How To Add A Story To Your Art Using Connections

2015 Artwork Connected paintings and drawings article sketch

I’m not sure if I’ve talked about this subject before but, for today, I thought that I’d talk about adding connections between several of your drawings or paintings.

Although this sort of thing works best when you’re making a themed art series, it can be a neat thing to do even if you aren’t. But, more than just being something cool, it can also be used to add a story to some of your artwork too.

To give you an example, here are two connected paintings (and, yes, I know that one of them also appeared in yesterday’s article too) that I originally posted here in late December:

"Roboforensics" By C. A. Brown

“Roboforensics” By C. A. Brown

"The Abandoned Centre" By C. A. Brown

“The Abandoned Centre” By C. A. Brown

If you look closely at the second painting, you’ll notice that the dead robot from the first painting can be seen to be very much alive here (although he’s hidden in the background). In case it’s difficult to make out, here’s a close-up:

2015 Artwork Robot close-up

So, why am I mentioning this and what does it have to do with stories?

Adding small and subtle connections between several of your paintings and drawings gives your audience a few glimpses at part of a much larger “story”. It invites the audience to work out what happened between the connected moments that you show in your artwork. Although you don’t have to come up with much of a story, it’s always a good idea to at least hint at one.

For example, with the robot I mentioned earlier, the only real story is that he either is or was a police officer in a dystopian society (as shown by both his hat and the “OBEY” poster in the close-up) and that he either went rogue (depending on how you interpret the armed detective in the “Roboforensics” painting) or he was gunned down by persons unknown whilst working on a case.

If you’ll pardon the pun, it’s only the barest skeleton of a story and it’s extremely ambiguous. But, this is all you really need to do when you add a story to your artwork by connecting several of your pictures. People are inherently curious, so if you leave a lot of the story mysterious then your audience are going to want to “fill in the gaps” for themselves. Because, let’s face it, who can resist an unsolved mystery?

Even if your connection is something really small, like a distinctive background object that appears in several of your paintings or drawings, then this can still add something of a story to your artwork.

After all, if two of your paintings feature the same distinctive background object, then your audience is probably going to try to work out exactly how it got from one painting to the other. So, even small connections can invite your audience to think of a story to go with your artwork.

Sorry for the short article, but I hope that it was useful 🙂

Halloween Approaches, Dare You Read “Acolyte!”? (My Free Interactive Horror/Comedy Story)

2015 Artwork Acolyte! Cover poster version

In case you missed the announcement earlier this month, I’ve written an interactive comedy horror story which can be read for free here.

It’s kind of like those old gamebooks that you might have played back in the 1990s, but it’s online… and, unlike in the 90s, you don’t need a dial-up modem, dice rolls, stat sheets or anything like that.

But, don’t just take my word for it, just read these expert testemonials (which I totally didn’t just make up, well, ok, I might have done… you can’t prove anything!!!):

Worship me, foolish mortal! … And read “Acolyte!” too, it’s awesome!
-The Elder Goddess Zuccax.

Ah… yes… I love “Acolyte!” It’s what I read to… unwind.. every night after a hard day’s work! It… really… speaks to me.
– The Keeper Of Darkblade Manor’s Historic Dungeons.

Bleat! Bleat! BLEAT! Bleat, bleat bleat!”
– Goats Against Ritual Sacrifice

A Sneak Peek At Some Upcoming Projects :)

2015 Artwork October Halloween preview

Well, it’s October and you know what is at the end of October? November, obviously. Well, no, there’s a little thing called Halloween too.

Anyway, I’ve got two really cool projects lined up for Halloween.

One will be another comic that will be posted here near at the end of the month and it will be a sequel to “Diabolical Sigil“. It’ll also be posted here and on DeviantART roughtly simultaneously, so neither place will get it too far before the other does.

The other project is well…. a bit more secret… I don’t know when I’ll post it online (and, yes, I’ve already set up a separate blog for it but as the 17 people who’ve tried to view it will probably tell you, it’s currently set to private).

It will be the closest thing to actual fiction that I’ve written in at least a year or so. As for what it is, well, the picture at the top of this article is the only clue I’m willing to give at the moment. But, it’s going to be awesome!

Writing The Rites – A Retrospective

"Liminal Rites  Cover" by C.A.Brown

“Liminal Rites Cover” by C.A.Brown

Well, forty chapters, an epilogue, a prologue and 30,000 words later – it’s over. “Liminal Rites” is finished.

I hope that you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed reading it.

Liminal Rites” was my second, and longest, attempt at writing a daily episodic story and I have to admit that my exhausted reaction when I finished the epilogue was something along the lines of ‘never again!’. I’d be lying if I said that writing “Liminal Rites” was anything but intense.

Still, it was fun. And it is also the longest story I’ve ever written too.

In case anyone is wondering, my original inspiration for this story was a dream I had on the 11th July. Whilst the content of the dream was quite different to this story, it was filled with a constant feeling of being stuck in between two places. When I woke up, I felt like turning it into a story of some kind – but I didn’t know how. Eventually, later that evening, I suddenly thought ‘I should make it completely and totally bizarre!’.

And, in that moment, “Liminal Rites” was born.

I launched myself into writing it and making this blog for it fairly quickly and my my mind was filled with all sorts of strange ideas about it. However, just after I’d posted the prologue online I suddenly realised the enormity of what I’d just committed myself to. A story (which could easily turn into a novel) that I had to update daily. I have to admit that I felt like a total idiot, but it seemed too late to turn back.

So, I carried on writing.

And that’s how “Liminal Rites” got started.

I have to admit that it ended up being a slightly different story to what I expected (the spectral hand I drew on the cover never made an appearance, but the dark scenery I chose for the background of the cover and this blog was oddly prescient).

Another thing that turned out differently about this story was the general tone of it too. When I started writing “Liminal Rites”, I pre-emptively flagged it as “mature content”, since I expected it to be this gruesome and bizarre horror story. However, in the end, it turned out to be something which – if it was a film – would probably be at the very upper end of the “12A”/ “PG-13” categories (or possibly very slightly higher). I don’t know, I guess that I tend to write horror a lot differently than I used to.

Something else I didn’t realise about daily writing until I started this story was how intense it was. Even though I quickly made a large “buffer” of chapters which gave me a bit of space to take a break – writing this much this quickly had quite an impact on my writing style in general. For starters, my writing style quickly ended up becoming a lot more “functional” than I expected and, due to time reasons, some parts of this story read like a first draft too.

I don’t know, all in all, making “Liminal Rites” was certainly quite an interesting experience and I hope that reading it was too 🙂

From “Ambitus” – ‘Jola’s Day’ (Fiction)

2013 Artwork Ambitus Episode One Cover

“Jola’s Day” is probably my favourite chapter from episode one of “Ambitus“, a sci-fi/comedy fiction series which I’m working on at the moment (it will be updated daily at 22:30pm GMT and it can be found here).

Anyway, this chapter (which is pretty much a self-contained story) introduces Captain Jola of the FMS Imperial, who is the main antagonist of the series. It’s also one of the funniest chapters in episode one, not to mention that it was also a brilliant opportunity to parody a few of my favourite sci-fi shows too.


“Ambitus” Episode One – Chapter Three – Jola’s Day

By C. A. Brown

Captain Jola of the FMS Imperial was having a bad day. The day had started quietly with an attempted raid by two pirate crafts. They’d made off with half of the engine coils and a third of the provisions before the gunner could get a lock on their ship. About half of the technical crew was still paddling around outside the craft in suits trying to recover as much of the engine as they could.

On top of that, three ensigns had been found storing contraband in the bulkheads. It was nothing major, just a few weapon parts and stimulant precursors but security would have to trace everything they’d found. In addition to this, procedure dictated a full search of every bulkhead in the event that anything else had been stored there. Jola was more than a bit nervous that they’d turn up his secret stash of impropriotous sense recordings from New Paris. Of course, he’d have to find some way to pin that on the ensigns too and, dammit, one of them was supposed to be overseeing the repairs to his transport pod.

By the time Captain Jola had got his morning coffee, it had gone cold. Not only had it gone cold, but there was something floating in it. He suspected that it was a crouton, but it looked distinctly biological and it smelt disgusting. He’d left the coffee and sent a memo to his lieutenants to redouble precautions against assassination attempts.

This attempt was probably from one of the techs in the bio labs. Ever since Jola had passed on the pay cuts from Main Command, he’d found the occasional genetically-modified rodent in his cabin and the occasional small pile of mysterious white powder in his ration tray. Fortunately, he thought, highly-qualified scientists make terrible murderers. Still, he’d have to get the crouton tested before he could file charges. And, of course, there was only one place on the FMS Imperial with the facilities to do this and he wasn’t visiting there any time soon.

Worst of all his second-in-command, Lieutenant Riller, had walked straight onto the bridge, taken one look at the coffee and cheerfully said ‘Thanks captain, just what I needed.’ Before Jola could say anything, Riller had drank half of it and had started chewing the crouton.

Smiling at Jola, Riller had said: ‘Hmm… it tastes like cinnamon’. Five seconds later, the first blue spot had appeared on Riller’s forehead. Ten seconds later, Riller had turned completely blue and started frothing at the mouth. Thirty seconds later, Riller was in the infirmary and Jola was arguing with Doctor Trelleck about whether the main bridge needed to be shut down in case whatever was in the crouton was also contagious. The Doctor had won.

Two full-body scans later, Jola had found himself in the cramped and dusty secondary bridge with all of his bridge staff. The atmospherics were playing up and the techs who had been assigned to fix it were just about visible through the porthole by the obsolete navigation console. They were wrestling with what looked distinctly like a giant frozen Bucolian squid.

It took Captain Jola a few seconds to realise that it was the same Bucolian squid which he’d been saving in the back of the stores compartment as the piece de resistance for the the diplomatic reception scheduled in two days’ time. He’d have to serve the representatives of three unstable worlds standard rations and Main Command would not be happy about it.

About halfway through describing to the bridge crew exactly what he would do to the next vessel of uncultured frixing pirates that crossed the FMS Imperial, Doctor Trelleck had turned up to ask about funeral arrangements for Lt. Riller. In a fit of rage, Jola had told her to just fire what was left of Riller out of the nearest torpedo tube on the off-chance that his body might puncture the hulls of any pirate vessels in the general vicinity. The last thing Jola had expected was for Trelleck to take him literally.

As the space-frozen body of his former second-in-command streaked past the porthole and obliterated one of the technicians, Jola had recieved a message from Main Command informing him of how the FMS Glorious had recently secured a new section of the border region.

For the first time in the whole day, Jola had smiled – at last he’d actually be able to try out the new phase cannon which had been installed a couple of weeks ago. After all of this, he was in the mood for blowing ten shades of crud out of the next ship which crossed his path. Then the second part of the message from central command had arrived.

Along with two cadet ships, the FMS Imperial had been assigned to collect civilian UT detainees from the new border zone. Jola practically smashed the console up. If there was one thing he hated more than peace, it was dealing with hundreds of border detainees. Hundreds of border detainees who would take up three of the cargo decks, take every chance they could to sabotage his ship, constantly claim their frixing rights under the frixing Sirtis Convention and constantly pester his crew. Even if he was able to palm most of them off to the two cadet ships, there was no way that his ship would be working smoothly for the next three weeks at least.

So, when one of his lieutenants pointed to an unidentified small vessel on the long-range scans which had an expired ident chip, a smile crossed his face for the second time. Law enforcement was part of his general orders and putting the fear of the Gods into some incompetent transport captain seemed like the perfect way to blow off some steam.

Turning to his bridge staff, Jola rubbed his hands together and said: ‘Bring me that ship!’

Introducing “Liminal Rites – A Surreal Detective Story”

This image is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

This image is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

[Edited 14/7/13]

Well, I am very proud to announce my latest creative project “Liminal Rites – A Surreal Detective Story” [Note: This may end up turning into a horror story. You have been warned…].

Liminal Rites” will be a novella/novel which will be released episodically (probably either daily and/or whenever I write any of it) on it’s own blog, which can be found here. The first four chapters are online right now, with chapters five and six on the way over the next couple of days….

“Liminal Rites” follows Claura Draine, amateur detective and soon-to-be-former university student who is still hanging around in town at the end of term, waiting for the lease on her student house to end. The last thing she expects is a new case which will take her to the very edge of reality and beyond…

I should probably point out that since “Liminal Rites” is a surreal dark comedy/horror/mystery story in the tradition of Warren Ellis, William S.Burroughs, Hunter S.Thompson, Satoshi Kon and David Cronenburg – it will probably contain disturbing imagery, strong language, horror and other things which are more suitable for mature audiences.

Timeless (fiction)

2013 Artwork Timeless story sketch

Well, I was going to draw another page of my “Stories” comic earlier, but I couldn’t think what to draw. So, I decided to write a random short story instead. This story is more of a descriptive writing/stream-of-consciousness kind of story more than anything else, but hopefully it’s still interesting and not too over-written.

If anyone is curious, the two songs alluded to in this story are The Sisters Of Mercy’s excellent cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” and a random cyberpunk song called “DNA Codec” by Valium Era.

Anyway, without any further ado, here is “Timeless”.

We decided to ride out the apocalypse in a club. It was the kind of place you could only find in nineteen-nineties fin-de-siecle cyberpunk adventure games. The kind of place which the apocalypse would probably find comfortingly familiar. They had cheap cocktails and a good DJ too, it’s the kind of place which last memories are made of.

Revenz sat next to me, sipping a neon purple cocktail and looking at something on her phone. I think it was a countdown program of some kind, a morbidly fascinating death clock for the world.

Although we’ve known each other for years, it always seemed slightly odd when she used a modern phone. She kind of has the whole fifties Bettie Page gothic domme look going on – with maybe a bit of roaring twenties, art deco, silent movie Louise Brooks glamour too. Although she’s the same age as me, she could have fitted into any time in history and still been edgy and interesting. She’s an anchronism of the most amazing kind and I couldn’t think of a better person to spend the apocalypse with.

‘Lore, you know what this place needs? Pyramids.’ She smiled.


‘Yeah, pyramids. Bright golden pyramids. They go with anything.’

I couldn’t disagree. They were as timeless as Revenz. Pyramids were the kind of things which were strong enough to not only withstand an apocalypse but to lodge in the collective consciousness of the cockroaches which would inevitably survive for a hundred generations. Yet, they were ephemeral, up for grabs, public domain. Ancient history. And that’s how things survive – they spread like viruses. Or should that be “virii”? They stay open, they get changed and modified by everyone until they’re nothing more than a recurring background detail in the world’s subconscious mind.

Revenz finished her drink and said: ‘So, do you think it’ll be for real this time?’

‘Nah, people have been predicting the end of the world since it began. It always survived, it’s probably like quantum immortality on a larger scale.’

‘What?’ She raised an eyebrow.

I took a sip of my pina colada and tried to work out a way to explain the whole thing. It’s like Schrodinger’s Cat, but not quite. It’s kind of the idea that, due to a whole bunch of things to do with parallel universes, it is impossible for a person to subjectively experience their own death.

It was all very theoretical and hypothetical and involved an experiment which looked like something out of a Golden Age sci-fi horror movie. A deadly game where someone sat in a metal box and diced with death every ten seconds – or didn’t, if the theory was to be believed. Anyway, my own interpretation of the basic theory behind this geeky game of Russian roulette was absolutely fascinating, but annoyingly difficult to explain.

Finally, I muttered ‘Nothing, just some random thing I read.’

‘Whatever it is, as long as it works, then it doesn’t really matter.’

‘I think it works, it’s impossible to prove or disprove.’

‘Like the apocalypse?’

We smiled at each other and I shook my glass, Revenz nodded and I got up to get some more drinks. As I squeezed through the throbbing dancefloor, the DJ started playing a version of ‘Gimme Shelter’, I hadn’t heard before. It had haunting guitars, staccato drum machine rhythms and sonorous eighties vocals. Everyone slowed down, as if it was the first cracklings of the apocalypse.

When I got to the bar, it was still crowded three deep. All I could do was stand at the back and let myself be carried forwards, as if by osmosis. When I got there, I rustled a note onto the sheet metal counter and asked for a pina colada and a purple sparkle. The barman cupped his hand to his ear, I almost shouted it. Pina colada and a purple sparkle. He raised an eyebrow, so I tried again. Fighting against the all-consuming music. This time, he nodded, plucked the note off of the counter and started mixing.

A punk guy with bright red hair and a mushroom cloud tattoo picked up a pint of lager from the counter and almost spilled it over my dress. We muttered subliminal apologies to each other over the music before he walked away and I turned back to the bar. The two drinks were waiting and I moved to thank the barman, but he’d already gone. Picking them up, I osmosed through the crowd again and circumvented the dancefloor entirely.

By now, the music had changed to mechanical techno beats intercut with audio clips from an old German science video. It was oddly mesmeric. When I got back to our table, Revenz was playing with her phone again. She looked up and nodded at me.

‘Fifteen seconds left.’ She smiled.

I smiled too, hopefully not too nervously. For all the stuff about quantum immortality, I still felt butterflies in my stomach. That exhilerating pre-freefall lightness which can happen completely at random and make the whole world feel warm, bittersweet and exciting for a few seconds. Ten to be precise.

‘To the end.’ I muttered and raised my glass. We clinked them together and downed our drinks in one gulp. Fortifying.

Revenz brushed a strand of hair behind her ear and put her phone on the table. In bright red and black, there was just a number on the screen – eight. Then Seven. Then Six. Five. Four. Three. Two.

The music stops. Conversations fade out like static on a dying radio. Glasses clink in a skeletal drumroll.


Seven Minutes (Fiction)

Ok, I was writing some notes about possible ideas for my next article on here and I randomly ended up writing a short story... This was, surprising, to say the least...

Ok, I was writing some notes about possible ideas for my next article on here and I randomly ended up writing a short story…
This was, surprising, to say the least…

Seven Minutes

By C.A.Brown

It’s simple – the trick behind a good trick is to think of yourself in the third person. With enough time, it becomes a reflex. This has saved my ass on more than a couple of occasions, but you’d probably never believe those stories.

So, I’ll tell you another one. A story about a bold wager and a dangerous gambit. Don’t try this yourself – if you don’t have the reflex then you’ll crash and burn faster than a laptop computer which has tried to download the entire internet. Believe me, that’s happened before. Sort of….

Anyway, this story takes me back a few years. You see, I had this thing going on with this guy from the cafe across the street. It wasn’t really a romance, but it was hardly a friendship either. Just lots of flirting, long stares at each other and the occasional joke. It was the kind of relationship which existed in a hazy grey area where we could both let our imaginations make it out to be whatever we wanted it to be. This is the best kind of love, the kind where you live in each other’s dreams.

But, this isn’t a love story. Not really.

If it was a love story, I’d tell you his name or describe his quirky fashion sense or Nineties TV Star good looks. No, it’s a story about something he said to me when we were both standing by the counter and waiting for our coffee:

‘Do you think they’ve forgotten about us?’

I shook my head. It usually took a while, even on quiet days, but we always got our coffee. In fact, the time never changed. It took seven minutes on quiet days and it took seven minutes on busy days. I’d timed it by accident a couple of times when I was busy and could barely spare two minutes, let alone seven.

He smiled at me and I saw a gleam in his eyes: ‘Ok, I bet you I can get us some coffee before our coffee arrives. What shall we say? Ten? Twenty?’

‘Twenty and dinner too.’ I smiled at him.

We shook hands and he just walked away. I looked at my watch – he had three minutes. No-one could get coffee in three minutes. Not even the guy behind the counter who was still busy making coffee at his own precise pace.

‘Here you go.’

He placed a cup on the counter in front of me. Tendrils of steam crept out of it and it certainly tasted like coffee too. I just stared at it in total shock until the coffee we’d ordered arrived on time two minutes later.

With a grin, he held out his hand. I put a twenty into it, blushed and mumbled something about a restuarant. As forefeits go, this still felt like a victory.

He never told me how he did the coffee trick, even after he proposed to me a year later. But he had the reflex though, I knew this for certain. After all, no-one could pull off a trick like that without it. Even after we’d got married and made a fortune together selling insurance, he still wouldn’t tell me.

I’d stay up for half the night, coming up with wild theories in the back of my mind. Did he have a sachet of instant coffee hidden up his sleeve and a cup of hot water he’d bought earlier? Did he have one of those self-heating coffee cans in his briefcase? He could easily start the reaction going before he made the bet and then just decant it into an empty cup when I wasn’t looking? Did he have a friend working behind the counter? Did he order another two cups of coffee four minutes before making the bet? I’d thought of a hundred possible ways he could have done it.

I’d tell him about each of these theories the morning afterwards and he’d just smile and say ‘Keep guessing’.

We still got coffee every morning in the same cafe. It still takes seven minutes. Once day, he had a pretty bad cold and I ended up in the cafe alone, staring at the counter and waiting for seven minutes.

Seven minutes. Long enough to have a small daydream, to smoke a cigarette, to listen to two songs or to look at the cafe. Really look at it.

Then it hit me, how he’d done it. The answer had been hiding in plain sight all along. I’d been an idiot to miss it.

When I got back home, I told him how he’d done it. How he’d just paid two random people in the cafe for their cups of coffee. There were certainly enough couples in the cafe. Even if he gave them a ten for it, he’d still win ten and get dinner too. It was so much of an obvious plan that most people wouldn’t even think of it.

Blowing his nose loudly, he just smiled at me and said ‘Keep guessing.’

Emotions and Creativity

2013 Artwork Emotions sketch

In Philip K.Dick’s excellent “Do Andriods Dream of Electric Sheep?”, there’s an absolutely fascinating gadget called the Penfield Mood Organ. It isn’t a major part of the story, the protagonist’s wife uses it a couple of times near the beginning of the book and that’s about it. But it’s a machine which can alter a person’s emotions. It isn’t really described in too much detail either – you just punch in a particular number and it changes your mood.

In typical Philip K.Dick fashion, the settings are truly strange – like “888” which is: ‘The desire to watch TV, no matter what’s on it’.

The Penfield Mood Organ is a truly amazing gadget. I want one!

The only problem is that it doesn’t exist.

Actually, I’m not telling the entire truth here. Which is basically a way of saying that I’m lying. Which, in this incredibly pointlessly circuitous fashion, is a way of saying that although we don’t have Penfield Mood Organs, we have got something very similar. In fact, throughout the history of humanity, we’ve had something similar.

No, I’m not talking about drugs, but about art and storytelling (and music too, but I’m not a musician – so I can’t really write that much about this subject…).

Emotions are one of the central driving forces behind creativty, for both the people who make things and the people who read/watch/play etc… things. I’m guessing that you probably fall into both of these groups, as any good writer/artist/musician/director/programmer/human being should do. The fact is that art and stories are about emotions.

This basic core of all forms of art is probably at it’s most obvious in horror, comedy and pornography. These three genres always find themseleves at the heart of pretty much every self-righteous moral panic in human history. These genres also exist purely to provoke strong emotions and, when they fail to do this, it’s usually extremely obvious. Plus, like fleeting emotions, they often have a very short shelf-life (I mean, does anyone actually find Shakespeare’s comedies laugh out loud funny these days?) and yet they are pretty much timeless too. In any time in human history, there will always be scary stories, funny stories and sexy stories.

Emotions are timeless, even if the way they are evoked isn’t.

Or, to give you some more mundane examples: When you go to see the latest multi-billion-dollar blockbuster superhero movie – you probably aren’t watching it to see what a film which cost millions per minute to make actually looks like, you’re probably watching it because you want to be thrilled and/or excited. When you pick up a Dan Brown novel, you probably aren’t carefully researching it to find out whether everything in it is historically/scientifically accurate (sorry to disappoint you, but it isn’t), but to enjoy the thrill of a good mystery. When you watch “Star Trek: The Next Generation”, you’re probably watching it to feel childhood nostalgia, to bask in a utopic future or because you are curious about what will happen in a particular episode – you probably aren’t watching it to look for continuity errors or to scruitinise the set design etc…

Art and stories are always about emotion.

So, how is any of this actually useful to me?

The best way to ensure that your audience and/or readers feels strong emotions when they look at your stuff is if it provokes these kinds of emotions in you when you’re creating it. This is one of several reasons why creating things can almost feel magical when it’s at it’s best. Likewise, I’ve always noticed that when I’ve written my worst stories or drawn a really crappy picture, it’s usually because I’m either not feeling emotional enough or I’m feeling the wrong emotion for whatever I’m creating.

Now, this doesn’t mean that all of your art/stories should be cathartic and/or melodramatic (although some of it can be), but that it should have feeling behind it. This works both ways, you can make art purely to change your own mood or you can make art to express a particular mood. But creating things should always be an emotional experience, even if it’s quite a subtle one.

The fact is, in order for your stories to evoke emotions in you – you either have to have a very vivid/strong imagination [which is both a blessing and a curse] or you have to write about topics you know will provoke emotions in you. Either way, when you put some emotion into your writing, it can work wonders. It can turn a mediocre story into a fantastic one. Just keep an open mind – regardless of whether you’re following your emotions or trying to point them in a particular direction, adding emotions to your story will take it in directions which you hadn’t previously thought of before and your stories/art will be much better as a result.

When you have an experience like writing a horror story and then stopping mid-sentence because you’re too terrified or disturbed to write any more of it – then you’re doing it properly!

Of course, this applies to other genres too and it’s probably slightly different for each genre – but, when you’re so immersed in your stories that they provoke very strong emotions, then the reader will be too.

Every other piece of advice about creativity basically comes down to the same thing – how to evoke emotions in the best possible way. For example, good characterisation is so important in stories because if the reader isn’t able to empathise with the characters, then the story will not provoke that many emotions (this is why quite a few horror movies and novels just aren’t that scary).

In the end, all art is about emotions. What kind of emotions are you trying to evoke in your art?

Cold Case – A “CRIT” Story (Fiction)

2013 Artwork CRIT- Cold Case illustration small

[This is a short story based on my “CRIT” Comics. I wrote it rather quickly and it’s probably a rough draft at best and it’s probably riddled with errors and clumsy sentences (I’ve already edited it at least three seven twelve times since posting it here LOL!). But, for something I wrote quickly, I still quite like how it turned out.]


“Cold Case – A CRIT Story”

By C.A.Brown

The first thing I saw were the jagged fringe of glowing icicles around the edge of the plant pot in the corner of Mbuya’s office. Darius just stood in the doorway with an unbroken glowstick in his hand. He didn’t need it – the whole room was one giant frozen glowstick.
It made no sense. The inventor had called us to his office near the edge of the border district a couple of hours ago with a message saying little more than ‘new evidence’. The strange thing was that, for once, there were no active cases in our files at the moment.
‘We need to call Jake.’ Darius prodded the wall before pulling his finger away suddenly.
‘No point, he’s on holiday. We could get one of the techs from labs – but I don’t think that they’ve got AR glasses. The department budget only covered one pair for Jake’ I said.

Darius shook his head and walked into the room, the carpet crackling under his feet. As usual, he headed straight for the console on the desk, if Mbuya had found something it would be backed up on the data card. I kept looking around the room, my eyes darting from a frosted-glass bottle filled with whisky slush to the split remains of a deoderant can in the corner.
‘Suzy, check this out!’ Darius said, pointing at Mbuya’s console.
‘What? It’s just a console. Is there anything interesting in the memory?’
‘Not a clue. Just look at it.’

Mbuya’s console sat on the desk like a tombstone. A bulky grey battery pack and some shards of glass lay next to it. Ever since the peace treaty, Dextek have saturated the area near the border with electromagetic pulses – rendering any technology in the border district useless. It’s a wasteland; not even recluses live there. Even near the border district, the power supply can be kind of erratic and only geniuses and freaks tend to live there. Dextek claim that it protects them from espionage and no-one is willing to start another war to get them to stop it.
I looked closely at the battery pack before saying ‘It looks perfectly normal to me. A MR502-C1 battery unit. Good for fifty hours.’
Darius facepalmed and muttered ‘It isn’t frozen. Neither is the console’.
I facepalmed. How could I have missed that?

Darius reached over and ejected the data card. It looked perfectly normal. He was probably thinking about connecting to the console, but there didn’t seem to be a neural connector anywhere nearby and the only screen was encased in one of the frozen walls on the far side of the room.
Under any other circumstances, this room would have been really beautiful – like something from a relaxation broadcast – but it just didn’t make any sense. Damn Jake and his holiday – if he was here, then he’d probably be able to tell us how this happened within a few seconds.
I walked around, trying to judge whether the ice was thicker on one side of the room than the other – but, with all of the glowing and without a laser tape, there was no way to tell exactly. If anything, it seemed to have a fairly even thickness, implying that either the whole room was frozen at the same time or that the source of the freezing had been in the exact centre of the room.
Darius was obviously thinking the same thing, since he suddenly walked over the middle of the room and crouched down. He looked down for a few seconds before wrapping the sleeve of his shirt around his hand and reaching for something. He struggled with it for a few seconds before a loud CRACK filled the room and he jumped to his feet with a wide grin on his face.
I looked down and shrugged, ‘It’s a piece of frozen metal.’
‘It’s part of a grenade. If you look closely, you can still see the propellant burns on the edge of it.’
‘Propellant? We don’t use that in our grenade launchers any more. Last I heard, security had phased it out in favour of pressure capsules.’
Darius just smiled and said ‘Yes, we don’t use that in our grenades any more.’

I was starting to get an idea of what had happened. My eyes drifted over to the frozen wall above his console, part of it looked lighter than the rest. I stood on the desk and leant as close to it as I could without getting my face stuck to the wall.
Against the lime green light, I could just make out the splintered edges of the window. Whoever had launched the grenade into the room had fired it through the window. The window faced the border district. It all made perfect sense now.
I turned to Darius: ‘My guess is that he worked out a way to take a look over the fence. Dextek spotted this and retaliated. He saw that they had a weapon and ran before they could fire at his lab. They’re clever though, if this had been a bullet or an explosive grenade, then it would have violated clause seven of the treaty.’
Darius just nodded, before saying: ‘My guess is that the grenade contained some kind of modified plankton or bacteria. They probably undergo an extreme endothermic reaction a few seconds after being exposed to oxygen. If we had a large enough microscope, then you’d probably see the charred remains of whatever was in that grenade. I’m guessing that the luminescence was probably a side effect of this process.’

It all seemed like an open and shut case, but one thing still puzzled me. Why wasn’t the desk frozen?
I was just about to ask Darius this when he shouted: ‘Genius! The man’s a genius!’
‘Well, as soon as he noticed the grenade launcher, he must have dropped his drink. It’d explain the broken glass all over the desk. As soon as the bacteria hit it, the alcohol would have killed them before they had a chance to react. The man’s a genius!’
‘…Either that or he drinks too much.’ I muttered.

Darius just laughed and walked towards the door, I stayed in the room and looked at everything again. He turned around and beckoned for me to follow him. I just stood there.
Even though I knew why the room was frozen, it still seemed kind of mysterious and almost beautiful. Although there was no way for our techs to study the bacteria which Dextek had used, it still just seemed like we should make some record of it for the people back at headquarters to study.
Darius smiled at me and said ‘Look, we should probably find Mbuya. If I know him, he’s probably hiding in his workshop. Then he can tell us everything we already know.’
‘But… What about the room?’
‘There’s no point looking at anything until it’s thawed out. Come on, this place is absolutely freezing. As soon as we get Mbuya’s statement, we can show the grenade fragment to the intellgence division and we’ll be guaranteed a bonus this year.’
I couldn’t really argue with that.