Thursday, January 18, 2018

Hire An Editor, Save A Story

The Fog Wraith by Lucas Leuzzi centers around a pond with a secret. The setup is long and unnecessary, followed by little-to-no action and a poor use of suspense. The characters are severely underdeveloped, even for a short story, and the author should have put more effort into the flashback within the journal. The pond's history could have made a good horror story, but a professional editor is the only one who can salvage this.

Most people probably think a short story isn't important enough to require a professional editor, but I think if you're seriously considering writing as a full-time career, you need to invest in making a good first impression. With all the stories readers have to choose from, the last thing they want to deal with is poorly written fiction. Win a reader over and you have a possible fan for life.

Editors do so much more than correct spelling, punctuation and grammar. They can help with character development, storyline pacing and the setting. Freelance editors aren't as expensive as you might think they are. Keep in mind, they want your story to succeed as much as you do. They want to make a good impression in the literary community as well. Best of all, a freelance editor works for the author, not a publisher. You can't accomplish your best writing by yourself.

As always,

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Put Down The Tide Pod

The Spider by Amy Cross is a story about a crotchety old man named Edward Moss, recently widowed, slowly going insane over a spider which appears to be immortal. I admit, under the circumstances presented by the author, I had my suspicions about the spider's origins...kept me hooked, despite the many slow moments with the old man's thought-monologues. The horror story he is reading is also an excellent touch. While this story doesn't meet the expectations I have for the author, based on her previous work, the unexpected ending made this novella worth reading.

I've often become a fan of an author only to lose interest due to a change in genre, writing style or both. The first time this happened, it was Stephen King. Loved everything he wrote in the 1980s and some of the 90s, but, one day, during a stopover at an airport, I read The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon and I realized King no longer frightened me. The author who instilled my love of horror had become another relic from my younger years.

Anyone who has followed King's career knows his writing has expanded in every direction of horror, many sub-genres...settings spanning modern Maine to kingdoms in other worlds...monsters in various forms...every story had its own unique flavor. Some say he sold out...but, maybe, in this new age of online warfare, hashtag protests and Tide-pod eaters, even an author like King can't compete with the horror of real life.

As always,

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Something Something Something

The Death Machine by Tony Rabig doesn't really go anywhere, ever. I'm not sure why it is listed in the horror genre on Amazon, when it's clearly missing key components such as suspense and action of any kind. It's as if the author wrote an esoteric essay and tried, unsuccessfully, to disguise it as flash fiction. I normally enjoy thinking stories, but this one is all thinking and no story.

I appreciate authors who attempt to do more than merely entertain with their creations, but every now and then, I stumble across an author who seems only interested in letting readers know what a deep-thinker he is...or how smart she is...and they seem to miss the entire point of storytelling. It's not unlike a movie filled with amazing special effects and zero plot.

When approaching fiction in any genre, readers expect to be entertained. Reading is not something that can be done passively...when such an effort is put forth, it's only natural to want something in return. The number one reason most people read fiction is to escape reality and experience something new. Who wants to go through a door, only to find themselves in an empty closet?

As always,

Monday, January 15, 2018

When Gaming Takes Over Your Life

Dead Pixel by Jeremy Kush is an unusual flash fiction piece about a guy playing a virtual reality game for the first time, while he live streams the event. Some readers may have a difficult time visualizing this story...the typos don't help...key words are misspelled, adding some confusion as to what the gamer is actually seeing. The macabre nature of the game provides a good hook, but this story would be better suited for a film short.

Every so often, I come across a short story which would be better off in some other form...either a novel, a television episode or a full-length movie. Sometimes it's the format of the story that needs to change, but other times I think an author needs to change their writing profession. I know authors who are fantastic at short stories, but couldn't write a novel to save their lives. There have even been a few writers who I thought would do better writing screenplays. Regardless of the situation, most of them have great story ideas which deserve more attention.

As always,

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Wanting More From Stories

Dark City Dark Night by Abe Evergreen is a fast-paced story about a man in a dystopian society trying to save a little girl from a deadly virus. Readers are only given a glimpse of his surroundings: an automated city, divided into sectors, populated by desperate and fearful people. Society has been ravaged by one virus strain after another and scientists are struggling to create new vaccines. Most people die from the various strains, but those who don't are extremely violent. Virtually nothing personal is revealed about the main character or his family. I would've like to find out why the man never wears as everyone else does.

I don't mind having unanswered questions about a story or a character. There's no rule stating readers need to know everything about a backstory. I think leaving the history of a setting unexplained helps keep the focus on the characters, and giving the characters secrets keeps us hooked in hopes we will find the answers we are seeking. Through this process, we are more likely to feel we experienced a story versus being told what happened.

As always,

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Motivated by the End of the World

Reserves by Jason Torfin is a post-apocalyptic tale told from a sheltered and bed-ridden young man. While not much physical action happens, the mystery of his father's vision, and the survival prepping that follows, is quite captivating. I wish there had been more interaction between the family members, but the lack of conversation emphasizes the isolation surrounding the narrator.

The father in this story made me think of the father in the movie Take Shelter. Both had visions of a horrifying future event, but the character in the movie had limited financial means and everyone thought he was going crazy. However, both men are equally determined to save their families. One train of thought leads to another...

If we have a vision, suggesting the future has already been decided, what's the point of trying to change it? Greek mythology is full of people who try to change events, only to become the ones who cause the very thing they're trying to avoid. Is it possible to dream of an event that will take place, but with details which are yet to be determined?

As always,

Friday, January 12, 2018

Guessing The Author's Intentions

The Others: Fit For Duty by N.M. Sinclair is more like flash fiction, and far too brief. It felt as though I was reading a summary rather than an actual story. I think the author has a very intriguing hook with the silver-haired woman, but there are only a couple moments with the character and hardly any action at all. I have no idea what Sinclair had in mind when writing this, but, instead of picturing an alien race invading from another planet, I imagined a race of silver-haired fae attempting to reclaim the Earth from humans.

Sometimes I wonder if I look too hard for a twist or if I read too much into an insignificant detail. I don't know if it's the result of the many different genres I read, or the multitude of stories I've read in the past forty years (been reading since I was 4 yrs old). I rarely accept a story at face-value. I'm often trying to guess how it will end.

I remember writing a poem about writer's block, and several people thought I had written a poem about murdering someone. I don't think I make that kind of stretch with any of the fiction I read, but sometimes my guesses are so far off, I have to reread a story to see where I went wrong.

As always,