books v film

Book v Film: The Mist

Today I want to look at one of my favourite writers and an adaptation of one of their novellas. I’d like to look at the adaptation of Stephen King’s ‘The Mist’. The novella was released in 1985 in the collection ‘The skeleton Crew’, while the film came out in 2007.

In my opinion, the main things that changed when the novella got adapted were the atmosphere and tone of the story. I want to focus this blog on the elements that the director changed which I feel has effected these.

The most obvious in my opinion is the pacing, the novella, for all it is short at only 130 pages, is a slow burn. Everything in the novella takes time, the characters are introduced gently and given time to establish themselves before we get to the monsters (the first one doesn’t show up until the second third of the novella). King uses the first third of the story to foreshadow, build tension and most importantly make you care and connect with the characters.

The film jumps almost straight to the action, we get a brief introduction of our main character, his son and his neighbour all before we’re whisked away into the supermarket where the bulk of the film takes place. I understand that films will struggle with pacing compared to novels and novellas, they are a completely different medium so we struggle to spend time in our MC’s head, films also have a limited run time so it’s natural that they might cut some of the ‘fluff’ but the world and character building does suffer for it in my opinion.

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Katie's Stories

I got a shout out in a review for Water: Selkies, Sirens and Sea Monsters

I got a shout out in a review! *Insert excited bouncing*

As usual, editor Rhonda Parrish chose a different, somewhat quirky tale to lead us into the pages of “Water.” Catherine MacLeod’s dark tale, “The Diviner,” was an excellent choice to begin this collection of stories and poems. The author wove the story in such a way as to make it easy to believe in the character of Melly, a seemingly ordinary person possessing out-of-the-ordinary cooking skills.

Everybody has different tastes, and there were some stories that reached out and immediately grabbed my attention like “There’s Something in the Water” by Katie Marie, a scary warning tale about a town with a horrific secret. Rebecca Brae’s “The Witch’s Diary: Adventures in Hut-Sitting” is a whimsical revelation of Hester’s world while she spends time away from college on a summer job (her quick comment on fairies was blunt, unexpected, and hilariously delivered). Colleen Anderson’s vivid “Siren’s Song” described a world that was, before it slipped into the catalog of legends.

There’s a touch of horror that worms into some of the stories, as the accepting way we perceive these legendary beings becomes tainted and the beings morph into monsters. This suited me just fine, and I warily strolled through the paths of what could be. Many of the stories eagerly took my hand and led me into the unknown, including Davide Mana’s “The Man Who Speared Octopodes” and “Bruno J. Lampini and the Song of the Sea” by Josh Reynolds. Horror may contain a huge dose of humor as deftly displayed by Joel McKay’s “Number Hunnerd.”

Bottom line, there is something here for almost everyone and it is not hard to appreciate the imaginative poems and stories contained in this book. While I liked some of the offerings more than others, there wasn’t a throwaway to be found, and the wide variance of styles kept the reading interesting. Highly recommended. Five stars.

My thanks to Tyche Books Ltd. and the editor for a complimentary electronic copy of this book.

Horror Writing

Writing: Benefits of Editing later

The benefits of editing later

All writing, be it a novel, a short story, a blog, or an email will need reviewing and editing before it is sent anywhere. Otherwise, you’re liable to come across careless or foolish. Editing is key to crafting, it might be rather dull and certainly not feel as creative as the actual drafting, but it is immeasurably important.

Editing gives our voices clarity and sharpness, it makes what we are trying to say actually make sense and lastly, it improves our content. I have found several times on an edit that what I was trying to say has become muddied in my brains rambling pathways and only with concise editing can I retrieve that tiny nugget of thought within the mess.

Think of editing as polishing an ornament or sharpening a knife, both the ornament and the knife exist on their own, but the polishing and sharpening improve them. After all, a blunt knife is both unimpressive and kind of useless and a dull lifeless ornament depreciates in value with every dust mote. It reminds me of a morning that I’d been dragged to a car boot sale by my granddad, it was cold, raining a bit and far, far too early on a Sunday morning. But I wandered the aisles and saw something, it was a pair of statues. It was immediately obvious they had gone many years without love, they were dull, filthy and battered. But I bought them, and I spent a lot of time washing, dusting and polishing them up and now they are beautiful and sit in my dining room. That is editing. Seeing the potential in something and scraping away the dirt and grime until it can shine again.

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Horror Writing

Horror Writing: My Favourite Setting

Today I want to talk about one of my favourite settings for a horror story.

The forest!

The forest is one of my favourite settings for a proper spooky story. It’s been this way for as long as I can remember, but when I tried to think about it I couldn’t for the life of me think why. I mean I love the forest, I love spending crisp autumn weekends wandering around the forests, watching the trees changing colour, picking up knickknacks (a habit I started as a kid and have never broken) watching out for wildlife and being chuffed to all hell when every year there seems to be more and more.

But why then, if I love the woods so much is it my go-to, best location for setting a scary story?

While it is possible to turn any location into a scary place with the right amount of subversion, I don’t think that’s what’s happening here. A forest is a place we learn to fear from a young age. Fairy tales, like the Brothers Grimm, teach us that the forest is where dangerous things, like monsters, witches and wolves live. But more than that, they teach us that the forest itself is scary, it’s easy to get lost and never be found, it is a place where the natural makeup of the land is dangerous.

I imagine in the days of Brothers Grimm there was a lot of danger to be had in the forest and these stories were, in part, created so people would be careful, children would not wander off and thus people would be safer. With far less woodland now than there was then this threat is no longer so great. Yet we hold onto the old stories and the fear they gave us.

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Horror Writing

Horror Writing: Pacing Your Story

Pacing your story is important. 

This is likely a phrase that you’ve heard before, I know I certainly heard it several thousand times and knew it academically, but implementing this practically has sometimes proven to be a bit of a challenge.

In a nutshell, the pacing is the speed at which your story progresses. There will be points where things happen quickly and points where it slows down a bit. The important thing to remember is that the speed must be reflective of the story itself. This means that having a fast-paced chapter should be an exciting chapter where the action happens, as opposed to a fast-paced world-building chapter.

The reason pacing can be difficult, at least it’s something I still struggle with it because it’s difficult to label chapters. I do not have entire chapters devoted to character development or world-building, these things are interwoven through the entire story. While I will have a few action-focused chapters they usually come in towards the end. Writing horror, at least for me, means a lot of well-paced build-up with the conclusion being faster paced. Sometimes I feel that this can make pacing disjointed and thus difficult. 

Today, I would like to share with you a few little tips to help you make sure your story is well-paced.

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Horror Writing

Horror Writing: The Three Act Structure

In my last blog, I mentioned the typical three-act structure that is present in most stories.

Today I want to talk a little bit more about this, as while it is not a complicated part of story craft it is where a lot of writers come into problems. What I mean by that is that whenever a story doesn’t quite ‘feel right’ or leaves the audience unhappy or unsatisfied, it’s usually because something in the three-act structure has gone wrong.

What is the Three Act Structure?

The Three Act Structure is a simple, but effective, way of structuring a story. It allows you as the writer/creator to craft a story in such a way that will engage your audience and leave them feeling satisfied at the end of the experience.

If you can follow this structure and work your story into each part well and organically, then your story will work. However, if any part of the structure is rushed through or forced in then your audience isn’t going to enjoy your story as well as they could had you followed the structure.

Horror Writing

Horror Writing: Writing a Great Setting

What makes a great horror story?

Talk about a difficult question.

There is no one perfect element that makes a great story. It’s almost impossible to break this question down into just a few elements. There are lots of different elements that make a story a good horror story. Things like characters, are they believable? The setting, is it well thought out? Does the story tap into common fears? It is suspenseful? Is it predictable? Does it strike the right atmosphere?

There’s so much to consider that to do so in one go would be madness. So with that in mind, I’m breaking it down, today I want to talk about setting.

A well-crafted setting is crucial to a great story no matter the genre. In horror, in particular, you are likely to want your setting to be oppressive in and of itself. A strong setting will add a great deal of tension, atmosphere and challenge the protagonists in such a way that the characters develop and evolve compellingly and engagingly.

But how can we craft an engaging setting, a setting that oppresses the characters and adds to the tension of the story?