Today’s Art ( 31st July 2018)

Although I messed up the proportions slightly in this digitally-edited cyberpunk film noir painting, I quite like how it turned out 🙂

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

“Vehicles” By C. A. Brown

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Top Ten Articles – July 2018

Well, it’s the end of the month and that means that it’s time for me to make my usual list of links to my favourite articles about making art, writing fiction and/or making webcomics that I’ve posted here over the past month. As usual, I’ll also include a couple of honourable mentions too.

Although there were still a fair number of game and/or film reviews posted here this month, there were slightly fewer than during my film review series last month. Still, thanks to the fact that I was making a webcomic and preparing last year’s Halloween stories at the time of writing this month’s articles, there were a fair number of reasonably good articles about writing, comics etc..

Anyway, here are the lists 🙂 Enjoy 🙂

Top Ten Articles – July 2018:

– “Three Reasons Why Your Short Story Collections Should Include Some Variety
– “Three Things To Do When You Can’t Make A Horror Story Too Gruesome
-“Three Basic Tips For Making “Old Future”-Style Sci-Fi Art
– “Three More Ways To Deal With Failed Paintings (Emotionally)
– “Three Reasons Why Stories Can Have Alternative Endings
– “Three Reasons Why Things In The Horror Genre Can Be Scarier Than You Remember
– “Even More Thoughts About “Obvious” Early Creative Inspirations – A Ramble
– “Three Ways To Stop Your Readers Feeling “Out Of Their Depth
– “Why Inspiration Works In “Strange” Ways
– “Three Basic Ways To Disguise “Lazy” Art

Honourable Mentions:

– “Four Things I Learnt About Art and Storytelling From Watching Films From The 1990s
– “Why Creative Works Don’t Always Have To Make Sense – A Ramble

Three Reasons Why Your Short Story Collections Should Include Some Variety

Since I prepare these articles quite far in advance, I’ll be talking about last year’s Halloween stories again. In particular, I’ll be talking about why short story collections should include a somewhat varied style, emotional tone etc… – in a similar way to how the episodes of a TV series might include a mixture of comedy, horror, serious drama etc…

This was mostly because the third story in last year’s collection of “retro sci-fi” Halloween horror stories (which I’d written the day before I prepared this article) ended up being more of a vaguely Philip K. Dick-style sci-fi comedy story than the two horror stories that preceded it. At the time I wrote it, I began to worry that the series was drifting off course somewhat. But, then I realised that there were some good reasons for including this story.

So, why should your short story collections include a certain amount of variety in tone, style etc..?

1) For your own sake: Simply put, varying the tone and style of the stories in your collection can help you to write more stories. Writing exactly the same type of story over and over again can get a little bit monotonous (for both you and your readers). Not only that, including several different types of stories can also help to keep you inspired by allowing you to draw on a wider range of inspirations too.

In addition to this, it can be good emotionally too. For example, one of the problems I sometimes have with writing “serious” horror fiction is that I tend to imagine the events of the story quite vividly. This means that, even with relatively mild horror stories, I can end up in a somewhat bleak, nervous and jittery mood for at least a few hours afterwards. So, writing a more comedic story was a way to give myself a bit of a break emotionally.

Another reason why varying the style, tone etc… of your stories can be personally useful to you is that it means that a wider range of stories can be “accessible” to you. For example, although I prefer writing from a first-person perspective, the first story in last year’s Halloween collection was written from a third-person perspective. This was mostly because I realised that, in order to tell this story, I’d have to use narrative techniques that only really “worked” when I used a third-person perspective.

2) Worldbuilding and themes: If your short story collection revolves around a common location, theme and/or set of characters, then variety is an essential tool for helping your readers understand more about the central part of your collection.

By showing your collection’s common element from a variety of different “perspectives”, you can help your audience to gain a deeper understanding of it. After all, the real world includes a lot of variety. The life of, say, a detective doesn’t solely consist of solving a series of grim cases. A pub can be a place where people celebrate, as well as commiserate. The same thing can evoke different emotions in different people etc…

In addition to this, including some variety in your short story collection can help your audience to understand more about the “world” of your stories or the personality of your characters. Seeing other locations, seeing how your characters react to different things and seeing different types of stories happening in the same location can really help to satisfy (or provoke) your audience’s curiosity, which will help to immerse them more in your stories.

3) It’ll happen anyway: Simply put, when you start writing a collection of short stories, this is going to happen anyway. It seems to be an integral part of writing this type of fiction. So, you can save yourself a lot of stress by not worrying about it too much.

Seriously, even when you go back to the heyday of the short story, you can find quite a few examples of this from famous authors.

To give just one example, although Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote about Sherlock Holmes solving murders, his Holmes stories also included things like a light-hearted “non-violent” Christmas story, a third-person perspective spy story, a story where Holmes tries his hand at being a criminal, a monster story (of sorts) narrated by Holmes, America-based historical fiction in this short novel and this one too etc…

So, don’t feel bad about including variety in your story collections. Not only will it happen regardless of whether you want it to or not, but you’re also in good company too.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Three Things To Do When You Can’t Make A Horror Story Too Gruesome

Well, I thought that I’d talk about writing horror fiction today. This is mostly because I originally wrote this article whilst I was busy preparing last year’s Halloween stories (and this article will contain SPOILERS for the first two of them). In particular, I’ll be looking at the topic of gruesomeness.

This is mostly because, although most of my early literary influences from the horror genre were the old second-hand 1980s-90s splatterpunk novels that I read when I was a teenager, I felt somewhat wary about making last year’s Halloween stories too gory.

In part, this was because my sensibilities had changed somewhat but it was also because I wasn’t sure whether I could get away with posting ludicrously gruesome 1980s-style horror fiction here.

So, what can you do if you want to write some horror fiction but – for whatever reason – can’t make it too gory? Here are a few tips:

1) Take influence from other aspects of gruesome horror: Horror stories that focus on gore, and gore alone, often aren’t that scary.

Gruesome horror stories, movies and games that have scared you enough to be a literary influence on you will often have some other element which is just as creepy – or more creepy – than the actual gore itself.

For example, one of the influences on the series of short stories (this one and this one in particular) that I wrote for last Halloween was my vague memories of a short story by Clive Barker called “The Forbidden” (from volume five of “The Books Of Blood”).

Although Barker’s story has some gruesome moments, the things that really make it memorable aren’t these parts. Instead, the creepily memorable parts of the story include things like the grimly bleak urban environments, the tension between curiosity and danger etc…

Likewise, another influence on last year’s Halloween stories was the fact that I’d re-played “Silent Hill 3” a few days before I wrote the stories.

Although the first story includes a couple of subtle “Silent Hill” references, the main inspirations that I took from the classic “Silent Hill” games weren’t to do with the series’ copious use of blood and guts. After all, the classic “Silent Hill” games are truly terrifying because of their focus on things like suspense, the visual theme of disease/decay, ominously dark environments, psychological instability, eerily malfunctioning technology etc….

To give another example, horror novels like “Audition” and “In The Miso Soup” by Ryu Murakami are shockingly horrific because they’re less gruesome than the average modern horror novel. Or, more accurtely, Murakami’s novels handle gruesome moments in a really clever way.

Many of Ryu Murakami’s horror stories only include one relatively brief grisly scene. However, these scenes are much more shocking than the average splatterpunk novel because Murakami spends almost the entire novel building up to them. So, devoting 80-90% of your story to building up suspense can be a way to make even relatively mild scenes of horror seem ten times more horrific.

So, if you can’t write a ludicrously gory horror story, then look at the ludicrously gory horror stories that have inspired you and see what else they do to scare or shock the reader.

2) Replace the gore with something else: One interesting thing that I noticed when writing the first two stories in last year’s Halloween collection was that there was something of an emphasis on bones, skulls, skeletons etc…

This was mostly because it was a way to imply that grisly events had happened, without including too much in the way of blood and guts. It also allowed me to emphasise things like the ferocity of various monsters and the passage of time too.

Plus, in the first story especially, I tried to write about the desolate and grim setting of the story in the same way that a splatterpunk writer might describe something grisly or gruesome.

For example, the story’s monster is described as having “a mouth like a slashed bin bag“. This is horrific because of the focus on decay (eg: a bag of rotting rubbish) and the implied violence (eg: slashing), but there isn’t a single drop of blood in this scene.

So, if you are worried about censorship, then you can replace the gore in your horror story with something equally grim or disturbing – but completely bloodless.

3) Implication:
This is the oldest trick in the book, but it works. If you leave the grisly events of your story to your readers’ imaginations, then your audience will probably make these scenes more horrific than you can.

For example, my second Halloween story ends when the main characters realise that they’ve entered somewhere that they probably won’t be leaving alive. The presence of a skeleton, the possible sound of a door locking and an ominous message scrawled in (what is implied to be) dried blood tell the reader that the characters are in mortal danger. But, the details of that mortal danger are at least partially left up to the readers’ imaginations.

In addition to all of this, another way to make sure that implied horrific events have an impact is through the location descriptions throughout your story. If you can fill your story with mildly creepy descriptions of everyday things (eg “dead radios”, “squealing” machinery etc..) , then this is going to put your readers in a frame of mind where they are going to imagine the worst when you don’t show something.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Today’s Art (28th July 2018)

Well, after spending several days making a webcomic, I was eager to return to making some gothic horror art – especially since I re-played the delightfully disturbing “Silent Hill 3” recently. And, although this digitally-edited painting didn’t end up being as creepy as I’d hoped, I still quite like how it turned out.

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

“The Curious Cabin” By C. A. Brown