Writing Process: Reflecting on Scary Thoughts

This last holiday-centered long weekend was relaxing.  It really was.  Despite my constant moving and desire to surround myself with incredible friends and family, beginning Friday night, relaxation was squeezed in the hubbub intermittently.  Unfortunately, sleep was associated and intertwined with the moments of relaxation, and that’s not a good thing; sleep and relaxation should be separate occurrences.  It’s an opinion of mine that intertwining sleep and relaxation will only confuse the mind and body and spirit.  My sleep and dreams professor in college–this notion may be off track, but not too far astray–said that sleep and sex should be done in bed and nothing else.  Associating multiple things with your bed (i.e. eating, writing, reading, watching television, surfing the internet) will only mess with sleep patterns.  The less activities you do, the better you will sleep and the more vivid your dreams will become.

Several things can happen in the bed, practices and hobbies or habitual processes that shouldn’t be done in or above the sheets.  Dream recollection  has been difficult lately because of these poor bed practices.  Crumbs will not be found, because of my being super careful about what and how I eat.  Normally eating occurs while watching a movie or writing.  Getting out enough, venturing to coffee shops, cannot be stressed and calculated for that matter.

Anxiety kicked in Sunday night.  This categorical anxiety could fall into the restlessness of wanting to do something, but not wanting to.  The desire to lay low was evident, but something was missing.  Luckily, the entirety of my mind and body settled enough for me to watch a couple movies.  Driving to the closest Redbox, the decision to pick out two movies sprouted–one movie, which hit the big screen, and the other movie was a B-movie:  Sinister (2012) and Vs or All Superheroes Must Die (2011).  The double feature movie night began with the latter, a movie with two names when searching for it, is the shorter of the two.  Expectation was not high, after reading the description.

Vs or All Superheroes Must Die takes a different route with the superhero concept:  bad guy played by James Remar takes away the powers of four superheroes, who wake up in a very small town and do not know how they got there.  The residents are either taken hostage and tied up, or killed.  The superheroes find themselves in Saw-like circumstances where they have to save the residents before they blow up.  It’s not as complex or thought out as Saw, and it is not as gory.  It’s not a terrible movie, because the writers developed a good base; it was hastily written and put together.  For a low budget film, it worked well; whatever CGI used is minimal.  The movie ended, and it left me wanting more; not a continuation of the story, but more richness to it:  more body and more story.

A higher body count would have been nice, but that would have been overdone.

This is a spoiler.  The ending is ambiguous, but the post-credit scene made the film less wonderful.  The continuity is blown.  If the town was rigged to be blown to smithereens, why have one of the main characters twitch to show vitality?  Sure, it’s hinted that he may not have lost his powers, but it doesn’t make sense.

Sinister, on the other hand, is fantastic.  It has a classic approach to a horror movie with minimal CGI–yes, I don’t like CGI–and no over-the-top nonsense.  It’s disturbing for the psyche, especially for a child.  There aren’t too many moments to make you jump out of your seat, but the anticipation is suspenseful to keep you watching.  It’s not convoluted.  It’s a genuinely scary movie, that one expects.  Sinister had been produced by those who did Insidious (2011), which I highly enjoyed as well.  The only part of Insidious that wasn’t tolerable–this is cheesy–was Patrick Wilson’s battling the guard demon to rescue his kid and then their running from the devil.  Sure, it added a great surreal moment to the movie, but it was overdone and hokey.

This is the right track where filmmakers have to go.  Minimal can mean more.  Gore honestly doesn’t cut it; in my opinion, it takes away from the movie.  Even with the original slasher movies, gore was downplayed quite a bit.  I’ve always loved horror-related anything; my knowledge and admiration is high, but nowhere near an expert or obsessed.

When you have the flu, the greatest feeling is the moment where the fever breaks.  While watching Sinister, my writer’s block broke.  The movie had to be paused, and I wrote furiously about:  the short story I have/haven’t been working on, the dramedy novel, and the good ol’-fashioned haunted house story that has been on the back burner for a few years now.  Springing out of bed, I victoriously jumped in the air with my arm extended and my fist high.  This caused me to bump into my bookshelf, which shook and yielded a teetering engraved glass on top of it.  Nothing broke, so jumping was worth it.

The 1-Up mushroom fell from nowhere.

The quasi-horror novel–face it, Chris, it’s horror–was something unexpected years ago.  The idea came to me while riding on a train to Brooklyn.  The notebook containing the beginning and guts for it was put away on the shelf, taken out, kicked under the bed and forgotten about, aged like a fine wine, rediscovered, and then it was returned to the shelf.  However, the transfer to the computer was inevitable.  The folder containing the simply started documents had been untouched as well.  Opening the character and idea spreadsheet, ideas were placed upon the paper fluidly.  It’s as if writing in script came back to me.  The digital recorder was upon the night stand, but it wasn’t needed as the words poured out of me.

The next morning, I looked over what was scribbled, and the thoughts pleased me.

After speaking/tweeting with Central New York author, Bruce Coville, another revitalizing burst bloomed within me.  I’ll tweet him every so often.  It’s a great feeling to speak with an author, even via email.  A couple years back, I sent an email to another one of my favorite “local” authors, George Saunders, even though he isn’t originally from the Central New York area.  There have been numerous moments where I’ve mentioned Saunders.  I asked to meet with him, which he agreed to, but due to deadlines having to be met and family excitement (good excitement), the meeting up didn’t happen.  I’ve been thinking of contacting him again, but nervous; he may remember me since the first attempt to discuss writing failed.  We’ll see.

My father, who is an avid reader, got me into the classics at an early age, so I stuck by them.  When it came time to reading required contemporary books–this was especially true for book talks and reports–a great disinterest came apparent.  In elementary school, Split Rock Elementary specifically, we had to do book talks and at one point a competition was developed.  If you did well on the book talk, you got a certificate of some kind.  Back in my day, these pieces of paper were cherished.  We had to opt for one book out of a pile of librarian-recommended titles;  I chose Owl Moon by Jane Yolen, which was published in 1987.  There were few words in the book, so the pictures did a fantastic job of telling/adding to the story.

Needless to say, I rocked the book talk and became part of the chosen few.  However, I quickly fell back into wanting to read classics.

Then, I was introduced to Bruce Coville’s books, and my literature preferences expanded.  When he came to our elementary school in the early 1990’s, my friends and I (along with a copious amount of other students) were psyched.  Since there were so many students in the assembly, we were all in the cafeteria, he couldn’t sign everyone’s books; however, we all got a pin with his signature on it.  From there, my curiosity expanded, and–save holding onto the classics–my new favorite genre(s) dove into Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Clive Barker, and other horror and science fiction and mystery writers.

I must pause, because I would like to post a link to Mr. Coville’s website.  It seems only fitting.  Coville is right, however; whether it’s true or not, we all have felt our teachers–some or all–were aliens.  These books had some killer illustrations as well.



As much as I loved–and still love, because you can never dislike literature–R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series, they still were written for the younger audience.  More Scary Stories for Sleep-Overs is another book that I own; that book of short stories had a few doozies from what I can remember. The Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series is made up of three books of stories and folklore and urban legends, which are respectively written and illustrated by Alvin Schwartz and Stephen Gammell; those illustrations still irk me.  Well done, Mr. Gammell.  Well done.  Too bad the illustrations changed.  Ridiculous! Those books along with Coville’s are in the same bin.  I cannot wait for my children to read them.  The Scary Stories collection is currently on my bookshelf.

The fact I didn’t enjoy the books that the school librarian insisted we read, my down time reading consisted of nonfiction haunted house books.  Those books, talking about worldwide hauntings and haunted places, would be on my radar on a weekly basis.  The same books would be taken out numerous times throughout the year.  There were historical lessons within the texts of these books, and this was especially true with England and all their famous hauntings.  Information on the paranormal, poltergeists, spirits, and even religion was soaked up.

So, writing began at a young age.  Stories were written–well, started–in notebooks, but those have been lost along the way.  Most were based around friendship, which alluded to the friendships in what is now the old neighborhood.  One story, which was centered around a camping excursion, focused on our circle of friends; we were to be dropped off at our shared camp for a week, but it would just be us kids.  Our parents would have driven us from what I remember, and we would have shared in getting supplies:  burgers and dogs, soda, cookies, and any other unhealthy junk we could find.  A second story involved getting lost in an amusement park.  It probably ripped off Goosebumps:  One Day at HorrorLand, and The Funhouse (1981).

The thought of writing for children crossed my mind, so the experiment was written.  It turned into a bloody mess, the story.  The story turned out well, in my opinion, but it didn’t turn out well for the characters.  Writing for children is not for me.

It’s difficult to think of an original idea when everything has been written.  It’s frustrating to accept this, but it’s easy to keep reassuring yourself that you’re writing a different take on it.  Sure, the concept is the same, but how can the writer tweek it?  How can you engage an audience with a known story.  Happy endings frustrate me; so, in the future, when I am published, the audience should keep in mind the notion that the story will not end up as they suspect it would.  There will be a happy resolution in a sense, but the overall ending should frustrate the readers and throw them for a loop.

Then there was Mr. Kane, the jazz man, who taught 7th grade English.  He used Chris Van Allsburg’s The Mysteries of Harris Burdick to prompt writing.  He pushed us with book talks and reports.  I’ve never learned so many prefixes and suffixes with any teacher before or after him.  Kane also introduced me to Ray Bradbury.  These have been written about before in previous posts, but not thoroughly.  The full details will unfold down the road.

Further down the road in life.  It’s May 31st–

Shit!  I need to get my rent check in.


It’s May 31st, 2013, and tomorrow is the last day of the Intro to Harold workshop.  Ron will be directing his last workshop of this first class.  All of us, we improvisors in training, are lucky to be working and learning from charismatic and personable individuals, who are taking time out of their life to pass on their knowledge and experiences to others.  There is hope that we’ll take this as seriously as they do.

Who knows how my writing would have, or wouldn’t have, developed without improv.  It’s such a confidence booster on stage, in life, and on paper.

I’ve learned a lot about myself and about others.  The three women I met at the very beginning have become sisters never had, and it’s reassuring to develop such a relationship with strangers.  There were six of us to begin the stretch of workshops, and then there were four.  It’s amazing how one class for beginners weeded out those who could not cut it.   We played games, put on shows, and continue to put on shows–on stage and when we sit around.  We wanted to be funny when we didn’t have to be.  Now, we don’t.  We want the humor to ease out, and not push it.  Characterization and plot are essential.  Listening and paying attention is crucial.

Humor comes in after, naturally.

Just like life.

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