Today’s Art (3rd March 2015)

Well, I’ve decided to take a break from making 1990s-themed art and today’s painting is based on a surprisingly relaxing daydream I had a while before I fell asleep a few weeks ago.

Unfortunately, this painting didn’t turn out that well and really doesn’t do the beauty of the cavern in my daydream justice.

As usual, this painting is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"Cavern Daydream" By C. A. Brown

“Cavern Daydream” By C. A. Brown

Are Creative “Scenes” Or “Art Movements” Really Necessary These Days?

2015 Artwork Scenes Are obsolete article sketch

Even though this is another ramble about art and/or writing, I’m going to have to start by talking about music for a while. There’s no real reason for this, I just felt like talking about music. Ok, just kidding – it is relevant.

A few weeks ago, I was randomly looking at stuff on Youtube when I happened to stumble across a really cool documentary about the 1990s California punk scene. Since 1990s Californian punk music was technically the first “cool” genre of music I ever heard- it’s always held a special place in my heart.

Although I was only a kid in the 90s, although I have no real musical abilities and although I’ve never actually even been to America – I wished that I had been there in the 90s. I wished that I’d been in a punk band. I wished I’d gone to punk concerts there.

And, well, this made me think one of the bittersweet recurring thoughts that I have every now and then. It goes something along the lines of “If only I could be part of a scene. I wish that I could be part of a new genre of fiction – like the cyberpunks and the splatterpunks in the 80s. I wish that I could be part of an art movement etc...”

But, since the coolest place that I’ve ever lived was probably Aberystwyth, the chances of me stumbling into a new art movement or clique of writers working in a new genre are fairly remote.

And, whilst I like to think that my art has a unique “style”, I don’t think that it’s really quite cool enough to start an art movement or anything like that.

When I think these things, I feel miserable. But, it’s all nonsense really.

Seriously, it is. It’s a load of poppycock, hogwash, bilgewater, bollocks and/or bullshit.

Why? Because creative “scenes” are one of those things that – like underground magazines and mixtapes – are completely obsolete these days.

Back in the 1990s, you might have had to live somewhere “cool” to meet the right people and become part of a new genre of music, art, fiction etc…. But the internet is a lot more widely-used now than it was back then.

One of the cool things about the internet is that you can connect with cool people across the world. You can post your art and/or writing on there and literally anyone can see it and be inspired by it. In the age of the internet, the idea that you have to live in a certain time or a certain place to be part of a new genre, scene or movement is completely stupid.

It’s as stupid and outdated as the idea that you’re only a “real” artist if you’ve managed to get your work shown in a gallery somewhere.

New genres of art, fiction and music emerge on the internet and they’re public property – everyone can participate in them if they want to. Everyone can look at them and be inspired by them.

So, yes, if you’re living somewhere “uncool” or you don’t really know that many like-minded artists, writers or musicians – then don’t worry.

Just make the things that you want to make and put them online and, if like-minded people across the world are interested, then you might find yourself becoming part of a “scene” without even knowing it.

——————–

Anyway, I hope that this was interesting :)

Today’s Art (2nd March 2015)

Well, ever since I read “Lost Souls” by Poppy Z. Brite (Best. Novel. Ever!) about six and a half years ago (Wow! Has it really been that long?), I’ve been fascinated by 1990s New Orleans.

Seriously, 90s New Orleans seems like it was a really cool place. Of course, I’ve never actually been there (I’m not really that into travelling and, surprisingly, I’ve never even left Europe), but I thought that I’d make a painting of how I imagine it.

As usual, this painting is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"1990s New Orleans" By C. A. Brown

“1990s New Orleans” By C. A. Brown

There Are No Jump Scares In Horror Novels – A Ramble

2015 Animation no jumpscares article sketch

A while after I’d miserably failed to write what was originally going to be today’s article, a totally random thought popped into my mind: “Is it possible to include a jump scare in a written horror story?

In case you haven’t watched that many modern horror movies, a jump scare is pretty much what the name suggests. It’s where something scary appears suddenly on the screen and startles the audience. If you want to a slightly comedic example of what jumpscares look like, then check out this Youtube clip of someone playing a jumpscare-filled video game.

It’s a pretty cheap tactic, but there was a whole sub-genre of American “PG-13″ re-makes of Japanese horror movies in the mid-00s that relied entirely on this kind of thing to scare people without showing a single drop of stage blood. Likewise, there’s also a whole sub-genre of low-budget computer games that include almost nothing but jump scares.

Anyway, I was wondering if it was possible to do the same thing in a written horror story and I suddenly realised that it wasn’t. Because novels are read at whatever speed the reader wants to read and because you can usually see the rest of the page when you’re reading, it’s next to impossible to include a proper jump scare in a written horror story.

About the closest thing you can do is to include a shocking plot twist. And, whilst this might shock your readers, it won’t really give them the same intense jumping-out-your-seat reaction that a jump scare in a horror movie will do.

Anyway, this made me think about whether different types of horror techniques are best suited to different mediums. After all, if jump scares only work in films and computer games, then are there any horror techniques that only really work in written fiction or in comics?

I’d argue that there are.

Whilst you can’t include jump scares in written fiction, you can really get inside your characters’ minds in a way that film-makers can only dream of. You can actually show your audience what your characters are thinking and feeling in a level of detail that film-makers can only dream of.

Likewise, it is a lot easier to include a lot of characterisation in two hundred pages than it is in ninety minutes of film. So, written fiction automatically has a huge advantage when it comes to making the audience care enough about the characters to feel scared on their behalf when horrific things happen to them.

As for comics, one of the things that horror comics can do that horror movies can’t really do properly is to disgust their readers with hyper-detailed gruesome illustrations and/or to disturb them with other types of disturbing imagery.

Yes, there are obviously a lot of gruesome and/or disturbing horror movies out there – but due to the real-time nature of film, the audience only usually gets to see gruesome and/or disturbing special effects for a few seconds (if they’re on-screen for too long, then the audience might start to notice flaws in them).

Whereas, with a horror comic, a disturbing enough illustration will linger there on the page until the reader either flinches away in disgust or summons the courage to turn the page.

Plus, finally, horror novels and horror comics also have a huge advantage over horror films for the simple reason that there’s little to no censorship.

Although things are thankfully a little bit more liberal these days, you still occasionally hear about horror movies getting banned or trimmed by the film censors in the UK. Guess what? This doesn’t happen with horror novels or horror comics.

So, yes, film-makers might be able to scare their audiences quickly and easily with things like jump scares. But, well, there are lots of things that they can’t do that writers and comic creators can do.

———-

Anyway, I hope that this was interesting :)

Today’s Art (1st March 2015)

Well, for my next 1990s-themed painting, I felt like painting a vaguely punk/goth/riot grrl-esque picture and, although today’s painting required more digital editing than I expected – I’m quite proud of how it turned out :)

As usual, this painting is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"1990s Alternative" By C. A. Brown

“1990s Alternative” By C. A. Brown

Monsters Don’t Make Monster Stories Scary… Everything Else Does

2015 Artwork Everything but the monster is scary article sketch

Although this is another article about writing monster-based horror fiction, I’m going to have to start by talking about 1990s computer games for a while.

Trust me, there’s a good reason for this and I’m not just stealthily reviewing a really cool “Doom” WAD that I discovered recently. Honest.

Anyway, I recently realised something fairly important about monster-based horror stories when I was playing a fan-made episode for “Doom II” called ‘Temple Of The Lizard Men 3‘.

Although I might review “Temple Of The Lizard Men 3″ properly sometime in the future, one of the startling things that I noticed was that it was actually scary. Yes, it was a genuinely scary game, where the monsters looked something like this:

Rawr!

Rawr!

So, if the monsters didn’t look very scary, then how did the game make them scary – and what can this teach us about storytelling?

The reason why the monsters in this game are so scary (despite looking cartoonishly unrealistic) is because of the situations you encounter them in.

Unlike in the original “Doom II” game, you are not an extremely well-armed space marine confidently fighting hordes of monsters in a variety of brightly-lit futuristic locations.

In “Temple Of The Lizard Men 3″ you don’t always have quite enough ammunition to fight all of the monsters properly and you spend quite a lot of the earlier parts of the game tentatively walking through dark corridors where almost anything can pounce out at you from the shadows. This is, quite frankly, terrifying.

And, well, this made me think about monsters and horror fiction in general.

You see, monsters aren’t really that scary – because they don’t exist. You have precisely zero chance of ever running into a demon, a werewolf, a sea beast, a xenomorph or a zombie in real life.

It doesn’t matter how well you describe your monster or how grotesque it looks, it isn’t scary on it’s own.

Monsters in horror stories are nothing more than a plot device – they are nothing more than a source of danger for your characters. Your monster could easily be replaced by a ticking timebomb, an evil wizard or a deadly disease and it would still serve the same purpose.

But, just putting your characters in danger doesn’t necessarily make your story scary. After all, there are plenty of thriller, fantasy and science fiction stories that do precisely this without scaring their readers senseless. In fact, these kinds of stories make the danger thrilling or exciting rather than scary.

The only real difference between horror stories and other types of stories is how this danger to the characters is presented.

In non-horror stories, the characters are usually fairly evenly-matched against whatever threatens them. They have a lot of training, they’re well-armed and/or they have luck on their side.

In horror stories, the characters should not be evenly-matched against whatever monsters are threatening them. They probably won’t have the proper tools to fight the monsters effectively, they might not even know where the monsters are and they probably won’t even fully understand what the monsters are.

It’s like the difference between watching a fight between two muscular boxers and watching a fight between a rather feeble blindfolded guy and ten muscular boxers.

Watching one of these is thrilling, watching the other one will probably make you wince with anxious terror before the fight even begins.

In other words, a good monster story taps into your reader’s fear of vulnerability by making the characters seem vulnerable to the monster.

When your main character is walking through a dark corridor and hears an ominous howling sound in the distance, the creature that is making the howling noise isn’t what scares your readers. The thing that scares your readers is the fact that there might be something nearby that could attack your main character before he or she can even see it.

Being alone in the dark isn’t scary. Not being alone in the dark is scary.

Likewise, when your main character sees someone who has suffered a gruesome death at the hands of a monster, it isn’t the blood and guts (however well-described they may be) that scares your readers.

The thing that scares your readers is the fact that this fate could easily have happened to the main character instead, it’s the fact that no-one knows what could have done this to the other character and the fact that whatever did this could still be lurking nearby.

So, monsters aren’t scary on their own. But, everything that surrounds your monster is scary. So, focus on writing these things well and you might be able to trick your readers into thinking that your monster is also scary.

———

Anyway, I hope that this was useful :)

Today’s Art (28th February 2015)

Today’s painting is a hard-hitting comment about the decline in cool space exploration- based science fiction TV shows in recent years.

Seriously, there were loads of really cool space-based sci-fi shows in the 90s, and many of them continued into the 00s (and a few new ones, like “Firefly”, “Battlestar Galactica” and “Stargate Atlantis” even began in the 00s). Seriously, there are too many to list.

But where are the new space-based sci-fi shows these days, huh?

As usual, this painting is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"Sci-Fi Shows Were Better In The 90s" By C. A. Brown

“Sci-Fi Shows Were Better In The 90s” By C. A. Brown