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This week: Your Next Great Story IdeaEdited by: LJPC - the tortoise
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This newsletter is about how to find your next great story idea.
"We make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones."
~ Stephen King
"If a man harbors any sort of fear, it makes him landlord to a ghost."
~ Lloyd Douglas.
"A house is never still in darkness to those who listen intently; there is a whispering in distant chambers, an unearthly hand presses the snib of the window, the latch rises. Ghosts were created when the first man awoke in the night."
~ J.M. Barrie, author and playwright, wrote "Peter Pan"
"From ghoulies and ghosties and long leggety beasties and things that go bump in the night, Good Lord, deliver us!"
~ Scottish saying
Need Help with Your Next Great Story Idea?
October -- The Month of Inspiration!
Yippie! It's my very favorite month at WDC. October means Halloween! There are great WDC Halloween skins to dress up your pages, people's scary sigs come out of mothballs, there are plenty of creepy stories to read, and lots of special contests!
I'm so excited about the ghoulies and ghosties abounding this month on WDC that I'm running a special contest for subscribers of the Horror/Scary Newsletter 2012. (See below for details.)
If you need help coming up with a story idea, this newsletter (Oct 3) and the next one (Oct 10) have some suggestions to get your imagination whirring and light a fire under your muse. Shake that lazy muse out of bed and get those ideas percolating!
Contests and Prompts
One of the best ways to spur the imagination is to read the prompts (or look at the picture prompts) for contests. WDC Contest Page
You can also research e-zines to find what their themes are for recent submission calls. Duotrope's E-zine Theme Deadline Calendar
Contests and e-zines not only have good ideas, but they always have deadlines, and having a time limit can help you to keep "butt in chair," which is a golden rule for writers.
And don't forget that WDC has its own list of prompts geared to writers of any genre: WDC Writing Prompts
I have my web homepage set to Yahoo instead of Google. Why? Because Yahoo has news headlines and feature stories listed on their home page. I've come across some really funky news items on there.
News Headlines and Photos -- Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. You can find some incredible stories and pictures on the net. Check out this freaky pic from some months ago:
It's like a freakin' dinosaur fish! And here's a bunch of other "weird fish" images to spark your imagination and help you describe the next monster you think up for a story: Weird Fish Images
Odd Stories Section - Odd Stories on Yahoo
Search Engine/Research -- Are you into witches? Serial killers? Monsters from outer space? Mythical beasts? Urban legends? Whatever you're interested in can be found on the net. There are more stories, blogs and pictures than you ever dreamed possible, and each one could be the thing that inspires your next great story idea! My latest novel was inspired by a story I accidentally came across about haunted hotels. Maybe you'll find something here that inspires you, too! Top Ten Haunted Hotels
Other Ways to Get Inspired
Read, Read, Read -- Well, you're already a member of WDC, so you're in the right place for this! While plagiarism is a big no-no, being inspired by someone else's work is a legitimate way to get story ideas. It's said that there are no "new" stories because it's all been done before. But if you find something that strikes your interest, you can tweak the idea and write it in your own way. That's not stealing as long as it's substantially different from the one that inspired you.
TV, Movies, and Documentaries --Yeah, this is probably just me rationalizing the fact that I spend too much time watching TV, but I get great ideas from it, I swear! Some series shows have plot twists I never imagined, movies might have characterizations that amaze me, and there are true crime documentaries that give me insight into killers' psychology and the scientific methods of the police. All good stuff!
Music and Lyrics -- Many authors listen to music while they write and even have playlists for their stories and novels. The lyrics for many songs are very emotional. Some even tell stories. Pay more attention the next time something comes on the radio. Your next great story idea might be buried inside those lyrics.
Dreams - Did you know that TWILIGHT was originally inspired by a dream that Stephanie Meyer had? I know lots of writers who keep a dream journal or a notebook beside their bed to jot down ideas and images they have while sleeping. In your subconscious lie your deepest and darkest ideas and fears. Write about them!
Use Your Own Life -- What scared you most as a kid? Did you have a scary experience no one could explain? Did you have a phobia or a recurring nightmare? Did you have a weird old Uncle Mortimer who mysteriously disappeared? Your own life experiences can be great jumping-off points for story ideas. What really happened to Uncle Mortimer?
Special Horror/Scary Newsletter Halloween Story Contest!
To celebrate Halloween, I'm running a contest just for subscribers to the Horror/Scary Newsletter. Read on for entry rules and great prizes!
Story must be about Halloween. (It can be fiction or a true account of something scary that happened to you on Halloween.)
Must be 1000 words or less. Any stories over 1000 words will be disqualified.
Story may be any rating (E through GC), but no erotica or XGC ratings.
Story can have been written in the past but cannot have an awardicon already attached to it.
Must be completed and link sent to me BEFORE midnight (WDC time) on Sunday, October 28th.
Winners will be announced and highlighted in the Oct 31st Horror/Scary Newsletter.
First Place: 10k Awardicon and a Merit Badge
Second Place: Merit Badge
Third Place: 5,000 GPs
Email the bitem link of your story to me, LJPC - the tortoise -- BEFORE MIDNIGHT (WDC time) ON SUNDAY, OCTOBER 28TH!
Until next time: Let the horror bleed onto the pages with every word!
Here are some great Horror contests for October! Get inspired by prompts and enter or just read the other amazing entries!
Contests for Halloween
Regular monthly WDC Horror Contests:
These two awesome contests sometimes have special Halloween prompts during October:
Submit an item for consideration in this newsletter!
Have an opinion on what you've read here today? Then send the Editor feedback! Find an item that you think would be perfect for showcasing here? Submit it for consideration in the newsletter!
Don't forget to support our sponsor!
To my delight, some writers took the time to comment on my last newsletter! "Backstory Kills"
Comments listed in the order they were received.
Jeff writes: Awesome NL this week! Full of great information and advice.
Thanks so much! It means a lot coming from you.
Vampyr14 writes: Great post! Finding the right balance between action and throwing in the necessary backstory is always a challenge. And you've underlined exactly how to do it!
It is a challenge, and I hope I've made things clearer for writers. Thanks for commenting!
BIG BAD WOLF submits "Dead Rising: Your Story" and writes: When you're dealing with zombies, a crowbar helps.
Taniuska writes: Info dump is a bit of tricky one... at least for me. It's usually what happens in the past that's lead the MC to where they currently are. You need to give the reader some snippets of the past, but like you say, trickle it into the story, not dumping it. And adding it amongst action is perfect. As long as it doesn't slow down the read...hehe Something I'm guilty at times :)
Getting the necessary info in there without slowing down the narrative is something we all struggle with.
Rustgold writes: You have your phrases wrong. The purple isn't an info dump (well 80%), it's passive writing (vs active - green). An info dump is a completely different thing.
Although the purple example had more passive writing than the green, that wasn't the point. An info dump is "telling" a large amount of information to the reader. Backstory is explaining a character's past experiences. Both bring the narrative to a halt by taking focus away from "showing" the here-and-now of the scene.
Active/passive writing refers only to sentence construction and whether something is being done to (passive) or done by (active) the subject of the sentence.
Passive: Jane was pelted by raindrops.
Active: Jane cringed away from the pelting raindrops.
The hallmark of backstory and info-dumps is content not sentence construction. An author can write all active sentences in a paragraph, but the content can still be an info dump.
I'm sorry that wasn't clear to you in the NL. If you want to learn more about backstory and info-dumps, in addition to the links I provided in the last newsletter, here are links to professional writing sites with more information:
Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) list of writing "don'ts" (see Part Five: Background): Turkey City Lexicon - Don'ts
M-Brane Magazine advice (prints SF, Fantasy, and Horror): Info Dumps and World Building
platinumbwords writes: This was such an important NL to write. Finding a way to inform the reader of necessary background info, from the characters' past experiences prior to the story's beginning or how the world of the setting differs from the world the reader knows, WITHOUT stopping the action is a difficult juggling act. But it makes all the difference between an actual story and an encyclopedia. Thank you :)
I love your example of the difference between a story and an encyclopedia. There's nothing worse than reading a novel that's as dry as an encyclopedia. Thanks for replying to the NL!
blue jellybaby writes: I just want to say thanks for this newsletter, I think it's really helpful. I sometimes struggle with the info dump but all you've said has been helpful and I'll be looking back on it!
Thanks so much for the compliment, Jellybaby!
LorRae writes: great info on the backstory! Thank you...
You're welcome. I hope it helps you.
Seamus Leo writes: In the end writing a horror story is again depicting pictures and describing the pictures onto a manuscript or written surface. The key is not to cut the film short of its images or dialogue. Twisting a horror story can calibrate the speed intensity or plot development that can be furthered and crafted with sharpness and utilizing new and improved phrasing from the authors predessors.
I agree it's important to focus on images and dialog. Thanks for replying!
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