The Strengths of Child Protagonists in Horror

Stranger Things was the surprise hit of Netflix’ most recent run of original series. For those who have yet to see it, it follows a group of pre-teen boys named Mike, Lucas and Dustin as they try to uncover the fate of a friend who mysteriously went missing, aided in their quest only by a mysterious girl with telekinesis with the number 11 tattooed on her arm. The film features great scares, superb writing, and a wonderful atmosphere that recalls classic horror films and TV series from the late 70s and early 80s.

One of the stranger things about Stranger Things (teehee) is its main characters, all of whom are well rounded and multi dimensional. There is not a single wasted character or line. More interesting are the fact that the story at the center of it all is one about and starring children. Having children as the main characters in horror is a big risk, since horror is often geared towards adults with images of violence and occasional sexual content as well. However, having children as the main characters in horror films and television may be something that should be done more often for a number of reasons.

My first Stanley Kubrick film was The Shining. I watched it while on a Stephen King binge. I didn’t know who Kubrick was, was not as well versed in film as I am now, and had little interest in the movie other than checking another film off the list of the King library. An impressionable 11 year old, I was completely blown away by the film’s artistry and finesse. I’d never seen a scary movie like it before.

One of the things that carried me through the film was the protagonist, young Danny. Though Jack Torrance is the main character, he’s still the villain. The hero of the film is Danny. As a kid, I enjoyed watching him outwit his demented father, and slowly unravel the mysteries of the overlook hotel. He gave the young me someone to relate to, and more importantly, Danny made the movie far scarier, as did the children in Stranger Things.

That a child is immediately threatened in Stranger Things makes the series far more unsettling than simply throwing in the usual horror trope of dumb scientists or teens in a parked car. Nobody cares about those people because they are cardboard cutouts who are there for the sole purpose of dying. Everyone cares about a kid, in particular a fleshed out character like Will Byers in Stranger Things.

Unlike the cheap exploitive use of dead children in Alien vs. Predator Requiem (my opinion of which is no secret to any of you) Will is immediately set up to be a likable character, so once the creature snatches him, viewers are immediately drawn in and want to see how the story will end, however horrible it may be. This is especially true of children who may have tuned in, and you have a guaranteed pool of repeat viewers.

The themes of horror deal with themes of death and loss of innocence, things that kids need to know they will face sooner or later. After a certain point, shielding children from these themes becomes unfair, and leaves them ill prepared for life’s challenges. Sometimes these themes are snuck into children’s films. Most Disney films feature the death of a parent that will serve to traumatize its young audience for years to come, but it should be no surprise that it doesn’t reach the same extent as horror.

Sad fact about life is there are no guaranteed happy endings. One of the primary purposes of horror is to help people deal with life’s woes by scaring the pants off them with the things we all fear, death, loss of loved ones, life irrevocably changed and being ill suited for the challenges that face us all. Learning this is best done when we’re all still young, so there is better time to adjust. The characters of Stranger Things come from all walks of life, from a sheriff recovering from the death of his daughter to to high school kids in a love triangle. In other words, they’re dealing with the things that Mike, Lucas and Dustin will eventually have to face, things which are a good deal scarier than any monster.

I’ve always felt the intentions of horror are noble. Far from being a cheap genre based on shock, horror done right is about the ills of life, putting them out in the open to make them easier to swallow. It’s children who need to learn that most of all, and horror may help communicate the ideas better than we can say them. Having children face these issues on the screen will do a lot more help than watching teenagers face them.

But the most important thing of all is what does horror deal with? It deals with things like monsters, ghosts, aliens, things that children absolutely love. We’ve all seen kids play with toys and tell stories of ghosts, aliens and monsters, and many of us did that ourselves at one time or another. Adults (at least the boring ones) tend to lose interest in such things over time. Kids are the ones who love these things, so why not give them the real thing instead of the horror decaf that most children are exposed to? And what better way to do it than with characters they can relate to, other kids? In a horror story, a child can help a young viewer through the macabre. Horror really appeals the most to children, so filling the genre with its biggest fans seems like a no brainer.

And then there are those of us who first became interested in horror as children, who were taken to that dark place of cinema and television and found there was much to love in the shadows. Watching children go on that journey as we did can be a very poignant thing, because it was like watching ourselves grow up all over again. That’s why I came back day after day to finish Stranger Things.

Meet and Greet: 8/27/16

Come visit us. We’ve got dragons.

Dream Big, Dream Often

Dream-Big

It’s the Meet and Greet weekend!!

Ok so here are the rules:

  1. Leave a link to your page or post in the comments of this post.
  2. Reblog this post.  It helps you, it helps me, it helps everyone!
  3. Edit your reblog post and add tags.
  4. Feel free to leave your link multiple times!  It is okay to update your link for more exposure every day if you want.  It is up to you!

  5. Share this post on social media.  Many of my non-blogger friends love that I put the Meet n Greet on Facebook and Twitter because they find new blogs to follow.

Now that all the rules have been clearly explained get out there and Meet and Greet your tails off!

See ya on Monday!!

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Our Book Cover Now Has an Orc

More Never Heroes news. The pre-final edit final edit of the first book is nearing completion. We’ve two chapters to go which should be wrapping up this weekend, and then it’s on to the regular final edit. The team hopes to have this novel ready for query letters come December.

I will say this, editing these last two chapters has been a chore, considering they largely consist of two dragons punching each other. It can be exhausting to work so extensively on such a long action scene, but that’s what the story called for. I wanted the finale to be as spectacular as fantasy literature has the potential to be.

In other news, our book cover is edging ever closer to completion. Our illustrator created this stunning picture of Professor Graga ‘Blondie’ Kelpla, the well educated orc who often finds herself at odds with the novel’s abrasive protagonist. This picture will be featured on our cover in the final Drew Struzan inspired collage.

You can read the summation of her and the others here.

Blondie_Cover_04

Also completed is the secondary hero of River, done in striking detail by our artist.

Never Heroes River Cover illustration

Up next we will be completing the colors on the elven wizard, Hunter and Major Celice Arietta, the final two supporting players to be added.

Cover_Hunter_03

Screen Shot 2016-08-13 at 4.48.52 AM

Currently in the works is our fire breathing star, and some additional work will be done on the background the characters will be placed in front of. This cover is looking better by the day, as is the story it will be wrapped around. It is my hope that the work I’ve done can live up to the stunning artwork my team is providing.

Thank you all for reading and I’ll keep you filled in as the updates come.

Meet and Greet: 8/20/16

Come swing by my blog. We have dragons. 😉

Dream Big, Dream Often

Dream-Big

It’s the Meet and Greet weekend!!

Ok so here are the rules:

  1. Leave a link to your page or post in the comments of this post.
  2. Reblog this post.  It helps you, it helps me, it helps everyone!
  3. Edit your reblog post and add tags.
  4. Feel free to leave your link multiple times!  It is okay to update your link for more exposure every day if you want.  It is up to you!

  5. Share this post on social media.  Many of my non-blogger friends love that I put the Meet n Greet on Facebook and Twitter because they find new blogs to follow.

Now that all the rules have been clearly explained get out there and Meet and Greet your tails off!

See ya on Monday!!

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Two Dragons Punching Each Other

You know they say writing is re-writing. That is true. To vomit out words on a page or a screen and go back later to sift through them, slowly bringing out the good and discarding the bad until a coherent, multi dimensional story emerges.

That has been the process in writing my first book, the fantasy adventure Never Heroes. Working on this book every week for the last two years, tirelessly chipping away at a featureless block of words until a complex and cohesive story filled with emotion and adventure emerged has been as rewarding as it was tiring, and that now brings me to the pre final edit final edit.

Yes. I know it’s redundant. Shut up.

So, at this stage in the pre final edit final edit, I have three chapters to go before we reach the regular final edit. This is it. The grand finale of the book, the final chaotic sixty pages that needs to be fine tuned and well pruned to be the climactic clash its premise promises. I’m up to a two chapter long sequence of two dragons punching each other.

Now let us consider briefly what that means. I think we can all agree that this is a dragon.

Yep. That’s a dragon alright, a towering colossus of fire and death who dwarfs those standing before it. Pretty impressive creature. One dragon alone can do plenty of damage. They are after-all one of the oldest and most classical villains in the history of literature. Now picture two dragons punching each other.

You see, with dragons being the flying, firebreathing multi ton wonders they are, you have a lot to deliver when you get to the point of two dragons punching each other. Such a battle promises to be a hurricane of fire and brimstone, the air choked with ash and dust, ears filled with roars and screams, and a raging firestorm consuming everything around it as your two star wyrms go head to head.

For more on that firestorm, read this earlier article here.

So anyway, what were we talking about? Oh yeah. Two dragons punching each other.

So when you have two dragons punching each other, what do you do? Well, you can’t just have it be a few pages and done. So siree. You’ve gotta keep that cataclysm going until all of those promises have been fulfilled. You think a fight of two dragons punching each other can go like this?

What? Are you mad? That mess needs to keep going. I’m talking scorched earth, forests cut open with massive craters, and searing hot embers raining down from above in a great storm of madness and death! And it must go on and on until one of them is worn down and dashed to oblivion leaving only one great scaled terror to reign supreme!

Yes. Two dragons punching each other, throwing tooth, claw and flame until one of them finally kicks the bucket. Yes, that battle, between two dragons, for two long, exhausting chapters.

This is going to be a looong pre final edit final edit.

Anyway, here’s a picture of two dragons punching each other.

Every Book Cover Needs an Orc

The ambitious Drew Struzan style cover for my first book in the Never Heroes series is taking shape quickly these days. With the color schemes for each character pretty much determined and the background being prepped for another go, this promises to look really great when it’s finished.

The latest casualty of the black and white era is the character of Professor Graga Kelpla, or Blondie to her closest friends. For those of you who don’t yet know this character, Blondie is the head of the History and Archeological Departments at Librandretta University in the City of Ravenwood, and one of the most prominent supporting characters in the series.

You can read her bio here.

What our illustrator and I sought to bring out for the character was someone who was not very beastly as an orc, but someone who looked the part of having great academic prowess. Blondie is not a barbarian, but a professional with a vast bibliography and a great career in education and history.

After finding an appropriate skin tone that wasn’t too over the top, her clothing was given special attention, made to look like a university suit that would fit her profession. We hope you agree.

Blondie Art Update

Thanks for reading and we’ll be checking back in with some more artwork soon.

Life of a Self Loathing Writer

Forgive me today for getting a little more personal, but this post was a long time coming and now is as good a time as any to spill it.

Sometime last week a very disturbing incident happened. I’d just returned home from a long morning haul at my weekend job and was a little burnt out. My evening still awaited me, an evening that promised friends, companionship, and an overall good time. I went into the restroom to wash away the accumulated dust and grime when I took a casual glance into the mirror.

Seeing that visage looking back at me, a 27 year old socially inept college graduate grasping at straws and trying to get his career started, something inside snapped.

“7 billion people in the world, why did I have to be you?” I said before spitting on my reflection. I could almost feel the loogie striking me.

I haven’t loved myself in a very long time. My parents were divorced when I was very young, and I always wondered if I had something to do with it. I had very few friends growing up so always thought there must have been something wrong with me. I was bullied many times in many different schools, and never by a few select members of whatever class I was in, but by the entire class. To those who’ve never had it happen, you can never known how painful it is to have an entire class of fifteen or so kids point at you and laugh with not a single friend among them to stand up for you, and  never a shoulder to cry on.

No weekends were spent out at sleepovers, no days were spent on the playground with my peers, no nights were spent playing video games and eating pizza with the compatriots. Weekends and evenings were spent alone in my room staring at the same four walls from dawn to dusk and  watching Alien for the 57th time.

“Is this the way it will always be?” I wondered. “Is there no way out?”

I started writing then. It began with little class projects here and there, vocabulary exercises where we were to use recently learned words in the context of short fiction. Mine were always extravagant, monster stories, murder mysteries, made in some hope that I could impress the class and finally be accepted into the social circle. They only drove the other kids away further. They called me a show off.

Then I started writing at home. Drew crude movie posters for each one which I still have in a binder, started writing the ideas down and taking notes, mounting up stories upon stories that would never really see the light of day. It became an escape from the painful tedium of classroom and home life.

Now I’m 28, and not where I want to be in life. Why is that, I wonder? I’m aware of being smarter than most, but don’t know if I possess the skill to apply it. I even write better than most, but still wonder if anything written on my parchment is really worth it.

Honestly, I think that’s one of the reasons I started writing to begin with. When you feel you’re not really worth a damn, you figure maybe something outside of yourself will show that you’re not just a cosmic mistake with bad eyes on the autism spectrum. Maybe if you did something really great, people would accept it, and by extension they would accept you. So you go about working, improving the craft, trying to do something that touches people and sweeps them off their feet in ways that they couldn’t possibly imagine, and for the first time you feel proud of something you did.

I did this. Me and nobody else. I just want to grab the nearest random stranger in the street and shout in their face “Have you seen this? Look what I did!” Because its the only way you can feel any sense of pride and self worth, through the things you make and never yourself.

Self hatred has a strange kind of logic to it. You get it in your head that it makes more sense for one piece of the machine to be broken instead of many, so everything that happens to you must be somehow your fault. Stranger still is I do have friends who profess their caring over and over again, but I wonder if it’s real.

I wonder if they really smile when I call, or if they roll their eyes and think “Oh, THIS guy again talking about his stupid book and his movies. Let me just put up with him for another few minutes and get this over with.” Sending a message to a friend is, to me, an exercise in terror, for I always wonder if this will be the time they don’t answer.

I can still hear all the words uttered from when I was younger, and I still believe every one. My friends tell me it was a long time ago and it’s time to move on. If only it were that easy. The ages of 10 to 15 are crucial years when you develop a sense of self. Spending those years listening to no kind words leave scars that run deep, and waking up every day the words have the same vividness they did when first spoken.

It is the feeling of being alone in a crowded room, which is the loneliest feeling in the world. Writing is my last, desperate attempt to matter.

Some people write because they have confidence and an ego, and see themselves touching the sky. I wrote because I wanted to feel those things. I wanted to feel proud walking around in my skin and not feel like a mistake. I wanted to walk in a crowded room and have people turn their heads and smile. Finally, I want to someday look at my reflection and love what I see.

Meet and Greet: 8/13/16

Another weekend and another one of Danny’s amazing link mixers. Hello everyone. Swing by, be merry, and don’t be strangers. Just be stranger. Looking forward to meeting you all.

Dream Big, Dream Often

Dream-Big

It’s the Meet and Greet weekend!!

Ok so here are the rules:

  1. Leave a link to your page or post in the comments of this post.
  2. Reblog this post.  It helps you, it helps me, it helps everyone!
  3. Edit your reblog post and add tags.
  4. Feel free to leave your link multiple times!  It is okay to update your link for more exposure every day if you want.  It is up to you!

  5. Share this post on social media.  Many of my non-blogger friends love that I put the Meet n Greet on Facebook and Twitter because they find new blogs to follow.

Now that all the rules have been clearly explained get out there and Meet and Greet your tails off!

See ya on Monday!!

View original post

Of Book Covers and Final Acts

Well, crossed an important threshold in my book yesterday. I retreaded my steps through a flawed narrative a little at a time, polishing out the flaws a little at a time and bringing it all to a fine mirror shine. Yesterday I completed my work on chapter 15. Now I have four chapters to go, the final act of the story.

If there is one word I could use to describe writing the final act of this book, that word would be exhausting. It culminated in a two chapter long battle sequence between my hero and the villain, a battle filled with great billowing fire and a city pushed to the edge of ruination.Writing it last year, I could almost feel the traded blows and flames myself, and to finally type The End was a great relief.

But, as is the case with all written works, writing consists a lot of re-writing. There is nary a time many writers can get it right on the first go. You must first write a story, and then bring it out. That has certainly been the case with the previous 15 chapters, all of which have grown in ways I could not have foreseen when first writing this book.

Well, we’re on the final leg, at least for this edit. I’m hoping to wrap things up by the end of the week.

In the meantime, another cover piece has been taken care of for the book more or less. Pictured is below Major Celice Arietta, our determined soldier who is quickly emerging as a favorite supporting player amongst me and my cohorts. Some minor fine tunes are still needed, but the color scheme itself works, and she looks ready as she ever was to blackmail some dragons.

Screen Shot 2016-08-13 at 4.48.52 AM

Starting Monday, my illustrator and I will start our coloring work on another supporting player, our scholarly yet embittered orc Blondie. The color scheme for her promises to be challenging since there will be a lot of experimentation with skin tone and the look of her clothing.

Cover_Blondie_02

Expect to see more of these two soon. We’ve all been most thrilled how this cover is shaping up to be.

Will get back to all of you very soon and thanks for reading.

The Big 28

Greetings loyal followers of this novice little writing blog. Well, today is my birthday, and I’m turning 28.

My 27th year has been an odd one, with plenty of ups and downs, good days and bad, massive life events mixed among dull mundanity. I got my first paying film industry job and gained major footing in my chosen career, my debut novel edges slowly but surely to completion, I’ve completed three feature scripts, three short scripts, two short stories, and the list goes on.

Honestly, a lot of the credit for this last exciting year goes to my friends. People like to think about going out and conquering the world all by themselves, but it’s always about the shoulders you have to lean on. I’d like to give shout to a few and invite you all to check out their work, should you have the time.

CullenDavid, Joseph, thank you for all you’ve done last year. You’ve been more than contributors, but kept me going and gave me hope when I was running on fumes. And to all those who don’t have pages (yet), thanks to you as well. All my love.

The 27th year wraps to a close and the 28th year begins. Hopefully it will be even more exciting and eventful than the last.