Ashley Lister is a prolific writer of genre fiction, having written more than fifty full length titles and over a hundred short stories. Aside from regularly blogging about writing, Ashley also teaches creative writing and lives in Lancashire
Joseph Sale writes dark fantasy and epic poetry. He has authored more than ten novels, including his love-letter to heavy metal and portal-fantasy, Dark Hilarity. He grew up in the Lovecraftian seaside town of Bournemouth.
His short fiction has appeared in Tales from the Shadow Booth, edited by Dan Coxon, as well as in Idle Ink, Silver Blade, Fiction Vortex, Nonbinary Review, Edgar Allan Poet and Storgy Magazine. His stories have also appeared in anthologies such as Blood Bank (Blood Bound Books), Lost Voices (The Writing Collective), Technological Horror (Dark Hall Press), Burnt Fur (Blood Bound Books) and Exit Earth (Storgy) alongside writers such as Richard Thomas and Neil Gaiman. In 2017 he was nominated for The Guardian’s ‘Not The Booker’ prize.
You can chat with him on Twitter @josephwordsmith, or, if you want to go deeper down the rabbit hole, you can sign up to his newsletter for a free eBook novella: http://themindflayer.com
Contemporary wisdom tells us that there are two approaches to writing fiction: the plotter and the pantster. The plotter makes meticulous notes before beginning a story. The pantster (flying by the seat of their pants) makes it up as they go along. This divisive categorisation is little more than horseshit and I know writers who use both approaches for different types of work. I also know writers who use a blend with some plotter-esque note-making to begin, and then a lot of pantster making-it-up-as-they-go-along stuff before the conclusion. Don’t pigeonhole yourself as plotter or pantster: just do whatever works for that project.
When you are plotting, start off with broad brush strokes. What’s the genre? What’s the story for the hero? How does the main character get from start to finish? Deal with these ‘big’ areas first and finesse your way to the more detailed and nuanced areas.
Don’t lose sight of reader needs: If you’re writing a horror story, your readers want to be horrified. If you’re writing erotic fiction, your readers want to be aroused. Whether it’s a thriller or a romance, your readers will want to be thrilled or romanced, respectively. Plot for these elements to occur and incorporate them as part of your story’s structure.
Don’t overplot – this can sometimes lead to a feeling of ‘why bother?’ amongst writers when they realise they know how a story will conclude. What’s the point of working your way to the end when you know how it’s going to finish? Leave a little mystery so you’ve got your own interest in the project.
Don’t rely too much on pantsing. Pantsing works fine for many authors but it can also lead others down a blind alley where the story is jest reacting to its own content and not telling the story you’d originally wanted to convey.
It’s a fine line between point 4 and point 5, but it’s worth keeping it in mind if you want your longer-form project to be a success from its inception to its completion.
This week, I spent all Saturday at the Comic Con World Horror convention in Blackpool.
I was sharing a table with the superb writer, artist and all round genius: Colin Davies. We had a wonderful day chatting with each other and some of the hundreds of horror aficionados who visited the convention. I have to say, by the end of the day, my wrist was aching from all the books I’d signed and I’m genuinely humbled by all the people who took time to spend their hard-earned money on my little books. I genuinely hope they give you all the pleasure you deserve.
Given the current passion for all things ‘serial killer’, it came as no surprise that I sold my entire stock of Conversations with Dead Serial Killers. Also, given the fact that it’s a story about a killer clown patrolling a theme park, (and Blackpool is famous for its theme park and not averse to clowns, as can be seen from the photograph below) I was not surprised to see Payback Week come second in my day’s book sales.
Extremist author Dani Brown’s style of dark and twisted writing and deeply disturbing stories has amassed a worrying sized cult following featuring horrifying tales such as “56 Seconds”, “Becoming” and the hugely popular “Ketamine Addicted Pandas”.
Merging eroticism with horror, torture and other areas that most authors wouldn’t dare, each of Dani’s titles will crawl under your skin, burrow inside you, and make you question why you are coming back for more.
This week on the Bleeding Keyboard, I spoke with the very talented Ash Ericmore.
Ash Ericmore is a British horror author. He resides in the south, in the Garden of England. He writes horror that is sometimes fantastical, sometimes grounded, but always deeply graphic, and black with humour.
You can contact him through firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter: twitter.com/AshEricmore.
In this episode of the Bleeding Keyboard, Ashley Lister talks with award-winning author Aron Beauregard.
Aron Beauregard was born and raised in Central Falls, Rhode Island. He’s been writing horror since the 6th grade and has now released over 15 books.
An avid supporter of horror art and illustration, Aron has made it his standard to hire illustrators for every book that he puts out himself. His brand of horror is dark and without boundaries and, as a result, he has been nominated 3 times for the Splatterpunk Awards.
To get the latest updates about upcoming releases, signed books and merchandise, film news, his horror podcasts, and so much more, visit his website: www.ABHorror.com
Description is the key factor that lets your reader understand the world you’re building for them. Consequently it needs to be sufficiently detailed without being laboriously overwritten. Consequently, the first tip here is:
Find the balance between too much description and too little. Read other titles in similar genres to yours. Use the writing of others to gauge as to whether or not you’ve got it right. Also rely on your gut. If you’re getting bored with the description, your reader is going to feel the same.
Be aware that a lot of the description is going to come at the front of the story. If you tell me on page 300 that the main character is wearing glasses, I’m going to have to reimagine quite a lot of the scenes I’ve already read, whilst restructuring the protagonist as a bespectacled character. It’s not a great inconvenience – but it’s like going to drag me out of the fictional world you’ve created.
Where possible, use all of the traditional FIVE senses to describe a scene. As writers we tend to rely on sight and sound and everything else gets overlooked in the passionate heat of creating a good story. Try to include taste, smell and touch and your reader will be thrilled by the unexpected sensory bonus.
Remember – aside from describing to illustrate, you can also describe to influence. For example, a big, burly bear of a man is likely to seem more friendly than a huge, hulking giant. If you want to subtly influence your readers’ opinions, description is the place to do it.
Readers appreciate specificity. If your character is walking down a road lined with yellow flowers, tell us what those flowers are so we can picture it more accurately. Are they daffodils, buttercups, roses or ragwort? The addition of a specific label make it substantially easier for your reader to picture the image you want to share.
I adore short stories. My PhD involve my reading many short stories. I try to write chapters of novels as though they’re complete short stories. And I regularly record a podcast with my pal Colin Davies where we look at classic pieces of short fiction.
Which is probably why I found this collection so engaging.
Peter Clines knows how to write, as evidenced by his lengthy back catalogue. He also knows how to write short fiction, as is proved by this collection. The stories have a wonderful sense of science-fiction, mixed with the ring of potential horror and the authenticity that comes from a good storyteller.
The collection starts with a police officer interrogating a suspect who’s wearing a lizard costume; a very convincing lizard costume. There is humour, intellect, pathos and surprises, all of which show a writer who is skilled at his craft and capable of entertaining readers on many levels.
I listened to the audiobook version of this one which runs at a little under 5 hours. It’s not a complaint – because the stories were each so well crafted – but it did leave me wanting more.