Three Differences Between Thriller Fiction And Horror Fiction

Well, for today, I thought that I’d talk about some of the differences between thriller and horror fiction. This is mostly because I tried to read a thriller novel called “The Storm” by Clive Cussler & Graham Brown a few days after re-reading a horror novel called “Erebus” by Shaun Hutson.

Surprisingly, I ended up abandoning “The Storm” (despite really enjoying Cussler & Brown’s “Zero Hour) after about forty pages and started to read a gothic vampire novel instead. One reason for this was probably that my expectations had changed after I’d got back into reading horror novels occasionally.

This then made me think about the differences between thriller fiction and horror fiction. Since, on the surface, these two genres have a lot in common with each other – they revolve around creating suspense and evoking strong emotions. They rely on clever pacing and good plotting. They rely on being a little bit “larger than life” in different ways. Plus, thriller stories will often contain horror elements and vice versa. Yet, there are differences.

1) Characterisation: Simply put, horror fiction will often devote more time to characterisation than thriller fiction will. This allows the horrific events of a horror story to have more of an impact on the reader because they “know” the characters and can empathise with them more.

Even splatterpunk horror fiction, which will often feature lots of grisly background character deaths, will still give those background characters a moderate amount of characterisation because their fate is more shocking when the audience can empathise with them.

On the other hand, traditional-style thriller fiction will often sacrifice characterisation in order to place more emphasis on fast pacing, gripping events and thrilling action. Although this may sound bad, it is one of the things that gives thriller novels their characteristic speed and energy.

Because the main characters in thriller stories are often a variation on the traditional “action hero” character, the audience knows what to expect – so the writer can spend more time on describing their thrilling exploits. This focus on events rather than characters also means that the violent events of a thriller novel will often come across as “thrilling fast-paced action” rather than “horrific brutality“. So, there are good practical reasons for the slightly less detailed and more stylised characterisation in thriller novels.

2) Mystery: Although “solving a mystery” is the engine that drives many thriller and horror novels, this is used in subtly different ways in each genre.

In thriller fiction, it is used to propel the characters into action and, in horror fiction, it is used to create a sense of unease and dread. In thriller fiction, the mystery is a puzzle to be solved and, in horror fiction, the mystery is an unknown threat to the characters.

The difference between these two things can be seen perfectly when comparing the early parts of Shaun Hutson’s “Erebus” and Clive Cussler & Graham Brown’s “The Storm”. In both stories, the solution to the mystery is made obvious to the reader (either directly or indirectly) fairly early on. But the effects that this has on the story couldn’t be more different.

In “Erebus”, it’s obvious to anyone who’s ever seen a horror movie that the story’s mysterious chemical company probably has something to do with the horrific events that are happening in the local village. Yet, this doesn’t really lessen the horror elements of the story. After all, the focus of the story is on the effects that the chemical company’s actions have and the chilling fact that they can do things like this. The only real mystery is “could it be worse than I imagine it might be?“.

On the other hand, almost directly after a rather mysterious horror movie-style scene during the third (?) chapter of “The Storm”, there’s a chapter where the novel’s villains gather together and explain exactly what happened and why it happened. This completely sabotages any sense of thrilling suspense that the story has.

After all, the main attraction of a story like this is watching a highly-skilled protagonist uncover and prevent a nefarious plot. Since the novel is part of a series, we know that the protagonist will prevail. So, the only remaining attraction is watching him find the solution to the mystery. And this only works if the audience doesn’t already know the solution…

3) Narrative style: Although I’ve talked about this before, it’s worth repeating. The narration in horror stories, even “low-brow” splatterpunk stories, vampire novels etc.. has a surprising amount in common with the more complex narration found in more “high-brow” literary fiction.

Both will often use vivid descriptions, emotional descriptions and pithy observations. They will also use a reasonably varied and complex vocabulary too. This also usually means that the pace of the story will be slightly slower.

Thriller novels, especially streamlined ultra-thrilling modern ones, don’t do this. Their approach to narration is much more “matter of fact” and has more in common with the classic hardboiled pulp detective fiction of the 1920s-50s. This isn’t “better” or “worse” than horror fiction, it’s just different.

But, why are they so different? Simply put, it’s because they need to achieve different things.

For a horror story to work properly, it needs to build atmosphere and suspense. It needs to create vivid, disturbing images in the minds of the audience. It needs to immerse the audience in the story, so that they feel like the horror is happening to them. In a splatterpunk novel, the writer also has to contrast beautiful narration with ugly events for dramatic effect. To be able to do all of this well, you need to use fairly “high definition” writing that may be slower to read, but has a lot more depth to it.

On the other hand, a good thriller novel needs to focus on speed. It needs to be something where the reader is furiously turning the page to see what happens next. It needs to be something where the writing doesn’t get in the way of the action. It needs to be something that the reader can’t put down because it’s really easy to read another chapter. It’s kind of like an older computer game running on a more modern computer – yes, the “graphics” might not look as good, but the game will run ridiculously quickly and smoothly! And, in a thriller novel, this is what you want to achieve.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Three Ways To Deal With Comparing Your Own Creative Works To “Great Works”

Truly great creative works are, of course, something of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they’re usually the things that inspire you to make art, write and/or make comics. But, on the other hand, it can be very easy to feel “not good enough” if you compare the things you create to them.

In this article, I’ll be talking about this “not good enough” feeling, and how to deal with it.

1) Difference: The first thing to remember about great creative works is that they will always be different to what you create. Part of what makes them so amazing is the fact that they are so refreshingly different to the majority of other things you’ve seen.

It’s that feeling of “Yes! Someone actually made something like this!“. It’s the fact that they seem to come from a different time, place, context and/or imagination from yours. The difference is what makes them seem so amazing.

In other words, you’ll never be able to be the same person as the person who made the great work you are comparing yourself to. And that’s ok. In fact, it’s a good thing. Imagine how boring the world would be if everyone’s imaginations, personalities and worldviews were the same.

In short, it’s all a matter of perspective. Your own imagination might seem boringly ordinary to you, but it’ll seem intriguingly different to someone somewhere.

2) Mystique: It can be very easy to be fascinated by the mystique surrounding a great creative work and to romanticise the way that it was created or the time it was created in. It can be easy to think that the people who were making it knew that they were making something truly great, and that the creative process was some magical thing that you’d give anything to experience yourself.

Chances are, it wasn’t. Chances are, it was exactly the same ordinary mundane experience of writing, drawing etc… that you experience on a regular basis. There were probably uninspired days, technical issues, worries, boredom, self-doubt and all of the things that you’ve possibly experienced when creating something.

Chances are, the time or place that the great work was made in wasn’t some rose-tinted utopia or “better time” either. At the time the work was being made, the person who made it probably just saw it as boringly, drearily “ordinary”. Just like the time and place you are in now.

3) Everyone feels it: Even the people who make creative works that seem indescribably good probably feel like their works pale in comparison to the things that really fascinate and inspire them. Why? Because aiming to make something that is even a fraction as good as your favourite things is one of the best and most common sources of creative motivation in existence.

In other words, the creative works that you are idolising as perfect things that you “could never hope to make something as good as” were probably made by someone who wished that they were even a fraction as good as the people they admired.

In other words, feeling inadequate in comparison to a great creative work is a good thing. It means that you are a creative person. It also means that you have something in common with the person who created the great work that you are standing in awe of.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Books Vs. The Internet – A Ramble

A while before I originally wrote this article, I was waiting for my computer to finish a disk check. So, to pass the time, I ended up re-reading a couple of chapters of Warren Ellis’ surreal noir detective novel “Crooked Little Vein”.

Although it had been a little under a decade since I last read this book, it still retained the power to make me laugh out loud at regular intervals, to make me want to keep reading more of it and to make me wish that I had the boldness to write something even half as good.

After flicking through a couple of random chapters, I ended up reading an author interview that was printed at the back of the book. In the interview, Ellis stated that one of his main sources of inspiration was finding… strange… websites on the internet.

However, he also mentions that most of the sites that inspired him no longer exist. Yet, his novel serves as a permanent record of them.

This, of course, made me start to compare books and the internet….

The first obvious difference is that there is less censorship in books. Whilst the US has always had the first amendment, the concept of literary freedom only really began to appear in Britain after the “Lady Chatterley” trial during the 1960s. This gives books a real advantage over the internet in some ways.

For example, I read a lot of books when I was a teenager because books were a lot less restrictive compared to other forms of media (eg: age restrictions on films, stricter censorship standards in videogames, system requirements for computer games, dial-up internet etc..). For financial reasons, I mostly ended up reading second-hand books that were mostly written before the internet was really a popular thing.

But, whether it was the unflinchingly macabre imaginations of horror writers like Shaun Hutson or Clive Barker, the eccentric journalism of Hunter S. Thompson, the retro dystopias of Orwell and Ballard, the sheer weirdness of tattered old sci-fi novels from the 1950s/60s etc.. a lot of the second-hand literature of my teenage years would probably wouldn’t survive for long if it was freshly posted on the internet these days. It’d probably break some content policy or another.

Yet, at the same time, books lack the sense of connectedness that the internet has. If an old book uses some obscure jargon or makes an old cultural reference, then you either have to work out what it means from the context, ignore it, remember to research it later or just use your own imagination to “fill the gap”. If you see something that you don’t understand on the internet, then it’s just a simple case of doing a quick ten-second web search in another browser tab.

Whilst this will probably make you a more knowledgeable person, it also reduces the amount of individuality that everything on the internet has. After all, suddenly seeing something that you don’t understand in a book tells you that you are looking at another person’s imagination. You are seeing something by someone with different experiences and a different frame of reference to you. It reminds you that both you and the writer are different people with different minds and different lives.

Likewise, because books rely entirely on written descriptions, no two readers will have exactly the same experience of reading the same book. Every reader will imagine the characters, locations etc… in a very slightly different way. Yet with, say, a video on the internet or an online article that contains images – everyone sees exactly the same thing as everyone else does.

Yet, at the same time, the internet has the advantage that it is open to all. If it had never existed, then the sharing of ideas would be restricted to whoever the publishers happened to like. Cultural works would only get out into the world if people thought that they had “commercial potential”. Although there is the argument that the old methods of publication served as a “quality filter”, it has also been an unnecessary limitation and/or a source of discrimination of various types.

But, more interestingly, there are also a lot of things that books and the internet have in common. In particular, the feeling of being engrossed in a fascinating novel and reading a fascinating website are pretty much the same. That kind of beautiful trance-like state where you almost feel like you’re somewhere else, like your mind has somehow temporarily taken flight from your body. Like how, in old cyberpunk novels, the main characters would spend hours lost in fascinating virtual worlds.

Yet, even this differs between the two mediums. With books, it is a lot more focused and intense – since you are only reading one book by one person. But, with the internet, there’s more of a sense of exploration. If a topic fascinates you, you can flit between multiple browser tabs, run multiple searches,watch multiple Youtube videoes etc….

So, yes, books and the internet certainly have their differences. And their similarities. It’d be foolish to say that one was better than the other though – after all, this article was inspired by reading a book, it was written on a computer and it was posted on the internet.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Three Things To Do When You See A Better Webcomic (Than Yours)

Well, for today, I thought that I’d talk about something that happens to everyone who makes webcomics (even occasionally) – what to do when you see a better webcomic than your own webcomics.

This is mostly because I noticed that in both of the previous two articles, I’ve referenced my favourite webcomic (“Subnormality” By Winston Rowntree). And re-reading this amazing, mind-blowingly brilliant webcomic made me think about what you should do if you see a webcomic that is better than your own webcomics.

1) See it as encouragement: If you see a webcomic that is considerably better than the ones you make at the moment, don’t get jealous and – whatever you do – don’t feel discouraged! Yes, this is much easier said than done, but it’s something that is worth doing.

Why? Because when you don’t feel those emotions, you tend to feel much better ones. You tend to feel a sense of amazement at the comic you’re reading and a sense that, one day, you might make something just as good as it. Instead of feeling defeated, you’ll feel motivated to make better webcomics.

But, how do you do this? Simple. Just remember that no-one started out making good webcomics. Even the best webcomics in the world started out as badly-drawn and badly-written things that embarrassed the people who made them. Even the best webcomic creators started out feeling like they weren’t good at it. And they weren’t. They just got better with practice.

The important word here is “practice”. Not “inspiration”, not “talent”, but boring old practice. For example, although I only make webcomics occasionally these days, I still keep up regular art practice when I’m not making comics. Although I’m neither the best nor the worst at making webcomics, here’s a chart that can show you how 5-6 years of regular art practice can improve a webcomic:

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] Fun fact: If I keep practicing, then the second panel in this example will eventually end up being a “before” example in one of these “before and after” charts.

So, when you see a webcomic that is better than yours, see it as something to aim towards. Something that you will achieve IF YOU KEEP PRACTICING. I cannot emphasise that part enough!

2) Remember that everyone thinks this: I’ve mentioned this a few times before, but it’s something of a rule that no matter how good or bad you are, there will always be someone better than you and someone worse than you. In the grand scheme of things, everyone is somewhere in the middle.

Yes, even your favourite webcomic makers probably feel like they “aren’t as good as [insert other artist here]“. And they probably aren’t. But, this doesn’t stop them from making webcomics. So, why should something similar stop you?

We’re all somewhere in the middle and this is cool. It means that you already have something in common with your favourite webcomic makers and it also means that even your “crappy” comic update is someone else’s idea of a “great” comic update.

3) Take inspiration, but don’t try to be someone else: If you see a really cool webcomic, it can be tempting to try to make a webcomic that is exactly like that one. Don’t.

It’s perfectly good to take inspiration, but you need to add your own stuff to it too. I mean, if you try to copy one webcomic too much then you’re just going to end up making a second-rate imitation of that comic. To use a musical metaphor – you’ll be a tribute act, rather than an “actual” band.

So, see exactly what makes your favourite webcomics so good and then try to put your own spin on it. For example, the webcomic mini series I’ll be posting here in January was probably partially inspired by Winston Rowntree’s “Subnormality”. But, instead of trying to make a “subnormality” comic, I just took the theme of ‘introspective comics’ and put my own spin on it.

And I ended up with better comics as a result! By borrowing a general idea or premise and then doing your own thing with it, you’ll come up with comics that stand out as uniquely yours. After all, the comics that inspired you probably weren’t just derivative knock-offs of other comics. So, why should yours be?

And, for heaven’s sake, find other influences too! If you’re only inspired by other webcomics, then your webcomics will just look like generic webcomics. If you really want to make your webcomic into something distinctive, then take inspiration from things that aren’t other webcomics too! Originality comes from having a suitably unique mixture of influences.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

First Impressions: “Blade Runner 2049” (Film)

Although I originally hadn’t planned to see “Blade Runner 2049” at the cinema, I had a sudden spontaneous moment of inspiration yesterday and decided to see it.

But, since I’ve only seen it once, this won’t be a full review. No doubt, after I’ve rewatched it at least once more when it comes out on DVD, I’ll have formed a suitably detailed opinion about and understanding of the film to be able to review it fully (although I’m not sure when I’ll post said review). But, I wanted to write about it now too.

So, this is a long, rambling “first impressions” article – based on just one viewing of the film. I’m still forming my opinions about the film, so this article will also help me with this too. It might also explain why this article is such a long ramble as well. This article will also contain a lot of comparisons between this film and the original “Blade Runner”.

“Blade Runner 2049” is a different film to the original “Blade Runner” in many ways. I’m still not entirely sure if it’s as good, better or worse. Although many of my comparisons here will sound negative, this is only because they’re the easiest comparisons to notice. But, even though some parts of this article may sound cynical, “Blade Runner 2049” is a very good film. But it is also a sequel to a perfect film.

This article will contain SPOILERS, but I’ll mostly try to avoid major ones.

Firstly, the story of “Blade Runner 2049” is really good. It’s deep, compelling and confident enough to move at a pace that feels right.

Yes, there are a few elements of the story that I don’t fully understand (I’ve only seen the film once, after all) but it keeps the complexity, humanity and depth of the first “Blade Runner” film. The film’s story also has several plot threads that are left intriguingly ambiguous too, such as a group of replicant rebels that the main character encounters at one point.

Like the original film, this sequel raises more questions than it answers. Interestingly, the film’s conclusion focuses entirely on a powerful moment of human drama, with the after-effects of both this moment and the greater significance of the film’s events left unshown – kind of like in the director’s cut of the original “Blade Runner”. So, it’s good to see that the film doesn’t spell literally everything out, and still leaves a lot to the imagination.

This film is actually a lot slower-paced than the original “Blade Runner”. Although there are some frenetic moments, most of the film has a surprisingly slow and contemplative tone to it. But, even though the film feels longer than it’s gargantuan 163 minute running time, this actually works in the film’s favour, since it almost feels like a TV mini series.

There are lots of lingering close-ups, silent moments and slow conversations. Whilst this is in keeping with the original “Blade Runner”, that film tended to use these kinds of moments slightly more sparingly in order to give each one a greater level of dramatic significance. By contrast, the cumulative effect of all of the many “slow” moments in “Blade Runner 2049” is to give the film a more intimate, artistic and human tone. This also makes the film feel more modern too.

The atmosphere of the film is very different to that of the original “Blade Runner” too. Although I still can’t think of a way to articulate this fully, it feels very different in many ways.

One example of this is how the city in “Blade Runner 2049” feels like a much sleazier and more vicious place (eg: nude holograms, high street brothels, anti-replicant graffiti, sweatshops, utilitarian architecture etc..) than the coldly indifferent, but warmly old, city in the original “Blade Runner”.

One interesting thing about the film is that the location design feels a lot more spartan than the intricately cluttered locations of the original “Blade Runner”. Although it is really awesome that this film reveals a lot more of the “world” of Blade Runner, it feels like all of this extra breadth sometimes comes at the expense of depth. The smaller number of locations in the original “Blade Runner” (due to the budget limitations) left a lot to the imagination and allowed for a much more focused aesthetic and atmosphere.

The set design in this film often feels a lot more spartan, post-apocalyptic and utilitarian when compared to the complex aesthetic of the original film.

Yes, there are still beautifully bleak cyberpunk cityscapes (including the Tyrell building 🙂 ), a kipple-filled “old future”-style casino (where Deckard now lives), some 1960s/70s style brutalist architecture and some interesting use of orange mist. But, on the whole, the film feels like a more minimalist “Blade Runner”, grounded more in post-apocalyptic realism than in awe-inspiring visions of the future.

A good example of this is Officer K’s apartment. Although the kitchen looks a little bit like the kitchen from Deckard’s apartment (and there are a few wall tiles that are similar to Deckard’s apartment), it is a rather stark, cramped and featureless apartment.

The bare walls are a cold shade of grey/blue, and the room feels cramped rather than cosy. Again, this might reflect the fact that Officer K is clearly a replicant. A fact emphasised by the fact that the only company he has in his apartment is a hologram.

But, saying all of this, the film’s stark location designs also serve as something of a blank canvas that places a much greater degree of emphasis on the characters and the story than on the world of the film. So, I can understand this creative decision – and, from this perspective, it works fairly well. This film is a lot more story-focused than the original “Blade Runner” was.

“Blade Runner 2049″‘s depictions of violence are both in keeping with and different from the original “Blade Runner”. One of the central themes of the original “Blade Runner” is that violence is almost always presented as slow, painful and ugly. It is meant to be shocking and aversive, rather than slick or thrilling. Whilst “Blade Runner 2049” stays true to this philosophy in many scenes, the violence in the film sometimes has a cruel quickness to it that sometimes feels a little bit too slick (but, other times, brilliantly emphasises the cruelty of certain characters).

Surprisingly, although I’ve been comparing this film to the original quite a lot, there are some interesting connections between the two films.

Deckard (who probably isn’t a replicant) actually makes a few appearances later in the film. However, the events between the first film and the sequel have turned him into a grumpy, bitter, paranoid old man who seems like a tragic shadow of his former self.

Likewise, the scene with Deckard, Wallace and a clone of Rachel is unsettling and shocking – but the dramatic value of this scene is left somewhat understated.

But, on a lighter note, the scene when Officer K visits Gaff in an old folks’ home is a pretty cool scene (with Gaff even making an origami sheep, perhaps as a reference to “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep”). Plus, one central object in this film is a small wooden horse that Officer K finds – which is a rather interesting parallel to the unicorn from the original “Blade Runner”.

Officer K is a really interesting protagonist. He’s a replicant Blade Runner, who knows that he is a replicant. This has a huge effect on the style, tone and narrative of the film. Although the film briefly shows him encountering anti-replicant bigotry during a few early scenes, his replicant nature is often a much more subtle and understated part of the film.

As a character, he’s also shown to be something of a blank slate too – often being something of a nice guy who is also brooding and tough. His curiosity, artificial memories and quest for self-understanding is also one of the main driving forces of the film.

The film’s main villain, Niander Wallace, really doesn’t get enough screen time. Yes, he’s meant to be an evil version of Eldon Tyrell, but he only appears in a couple of scenes – which kind of makes him seem a bit more like a cartoonish villain. An evil hipster with a god complex, a sadistic personality and a love of slavery. Yes, there’s something to be said for leaving his character slightly more mysterious. But it is interesting how he stands in contrast to the more paternalistic, but seemingly benevolent, character of Eldon Tyrell.

The film’s police chief is both similar and different to Bryant from the original film. Although she’s a lot more professional than Bryant, there’s a paranoid bleakness to her character which fits in really well with the atmosphere of the film. She mostly treats Officer K as an equal, even helping him escape from scrutiny at one point. But, she’s also something of a complex character since, during one drunken conversation, she almost seems to view Officer K as a novelty or a machine when asking about his memories.

A more interesting parallel between the old and the new film is how the film’s artificial memory designer seems to be a lot like J.F. Sebastian. The memory designer is ridiculously talented but, due to an auto-immune disease, she cannot leave Earth and also has to live in a futuristic glass bubble that is reminscent of the holodeck from “Star Trek: The Next Generation”. As a character, she’s really interesting (and I’d love to talk about her more), but she really doesn’t get enough screen time.

As you would expect, the film has a lot of rather interesting themes and motifs that can’t be fully deciphered on a first viewing. For example, there’s probably some significance to the fact that one character is called Joi and another is called Luv.

Joi is shown to be a companion hologram who is designed to please her owner (and she goes from being a 1950s-style housewife who makes holographic food for Officer K near the beginning of the film to being the kind of brave co-investigator/companion that Officer K needs during later parts of the film).

Luv is shown to be a coldly cruel and sociopathic replicant who seems to be completely devoid of all love or emotion (other than perhaps anger or fanatical loyalty to Wallace). On a side note, she’s also something of an “evil detective” character, who contrasts perfectly with Officer K in this regard.

There are lots of interesting comparisons to make between Joi and Luv, but one is that they both represent opposite extremes of the concept of obedience (which links in to the themes of slavery, exploitation etc.. in the film). Joi is willing to risk her life for Officer K, and Luv is willing to kill if it furthers Wallace’s objectives.

There’s probably a lot more parallels and thematic stuff going on in this film but, again, I’ve only seen the film once. Hence the limited number of examples here.

Musically, the film is interesting – containing things as diverse as loud dramatic music, Elvis music and even a rather dramatic use of the “tears in rain” music from the original film. However, although the music fits the film reasonably well, it doesn’t quite have the consistency of Vangelis’ soundtrack to the original “Blade Runner”.

All in all, I’m still forming my opinions about this film. It’s a very good film. It’s a work of art. But it is also very different to the original “Blade Runner” in terms of characters, themes, atmosphere, visual design, pacing etc.. too.

Three Things That Books Could Learn From DVDs

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Well, I still seem to be in the mood for writing about books at the moment. So, as a counterbalance to the slight luddism of yesterday’s article, I thought that I’d look at some of the things that books can learn from DVDs. And, yes, I’m aware that watching DVDs is probably also bordering on luddism these days but, well, they’re still my favourite video format.

So, what can books learn from DVDs?

1) Special Features: Although we seem to be moving towards a world where DVDs are more ‘bare bones’ than they used to be (eg: thanks to Blu-ray discs getting all of the special features), the whole idea of “special features” was popularised by the DVD format. It was one of the things that originally set DVDs apart from VHS tapes 10-20 years ago.

Books could learn a lot from this. Although some modern novels do include additional stuff at the end, it usually just consists of either a list of reading group questions, an author bio and/or a small preview of the author’s next novel. By DVD standards, this would probably be considered ‘bare bones’. Sometimes, books will also contain a brief foreword or a list of acknowledgements too. But, this still doesn’t compare to the average DVD from the heyday of the format.

When I was a teenager who read a lot of grisly splatterpunk fiction, one of the most innovative things that I found was a page on Shaun Hutson‘s offical website which included things like extra short stories, a grossly disturbing “deleted scene” from one of his horror novels (which it is implied was possibly censored by the publishers) and an alternate ending to one of his other novels. I’m not going to link directly to Hutson’s official site here but, if you aren’t easily shocked, then the things I’ve mentioned can be found in the “exclusives” menu at the top of the home page.

But, the question I have to ask is why isn’t this sort of thing commonplace in actual books? Almost every published book usually ends up getting edited at some point or another. Most authors probably produce multiple drafts and versions of their stories, and probably end up adding, changing or removing stuff in the process. Would it really be that difficult to include a “deleted scenes” segment in most novels, showing off the best scenes that didn’t make it to the final edit?

2) Chapter titles and contents pages: Yes, books have had chapters for much longer than DVDs have even existed. But, if there’s one thing that is often missing from new books that have been published within the last couple of decades, it’s the good old fashioned “contents” page. A page which tells you how long each chapter is and which easily allows you to remember which chapters key events of the story took place in. It’s quicker to jump to a specific chapter on a DVD than it is to do the same in a modern novel.

Of course, there are practical reasons for this. Ever since Dan Brown popularised ultra-short chapters during the early 2000s, contents pages for some modern novels would probably be at least 3-4 pages long. Likewise, the decline in interesting chapter names (as opposed to just “chapter 1”, “chapter 2” etc…) has probably also lessened the popularity of contents pages in novels.

Yes, I appreciate that in some genres – like the thriller genre – short chapters can improve the pacing and that generic chapter titles are “unobtrusive”. But, in a lot of books, the lack of a contents page and/or proper chapter titles just comes across as lazy.

I mean, one of the cool things about TV shows on DVD is that the episode titles will often give tantalising hints about what to expect in each episode. A contents page filled with intriguing chapter titles can also do the same thing. It’s something that can make readers more interested in the story ahead. So, why isn’t it used more often?

3) Cover art: One of the cool things about physical media formats is that they include cover art. As well as being a source of entertainment, they’re also ornamental objects too. Not only that, the cover art also serves as a form of advertising – enticing people to look closer. These days, DVDs often have far more interesting cover art than novels do.

For example, here’s a side-by-side comparison of the covers of the 2011 Harper Voyager (UK) paperback edition of “A Feast For Crows” by George R.R.Martin and the cover art to the 2015 UK edition of the “Game Of Thrones” season 4 DVD boxset (which loosely correlates with some of the events of “A Feast For Crows”, if memory serves correctly):

Click for larger image.

Click for larger image.

The DVD cover on the right has a dramatic image of a screeching three-eyed raven made out of swords. The book cover on the left has… a goblet.

Likewise, although it’s a little hard to read in the scanned image, the DVD cover also has a melodramatic subtitle about death. The book cover, on the other hand, has a much more mild-mannered quote from Time Magazine. Even though both covers are fairly minimalist, the DVD cover is the more attention-grabbing of the two.

Yes, DVDs are a visual medium and it is easier for cover designers to make dramatic-looking covers by manipulating stills from the film or TV show in question. But, the DVD cover I showed you earlier isn’t directly taken from any scene from the TV show. It was designed by an artist and/or graphic designer, just like a book cover.

So, yes, there’s really no reason or excuse for books from large publishers (who can afford experienced professional artists and/or designers) not having the kind of attention-grabbing, dramatic cover art that is commonplace on DVDs.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Three Things To Do When You See Better Art Than You Can (Currently) Make

2016 Artwork When You See A Better Piece Of Art

Even though this is an article about how to be an artist, I’m going to have to start by talking about a seemingly unrelated subject for a couple of paragraphs. As usual, there’s a good reason for this.

One of the things that always amuses and amazes me whenever I see anything in the sci-fi genre is when the characters discover technology that is years, decades or centuries in advance of anything that they use. At the time of writing, I’m watching “Star Trek: Enterprise” (a prequel to “Star Trek”), where there are absolutely loads of these scenes and they’re always fun to watch.

After a while, I asked myself why I find these scenes so fascinating. In a way, it’s the idea of getting a glimpse at the future. It’s also the idea that futuristic technology might exist somewhere right now. It’s also because, being somewhat behind on technology myself, it’s an amusing parallel to real life.

But, most of all, it’s because it reminds me of being an artist. Even after I’ve had several years of regular practice, I still often have times where I’ll see a piece of art and think: “Wow! That looks really cool! But, it’s years ahead of anything I can make!

When you experience something like this for the first time, it can be easy to feel discouraged. After all, you might think, “I’ll never be as good as that artist is!“. Either that, or you might end up feeling jealous of the other artist.

Needless to say, these are the wrong ways to react when you see art that is years ahead of anything that you can currently draw or paint. So, what should you do?

1) Look at your old art: If you’ve been practicing for a while, then one way to deal with seeing a much better piece of art is to look back at some of your old art. If you’ve been practicing for a while, then there’s a good chance that you’ve improved. So, look at your old art and notice how primitive it looks when compared to your current art.

Notice how far you’ve come since you started practicing. Now look at the better piece of art and compare it to your current art. There probably will be a huge difference in quality between the two but, as you may have noticed, it’s kind of similar to the difference in quality between your current art and your old art.

If you’ve improved that much so far, who’s to say that your art won’t eventually end up looking like the more advanced piece of art that you’re looking at if you keep practicing for long enough? It might take a while, but it’ll probably happen eventually.

If you think about it this way then, when you see a far better piece of art, it goes from being something that makes you feel discouraged to being a fascinating glimpse into the future. It becomes something that encourages you to practice more.

2) Study it: When you see a better piece of art, treat it like a puzzle. In other words, try to work out how it was made. If you need to, copy parts of it by hand in order to test out your theories about how it might have been made.

If you see anything that the artist has done which look simple enough to re-create, then try to learn how do this through practice and experimentation. Whilst you shouldn’t copy the entire picture or an artist’s entire style, except for private practice – there’s no rule against copying individual techniques and incorporating them into your original works of art. In fact, learning lots of different techniques from different artists is one of the ways that you develop your own unique art style.

For example, I originally learnt how to draw shiny hair from looking at manga comics. After looking at the comics carefully, I realised that the artists were able to make long black hair look shiny by adding a thin wavy horizontal white line to it. This is a technique that I still use in my art and comics to this day, albeit with a few changes:

Basically, I scribble vertically across part of the hair and then fill the areas directly above and below the scribbles with black paint.

Basically, I scribble vertically across part of the hair and then fill the areas directly above and below the scribbles with black paint.

3) Remember that every artist is different: If you see a better piece of art, then you’re probably never going to make anything exactly like it. You might make something as good as it, or even better than it, but you’ll never make art that looks exactly the same. This is a good thing.

Every artist has their own style. Every artist has their own way of drawing things. Every artist has their own favourite colour schemes. If all artists were the same, then art wouldn’t really be art.

So, when you see a better piece of art, then don’t strive to make art that looks exactly like it. Instead, start wondering about what your own art style will look like when you’ve had as much practice as that other artist has had.

It’ll look just as advanced, but it’ll probably look different. It’ll be uniquely yours. But, well, you’ll never know what your own art style will look like when it reaches that level if you don’t practice. So, keep practicing and keep wondering…..

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂