Fiction that explores the monsters and strangers among us.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Revisiting Super 8

Back in July, I wrote a blog post about Super 8. The film is now available in video format so if you missed it in the theaters, put the DVD on your holiday gift wish list. Super 8 is the must see movie of the year. Here's the original post in which I focus on why Super 8 works as a story. I updated it to mention my novel Fulfillment, my must read  novel of the Christmas season.

Director J. J. Abrams and producer Steven Spielberg have created a masterpiece with Super 8. This creative film is right on so many levels, it could be the basis for a book on film making and storytelling. Let’s consider one aspect of the film – storytelling.

When I began writing fiction, my favorite authors were the classic writers like Charles Dickens and Mark Twain. My dream was to write “the great American novel” and to become the next Hemingway or Steinbeck. Funny thing happened along the way. Turns out I write suspense stories or speculative fiction, like my new novel Fulfillment. Suspense or thriller is the main focus of my work, just as Super 8 focuses mainly on horror but has elements of sci-fi and suspense.

A horror story is a type of suspense or thriller in that it seeks to put you on the edge of your seat by scaring you and making you ask "what's next?" Most thrillers divide the plot into two parts. Part one takes about one-third of the story and involves discovery. It’s about learning what kind of monster is on the loose. It answers the question: “What is it?” Or “What’s going on?”

The monster, once discovered, may be traditional such as a vampire, werewolf or space alien. (In Super 8, it’s a space alien.) The monster could be a demon or a demonic person such as a serial killer. It could be another kind of monster – a spy ring or terrorist organization bent on world domination or global destruction. This latter kind of thriller is the stuff of the spy or political thrillers. In the mystery thriller, the focus is on "what will happen next" as opposed to the traditional mystery story where the focus is on an action that happened in the past as the hero tries to figure out "whodunit?" Not knowing where the story is headed is the basis of the "thrill" or "suspense."

The second part of a thriller takes about two-thirds of the story. Call it the “Let’s kill it” section. Now that we know we are dealing with a vampire or serial killer or a space alien, as in Super 8, our heroes go about the business of destroying the monster.

Skip this paragraph if you haven’t seen the movie yet. Super 8 represents a variation of the story in which you don’t actually kill the monster. Instead, you set it free because, after all, it’s not really a monster. It only looks like a monster and acts like a monster. It’s a misunderstood, abused, innocent, child-killing space traveler (Super 8) or a 75-year-old "teenage" vampire with a wall full of high school diplomas (Twilight).

Children: Connecting the Super 8 Dots to Fulfillment
I started this blog post by saying that I began writing fiction with one intention and discovered I belonged somewhere else. Instead of writing “literary fiction” (whatever that is), I find my stories landing in the suspense or thriller genre. The other unintended thing about my storytelling that should resonate with Super 8 fans is I invariably end up with a child or teenage hero. There’s something about the monster story that works exceedingly well when viewed through the eyes of a child or teenager.

What literary types call a “willing suspension of disbelief” is much easier to achieve through the filter of an innocent mind. But if the story is only about the monster, than you can skip the child and view it through an adult lens. What the child brings to the story, in addition to the innocent filter, is the innocence-to-maturity theme. You cannot experience the monster and remain the same.

So in Super 8, the children are changed forever. One boy discovers love. One girl discovers love. Another boy discovers unrequited love. And one boy discovers that if you go around blowing things up, there are consequences. I’m simplifying here. Super 8 delivers more than a love story filled with teenage angst, albeit young teens. Watch the relationships of Joe (Joel Courtney) and Alice (Elle Fanning) with their fathers, for example. Nothing remains the same in the story.

Innocence to experience has been the main current in American literature from day one. And it works so well in Super 8 that we almost miss the monster until the creature leaps off the screen, grabs you by the throat, and makes you pay attention. “Hey, don’t forget about me,” the monster shouts.

Why does Super 8 Work?
From a storytelling standpoint, it stays true to its marketing niche, the horror genre, while mixing in elements of sci-fi and traditional thriller. It filters the story through the innocent eyes of youth. It plays the monster in the background of a larger innocence-to-maturity story that is the hallmark of American story telling whether it’s a novel like Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, or my novel Fulfillment, or a movie like Super 8.

As I said, it would take a book to dive into the vast onion layers of Super 8. If you haven’t seen it yet, get the video. Enjoy. And if you have time, check out Fulfillment for your Kindle.You can obtain more information and order the slightly higher priced PDF version or the whole lot more priced paperback version by clicking here.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Suspend Your Disbelief

Here's another in my series of video interviews in which I discuss Fulfillment, my new novel about the first Christmas.

video


What's a girl to do?
You're sure to enjoy reading Fulfillment, my 80,000-word suspense novel of the first Christmas. It's about a teenage girl with a lot of moxie who's just a tad pregnant and has an ex-fiance who says, "Ain't no way that's my baby in there." What's a girl to do? What does she say to her dad? And how can she fight off Satan, the ultimate demon who is bent on killing her to keep the baby from being born? It's okay to read my scary story late at night with the rain pounding on your windows and thunder and lightning outside, but leave the light on. You’ll need it. Makes a great stocking stuffer! Only $1.99 for your Amazon Kindle by clicking here . You can obtain more information and order the slightly higher priced PDF version or the whole lot more priced paperback version by clicking here.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Why I Made Joseph So Young in Fulfillment?

Do you ever wonder what Joseph and Mary were really like in the Christmas story? Throughout the ages, artists have portrayed them as plaster or marble statues frozen in positions of devout reverence. But in real life they moved around. Their lives were filled with the minutia of daily living. They grunted, groaned, complained, praised, sang, and pretty much lived the way you and I do. Joseph was a carpenter. He had to have smacked his thumb with his mallet on occasion. At these times, I'm sure he uttered the first century equivalent of our four-letter words. This video explores why I chose to write my character Joseph as a real person deeply in love with Mary.

video

You're sure to enjoy reading Fulfillment, my 80,000-word suspense novel of the first Christmas. It's about a teenage girl with a lot of moxie who's just a tad pregnant and has an ex-fiance who says, "Ain't no way that's my baby in there." What's a girl to do? What does she say to her dad? And how can she fight off Satan, the ultimate demon who is bent on killing her to keep the baby from being born? It's okay to read my scary story late at night with the rain pounding on your windows and thunder and lightning outside, but leave the light on. You’ll need it. Makes a great stocking stuffer! Only $1.99 for your Amazon Kindle by clicking here . You can obtain more information and order the slightly higher priced PDF version or the whole lot more priced paperback version by clicking here.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Not Just Any Ghost

Nancy Palomino from fourth grade visited me in my bedroom. Sister Immaculata Marie I could understand the haunting. She haunted us kids back in fourth grade at St. Agnes School, but Nancy Palomino? Nancy was pretty enough and nice enough in fourth grade. I mean who even notices things like that in fourth grade?

I only remember her because we used to walk home together after school. No, I didn’t carry her books or any of that mushy stuff. We lived in the same neighborhood. Since we left school at the same time, there we were walking side-by-side along the red brick sidewalks of West Chester. And me bumping into the big old horse chestnuts along the way.

I tried to ignore her as much as possible but that wasn't possible with Nancy. She was a first-rate chit-chatter and chit and chat she did. One day she chit chatted herself right in front of a blue Short Line bus while crossing Market Street. Not my fault, but there she was in my bedroom today, two hours before trick or treat even started. Dressed like a Catholic school kid run over by a bus. Yech! What do you say to a fourth-grade ghoul?

“Hey.”

“Hey back at you.”

We stared at each other for about an hour. Okay, maybe just a couple of minutes. Then she said, “Well, that was fun.”

She faded away before I could think of something else to say. I ran out to join the other fifth graders from my neighborhood. Nobody believed me, but it was the truth even if it wasn't the fulfillment of my dreams.

Speaking of Fulfillment - It's better than caffeine
It’s okay to read Fulfillment late at night with the rain pounding on your windows and thunder and lightning outside, but leave the light on. You’ll need it. And it makes a great stocking stuffer! You can order the Amazon Kindle version by clicking here. Or obtain more information and order the slightly higher priced PDF version or the whole lot more priced paperback by clicking here.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Why Is Mary So Young at the Start of Fulfillment?

One of the readers of a pre-publication draft of Fulfillment pointed out that Mary comes across as too young at the start of the story. He thought she sounded like a little girl in the opening scene. But that's the whole idea. The video tells why I started the story with Mary so young. Enjoy.


video
 
Read Fulfillment - It's better than caffeine
It’s okay to read Fulfillment late at night with the rain pounding on your windows and thunder and lightning outside, but leave the light on. You’ll need it. And it makes a great stocking stuffer! You can order the Amazon Kindle version by clicking here. Or obtain more information and order the slightly higher priced PDF version or the whole lot more priced paperback by clicking here.