Not really. If it’s not moving your plot or your characters, then it has no use.

These are really just basic tips that help me. As with all things related to writing, one authors’ process may not always work for another. But nonetheless try them, if you dare.

GodinKala Godin is an author living in Alberta, Canada. She lives with a physical disability and is confined to a wheelchair. She’s also an occasional artist, and Halloween is her favorite holiday. She likes tattoos and chocolate, and most movies directed by Tim Burton. Her story A Girl’s Gotta Eat” will be published in Deadlight publishing‘s Not Just A Pretty Face. She is also part of a multi-author story, “Teeth” her poetry collection can be found on Amazon.

https://www.facebook.com/KalaGwrites/
Instagram @kala_g_writes
Twitter @Kala_g_writes

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under horror, Writing

Writing: Demographics of Tesseracts 17 Part III

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

Tesseracts 17 will be out in October, with tales from Canadian writers that spans all times and places.

I’m sorry that I’ve been so busy that I’ve had little time to write. In about a month I’ll be on my way to Europe and before that, Tesseracts 17 will be released. We’ll be doing a promo interview session on Bitten by Books so stay tuned for more information there. Plus, a reading is scheduled at Bakka Books in Toronto on Oct. 19 and David Jon Fuller, one of our authors will be reading at the Chi Reading Series in Winnipeg on Oct. 9.

Now, I’ve spent a great deal of time working out the demographics of Tesseracts 17, mostly because I was curious. Should I edit another anthology I would track from the beginning. Here I’ve tried to map the genres of the submissions. This is the most subjective list of all. One, I didn’t track all of the stories  so I may not remember what the story is about from the title and the notes. On top of that, every reader and writer will see a story differently. Is a zombie story a horror story, a science fiction story or fantasy? In fact, it can be any of those and sometimes more than one. And I don’t remember all of the stories that well, so the table has an added inaccuracy.

I found as I was starting to list the stories that I couldn’t just say “fantasy.” That’s far too broad a genre umbrella, so I started to list what type of fantasy.  Some of these are tropes more than genres. Was it fairies or mind control or shape shifting?  What about the steampunk wendigo story? Fantasy and SF or just fantasy? And yes there were a few themes that showed up more than once. While the wendigo stories could fit under the subgenre of mythic creatures, they are a specific type of beast, like zombies and vampires, and because there was more than one, they deserved their own heading. Interesting to note, of the three specifically Canadian mythic beasties (wendigo, sasquatch, ogopogo–and there may be more I don’t know about. Maybe Steve can fill in others from the opposite coast) only wendigo appeared in the submissions. ,You, dear reader, can add up the numbers yourself, because yes, I’ve probably spent over a dozen hours on all of the demographics.

This table could have been bigger or smaller. For instance, tales involving gods got shoved under mythic beings/other creatures. I didn’t single out the three tales that involved wine though you’ll read Claude Lalumiere’s tale of wine in the anthology. There were Western flavored tales and hillbilly talk, several brutish husbands with chickenshit wives (these were too cliche), cartoons, historical/alternative histories, Jewish and Asian fantasies, dragons, winged cats, chickens and cows. Yes, even vengeful cows. We do have a historical fantasy with Patricia Robertson’s beautiful tale, and a couple end of the world stories. If anyone is interested I will break down the stories in the anthology into the genres I think they are. It would be interesting to see how Steve would classify them.

The table is read from the left column first. So if I thought a story was predominantly bizarre or metaphorical with a dollop of descent into madness, it went in the left-hand spot for bizarre. If I thought it was descent into madness with a dollop of bizarre it would go into the left-hand spot for madness. Rhea Rose’s story fits in that second category. I’ve colored the table to differentiate the categories: yellow=SF, green=fantasy, blue=horror. So Rhea’s story is colored horror.

WordPress is not easy for inserting tables and spredsheets,  so I’ve attached it. Click on  Genre chart and you’ll be able to see the list. Remember, the numbers won’t match the original demographics because I didn’t include the poems, nor about 35 stories where I couldn’t remember if they were SF, horror or fantasy.

I’m done with the demographics and will be starting to put in short interviews with the authors that will probably span the next few months. I’d like to say I’ll get two in a week but it all depends on time. So in the meantime, enjoy the demographics and look for Tesseracts 17 in October.

Leave a comment

Filed under entertainment, fairy tales, fantasy, horror, myth, poetry, Publishing, science fiction, Writing

Writing: Speculative Fiction Tropes

writing, anthologies, speculative fiction, Edge Publishing, short stories

From Tesseracts 15, Edge Publications.

Steve Vernon and I have started reading some of the submissions for Tesseracts 17. This is a yearly anthology of speculative fiction, usually by Canadians, those living in Canada and expats. The theme this year is “Speculations: From Coast to Coast to Coast.” We’re trying to highlight fiction and poetry from all provinces and territories, but quality will be the prime criteria.

Another thing to mention: Know, and I mean really know (don’t just presume you know) what proper manuscript format is. It’s not single spaced, it’s not a block of text with no indents, it’s not tabbing across the page instead of hitting “Enter” to move to a new paragraph, it’s not using the space bar instead of the Tab key, it’s not justifying both sides, it’s not using bizarre fonts. We haven’t received all these errors yet, but we have received most of them. If you’re not sure what proper manuscript format is, go to William Shunn’s Proper Manuscript Format for short stories. You can’t go wrong if you do this.

As in many genres of writing, speculative fiction has some popular tropes. If you write something in a familiar trope (a common or overused device), then you have to make sure it has a unique twist or that the language sings. We’re at the beginning of the submission window so stories are only trickling in right now, but here are a few tropes I’ve seen here and at other times when editing.This isn’t saying they’re bad, but if you’re writing a story that hits any of the ones I’m about to mention, make sure they’re really good and have something new to tell.

  • vampires–yes they have been done to death (haha!), and I’ve done a few myself so what is new about this version?
    tropes, fiction, writing, publishing, hero's journey, good vs evil

    Luke, I am your trope. Star Wars is a classic good vs evil but it’s more than that.

  • the underdog wins the day–it doesn’t matter if it’s Jack and the Beanstalk, the geeky computer nerd, the scrawny barbarian or an actual dog; it better be good and/or truly funny (and humor isn’t easy to write).
  • transformations–I was a human and turned into something else, I was something else and became human. Sometimes the metamorphosis is fascinating but it’s not the full story. I’ve written a few of these myself. The outer conflict is what the body goes through; the inner conflict is the psyche and these tales need both. How does a transformation change the protagonist and the world?
  • ghost story–the dead haunt us in different ways or commune among themselves. What’s new with your spook?
  • visiting your past/future–whether it’s time travel, a shamanic journey or body transferral, you better be doing more than just avoiding yourself so you don’t cancel you.
  • Eureka! I’ve discovered/invented it–Is the discovery the main story or should it be a tale of what happened after it was used?
  • the secret garden/the world beyond–whether you (you, meaning the character) create it, find it or can’t get back to it, how does it impact on you and your world beyond Alice in Wonderland?
  • the magic being–whether a genie, an angel, the devil you know or the robot you don’t, it’s not about their difference so much as it is about you react to them and integrate or destroy them.
  • descent into madness–is it Dante’s inferno, or just your sick twisted mind? Maybe we’ll never know but it better be entertaining.
  • the quest or journey–hi ho, hi ho it’s adventuring we go.
  • the altered world–something in the character’s world has changed. Do they survive, adapt or be consumed?
short fiction, collection, Embers Amongst the Fallen, speculative fiction, reprints

Embers Amongst the Fallen will be out in print by the end of October.

I’m sure other tropes will come to mind but that’s all I can think of now. However the thing to note is that it’s not bad to use a trope. It’s better to use it consciously so that you can make sure you manipulate it away from a tales that’s been done too often. Here’s another: good triumphs over evil. This is almost a primal human hope and we like stories that uplift, but the world isn’t so cut and dried and stories with nuances can be more enlightening, thought-provoking and entertaining.

I’d like to see some stories come in that take place in the past or far future, on a different world, have a different culture, in a time other than now or medieval, steampunk, cyberpunk, etc. We’ve received a few but I’m hoping for true diversity

Just to compare, my reprint collection Embers Amongst the Fallen, which has 14 reprinted stories and two new ones breaks down into the following statistics (of course some of the tales could fit in more than one category):

  • four vampire tales (the future, an alternate world, the past, and in India)
  • five tales of transformation (which was part of the original title)
  • four magic beings
  • one journey
  • two altered worlds

I’d be interested to see how others would categorize my tales. Sometimes a tale can be a journey and a transformation in an altered world, but which trope influences the story the most?

Here’s a bonus, also on tropes. One Thousand and One Parsecs

5 Comments

Filed under Culture, fairy tales, fantasy, horror, poetry, Publishing, science fiction, Writing

Writing Antithesis: Shine and Catastrophia

There are always anthologies coming and going. Unlike a magazine that comes out regularly, an anthology is a collection of stories by different authors often with a theme. They’re usually in book format as opposed to a paper magazine or an e-zine format, and they are one ofs.

This is much easier to do than deal with a magazine, continuous sales and subscriptions. Both types have their place of course. It’s something I want to do, some day edit an anthology. But until I can convince a publisher of the idea or get a bigger name, I think it’s going to have to wait. The problem with anthologies published in Canada is, that unless they’re distributed in the US, we just don’t have the population basis to sell enough. For that reason, most publishers shy from anthologies.
Two interesting anthologies coming up in Europe (though anyone can submit to them) actually are the antithesis of each other.

Dutch writer and editor Jetse de Vries will be editing Shine, an anthology due out in 2010 by Solaris Books. He’s not accepting submissions until May but that gives plenty of time to write a story specific to the theme. Shine is about shiny futures, the realm of optimistic SF. Often stories dealing with new technologies in the future end up with dire consequences. Shine is to be convincing and optimistic and of the near future (within the next 50 years).

There has of late been a movement in SF to write realistic near-future works, something that could or will possibly happen. No alien invasions, no faster than light travel, no transporters, but more of perhaps setting up a colony on the moon and the research required, or missions to Mars. These are aspects of space travel that NASA is seriously working on (as well as other space agencies) and they hope to have a manned Mars mission by 2030.

The name for this type of science fiction (which my brain can never seem to remember) is mundane SF. I guess it’s because I have connotations of mundane as being boring but there are two definitions:

1. everyday, ordinary, and therefore not very interesting
2. relating to the world or worldly matters

Obviously it is the second meaning that refers to the anthology and to the subgenre of mundane SF. I tried writing one story and I did find it hard, partly because I tend to write dark fantasy more often than SF. But then I realized I just finished a novelette that is in fact mundane SF. I don’t know if it will be shiny enough for Jetse but I’ll have to work on it and polish it and see how bright it looks. For full information on Shine, go to: http://shineanthology.wordpress.com/category/guidelines/

PS Publishing, out of England will be publishing Catastrophia. Edited by Allen Ashley, this anthology centers around post-apocalyptic fiction, disasters and catastrophes. Although hope and light can also come of such tropes in horror and SF, it’s not always as likely. If anything though, these tales start in a darker place.

Whereas Jetse isn’t accepting submissions until May, Allen is accepting now with a closing date of May or when full, whichever comes first. The theme of mundane SF could also be applied to this anthology since the aspects of disasters pertain to life on Earth, and that Allen Ashley wants them to be treated in a “modern manner.” No historical pieces here though modern or slightly futuristic will work. Of course, it’s possible he’d look at a futuristic post-apocalyptic world and the societies and cultures that would develop then. Full guidelines can be found here: http://news.pspublishing.co.uk/2008/09/09/catastrophia-anthology-call-for-submissions/

Between Shine and Catastrophia, there is something for everyone: the optimistic and the fatalistic, or perhaps fatalism with an uplifting end. Many anthologies don’t pay much. Pay could be a cent a word, fifty bucks, a share of royalties should the anthology actually sell. Catastrophia and Shine will both be paying professional rates.

I’ll probably give both of these a try. A themed anthology is always a good way to push the envelope and write something new. Like that one mundane SF I wrote about a mission to Mars; it was a challenge. I had to do a fair amount of research and extrapolating. But it was fun too and though I think that I hit both meanings of mundane, I did finish the story. But I need to do something else to it first to give it a bit more vim. And I’ll start thinking of something for Shine and Catastrophia.

1 Comment

Filed under Culture, entertainment, horror, life, people, Publishing, science fiction, space, Writing