Dan Jolley’s The Storm Blog Tour – A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Pitch Meeting

“A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Pitch Meeting”

 

I’ve wound up wearing a lot of different hats over the course of my writing career. I started out doing comic book scripts, but over the last two-plus decades, I’ve written professionally for kids’ books, licensed-property novels, movie novelizations, original novels, and video games.

 

One hat I’ve been trying to wear for a while is “film/TV writer.”

 

I’ve done it once. Sort of. Shawn deLoache (a good friend and occasional writing partner) and I managed to sell a live-action pilot last year to a major children’s programming outlet. Following a purge of top-level executives by the parent company, however, that project is not moving forward. (Not at the moment, anyway. We have further plans.)

 

Part of getting involved in the Hollywood scene in the marginal way that I have is that I’ve been doing rounds of pitch meetings. I don’t live in L.A., much to the frequent vexation of my manager, so about twice a year I fly out there for a week and stay with friends and do what I’ve heard described as “the couch and water tour.” That’s where my manager, Alex, reaches out to a bunch of studios and production companies and schedules meetings, and when I get there, I always have to sit on the couch in the waiting area, and an assistant brings me a bottle of water.

 

I’ve been through two different kinds of meetings so far.

 

The first is what’s known as the “general” meeting. “I’ve got you set up for a general,” Alex might say. That’s where I’m meeting some people for the first time, really just a get-to-know-you kind of thing. Generals are easy. There’s not much in the way of pressure. I mean, yes, you need to make a good impression, but it’s basically setting up groundwork and building relationships. I try to be charming, they’re charming, everyone says lots of nice things to each other. Occasionally it involves lunch.

 

The second kind is the actual *pitch meeting*. That’s where you try your damnedest to sell a specific project. You have a tight, cohesive, exhaustively-rehearsed pitch ready to go; sometimes there’s a little bit of small talk before you launch into it. Other times, you walk into the room, shake their hands, and they immediately say, “Okay, let me hear what you’ve got.” That’s much more nerve-wracking—though, to my intense surprise, I’ve discovered that I’m actually pretty decent at the formal pitch.

 

A year ago, during a week of generals, after I told people about my Middle-Grade Urban Fantasy novel trilogy (“Five Elements”) and my Urban Sci-Fi novel trilogy (“Gray Widow”), I frequently got asked, “So, Dan, what else are you working on? Any pet projects?”

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WIHM: E.Z. Morgan’s Seven Succulent Tips For Writing Horror

E.Z. Morgan’s Seven Succulent Tips For Writing Horror

If you’re anything like me, you have a lot of horrifying ideas.  Don’t worry, that’s a good thing!  But moving them from your mind to the page is not an easy feat.  Here are seven tips for writing the most terrifying tales.

 

1) Write what you know.  First, I want you to think about what scares you.  Really think about it, even the small things.  Now write them down.  Seriously – go open up a doc and start writing them down right now.  Write it all, even if you think it’s not scary or too trite.  For instance, many people are afraid of spiders.  So write the word “Spider” with room underneath.  Below the word, describe everything you hate about spiders (they jump, their hairy legs, their creepy eyes, etc).  Under that, write down situations when you’ve encountered a spider and/or you would be terrified to find a spider (in the bathtub, crawling along your face at night, etc).  This your starting point. 

 

2) Be yourself.  This may sound easy but it can be difficult to find your own original voice.  We all have favorite authors, but in the end your story belongs to you.  Your voice matters.  Every unique work contributes to the canon and widens the limits of what horror can be.  Don’t try to be Stephen King (it’s exhausting I’m sure!).  Be you!  Don’t know who you are?  That’s fine!  Keep writing and you will begin to figure it out.

 

3) Find horror in the small moments.  I think it is often tempting to start writing large-scale horror.  Writers go into their first story with the apocalypse in mind.  While end-of-the-world stories can be amazing, it is also important to remember the small moments.  These are the situations that most readers can relate to.  Think of a time that someone got too close in the elevator or that strange noise you heard in your backseat.  This is where fear lives.  Once you grasp that, then you can kill all of NYC. (Sorry NYC).

 

4) Do not rely on cheap tricks.  It can be easy to fall into the quick plot holes of using rape, incest, abuse, or mental illness to justify your horror.  I am not saying you can’t use these topics (I’ve used them all) but don’t rely on them to carry your story.  It needs to be scary without them.  If you take out the rape is your story still good?  Is it still scary?  Use the movie ‘Split’ as an example.  (Light spoilers ahead).  The main character has multiple personalities, but there is also a supernatural element that is the real cause of the horror.  If the supernatural element was not present, it would be a much different movie.

 

5) Embrace ambiguity.  A lot of authors feel the need to wrap their stories in neat little bows (myself included).  But, leaving a little mystery can really add to the reading experience.  Allow the reader to fill in the gaps with their own imagination.  This also goes for your writing style in general.  If you feel confident writing in first person, then try switching to third.  If you always write about monsters, try mixing in some psychological horror. Keep both yourself and your readers on their toes.

 

 

6) Do not be afraid of criticism.  In the beginning, ask for feedback from the people you trust.  They will most likely be kinder than the internet (take it from me).  Once you feel a bit more confident, throw your work up on reddit or tumblr and see how it does.  Average readers can be incredibly helpful in improving your writing.  Once you are able to stomach a few nasty comments, think about using professional editing services.  Editors will be blunt and to the point, but they will help you improve.  We writers are always working on making our craft better.  If you think you are above criticism then your writing will always suffer.

 

7) MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL – Read as much as possible. I guarantee you will become a better writer if you become a dedicated reader.  Read horror novels, short stories, and comics.  Try out big names but also make sure to look at indie authors.  Get recommendations and follow through with them.  If you get tired of only reading horror, move on to quality writers in other genres.  Hell, read bad writers!  The more you read the more you’ll know what works and what doesn’t.  It will also help you define what kind of mood you want to create with your writing.

 

I hope these tips will help you become the horror author of your nightmares.  Remember – the writing community needs you and your voice.  Do not let fear keep you from writing.

E.Z. Morgan

E.Z. Morgan looks like an adorable librarian but writes stories that will keep you up at night. Her writing has been shared on numerous podcasts, online forums, and probably some horror-themed knitting circles. Her published works The 1%, Knots, and Dad’s Tapes are all available on Amazon. She lives in a snow-filled wasteland with her cats, dog, and partner. 
 

Daniel Dark’s Knife’s Tell & Victorian Catsup Blog Tour – A One Day Or Today Man

My whole life I have lived with the fact that I had a decision to make. I could be a one day or a today man. There were things that I kept telling myself that one day I would do this, or one day I would do that, knowing that one day would not come.

When I started writing, though, I realized that it would not be finished in one day. But if I ever was to finish, I had to do something today. Each day had to be a today decision that I would do something to advance my writing.

Whether it was to learn more, do research for my story, or write, I only had today to get it done.

After two years of struggle and rewrites I finally had my first book in manuscript form. Now, what do I do with it?

Being afraid that no one would ever want to read my dribble, I got the nerve to ask a few friends that were writers to give it a beta read. To my astonishment, they came back telling me how much they enjoyed reading it. Being someone that failed English 101 in college three times and then finally getting a C-minus, it was something that I never expected to hear.

The whole reason that I am telling you this is that if someone like myself, who originally wrote a book just to prove that he could do it, can have an award-winning book, what could you do with all of the great talent you possess?

Right now, promise yourself that today you can do your part in making a dream come true. Then without knowing it your one day will become a today, and your fabulous new work will be yours to hold and present to the world.

 

Explore the shadows of Victorian Era London and encounter a new Jack the Ripper tale like you’ve never read before in Daniel Dark’s Knife’s Tell & Victorian Catsup Blog Tour, taking place February 20-27!

Knife’s Tell contains a tantalizing blend of thriller, horror, erotic, and alt. history elements. As an added bonus, author Daniel Dark (a former Victorian chef) also has included the authentic Victorian Era recipes of the dishes that are featured in the story!

In addition to Knife’s Tell, this tour also highlights Victorian Catsup: Receipts of the Past, which features history and recipes for a wide variety of authentic, Victorian Era catsups. The book itself also has a great story behind its development, and it is attached to a wonderful cause!

About the author: Daniel Dark, a native of Nashville, Tennessee, grew up with homicide every day. Having a homicide detective as a father, he was able to learn about those that were brought to justice, and the ones that were not.

Spending many hours in Central police headquarters and in his grandfather’s hematology lab gave Daniel an unusual childhood and a love for science. Along with this, his great uncle owned the oldest book store in Nashville. His parents took him there regularly, where developed a love of reading and found out about history.

Daniel went on to become an Electrical Engineer and Industrial Maintenance Manager till NAFTA took away his job. A year later he went to culinary school and studied Victorian cooking, after which he opened a Victorian-style restaurant.

He became a heart attack and stroke survivor at fifty years old, where he used writing to rehabilitate his brain. The first book written by Daniel was on Victorian Catsup, which had over two hundred catsup recipes in it from the late 1700’s to 1910, with over sixty different flavors. Daniel used the book to start his 1876 Catsup company as Mr. Catsup.

Knife’s Tell represents his debut novel as an author.

 

Book Synopsis for Knife’s Tell:   In 1888 one of the most notorious serial killers in history plagued London’s East Side.

Knife’s Tell is not about those murders, but the life behind them. What would cause a normal person to slay in such a horrific way?

Daniel Dark has explored an alternative tale of a doctor lost in reality trying to correct his past. With the help of his personal servant, he searches the Chapel for answers about his connection to the man with the knife.

Where did he come from? And how is the doctor part of his plans for escaping the police at every turn?

Read Knife’s Tell to learn the story behind the blade that killed London

 

Book Synopsis for Victorian Catsup- Receipts from the Past: The book you now hold in your hands is nothing new, only forgotten by most. 

It is, however, how Chef Daniel, the Victorian Chef, recovered many missing segments of his knowledge after having a stroke in 2012. At that time, he had a forty-seat restaurant where he was recreating dishes from the Victorian Era. He was also developing his signature catsups to serve with each receipt that he placed on the menu.

After the stroke, he was forced to give up on his dream for the time being and start the long journey of rehabilitation of both body and mind. When Chef Daniel was able to stand in front of a stove again, he went back to what he knew best, making small batch catsup that he took to local fairs and sold so that he could make more. 

This book is a big part of what kept Chef Daniel going each day. Now he wants to share that with others by contributing ninety percent of his proceeds to the Blood Banks that kept him alive by furnishing over twenty units to him when he was in need.

 

Author Links:

 

Twitter: @1876Catsup

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DanielDarkAuthor/

 

 

Tour Schedule and Activities

 

2/20     The Sinister Scribblings of Sarah E. Glenn      https://saraheglenn.blogspot.com/    Top Ten’s List

2/21     Breakeven Books         https://breakevenbooks.com   Guest Post

2/21     I Smell Sheep   http://www.ismellsheep.com/            VLOG

2/22     Horror Tree     https://www.horrortree.com     Guest Post

2/23     Sheila’s Guests and Reviews   http://sheiladeeth.blogspot.com        Guest Post

2/24     The Book Lover’s Boudoir       https://thebookloversboudoir.wordpress.com/         Review

2/24     Books, Reviews, and More     http://bookworm1977.simplesite.com/435597726   Interview

2/25     Jazzy Book Reviews     https://bookreviewsbyjasmine.blogspot.com/           VLOG

2/26     MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape      http://mylifemybooksmyescape.wordpress.com       Interview

2/27     Honestly Austen          https://honestlyausten.wordpress.com/        Review

2/27     Willow’s Thoughts and Book Obsessions       http://wssthoughtsandbookobsessions.blogspot.com/            Review

 

Amazon Links for Knife’s Tell:

Print Version: https://www.amazon.com/Knifes-Tell-Daniel-Dark/dp/1941706665/

Kindle Version: https://www.amazon.com/Knifes-Tell-Daniel-Dark-ebook/dp/B075RMJ4BJ/

Barnes and Noble Link for Knife’s Tell: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/knifes-tell-daniel-dark/1127157436?ean=9781941706664

 

Amazon Links for Victorian Catsup:

Print Version: https://www.amazon.com/Victorian-Catsup-Receipts-Daniel-Dark/dp/1948042479/

Kindle Version:  https://www.amazon.com/Victorian-Catsup-Receipts-Daniel-Dark-ebook/dp/B07DCFS2RL/

Barnes and Noble Link for Victorian Catsup: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/victorian-catsup-daniel-dark/1128827007?ean=9781948042475

WIHM: A World Without Horror

A World Without Horror

By: L. Bachman

Sit back, inhale with your nose, and exhale through your mouth. Now that you’re in a better more comfortable position I want you to do something for me. Imagine for a moment, if you will, a world without horror.

Now that you’re picturing it in your mind’s eye you’ve probably imagined a world without wars, starving children, or intolerance. You may have pictured an ideal location–a utopia if you will, of bliss and happiness. With skies above the shades of the palest of blues and the most romantic of pinks and purples. Clouds dotting along ignorant of anything other than peace and calm, even ignoring the blazing brilliance of a sun rising or perhaps setting depending on the mood upon which you’re imaging. Now that you have pictured this beautiful moment in time, you’re also picturing a world of unadulterated fantasy.

Horror is born of the darkness that rises after the sun sets. Life everlasting breathed into it from the chattering of teeth from your bedroom closet. Even that little repetitious tapping of the glass that wakes you from your slumber. It is the crossroads of our fears and the unknown. At that point we have unfiltered life experience and for the writer of horror, this prime location is the feeding ground for our darkest muse. The creature inhaling our primal gut reactions, perhaps from a long-forgotten ancestral reaction of warning or doom, and exhaling them into page upon page of thrills, chills, and tormented woe, but I ask you: why do we need to have horror in the world? Why can we not have peace?

The world is harsh and unrelenting, and we, the horror creators, reflect that. No matter if we write of its ghost stories or its murderers or create the fear in another arena, we are a reflection upon the world in which we live–the world you live. Horror is a necessary evil so that one may face their fears in the comfort and privacy of their home, in the safety of numbers at a cinema, or so we learn and grow from the things that scare us most in the world.

In several cultures and throughout history, it’s a rite of passage for a child to become an adult by facing their fears. If you can face the thing you fear most nothing can stop you, right? It could help put things in proportion, at least it’d make one think. Horror is a necessary evil. It helps us cope and helps us overcome. I speak from experience, let me share with you a story you may not know or may have heard since I have shared it before.

My younger life was abusive. I woke most days wondering what was going to happen to me, a reaction from years of abuse at the hands of a family member that overtime became a constant state of being, my ‘normal’. I won’t go into the details of my abuse here, just setting the stage for my point to be made. My youth was abusive and as I grew my abuse came and went whenever that family member was around. I shared my teen years with lots of memories, experience, and with moments of times that I genuinely thought I was going to die. With all that I have overcome surviving such an existence when I wrote in my younger years, I was coping with surroundings I felt utterly out of control of. I created worlds that I could control so writing for me became therapeutic, even if I didn’t have the wisdom and vocabulary at the time to explain this properly.

My writing style grew as anyone practicing a skill will grow. I began writing horror truly not realizing I was writing in horror. My logic was: This doesn’t scare me so it’s probably not scary, fantasy at most. It wasn’t until a published author and friend I had made looked over my work and said that it was horror that I even realized.

Now, for most, my life experiences could be considered horror. For me, I had dealt with it, overcoming it like so many that face horrors in their life. Now, do I credit my life for getting me into horror? No, but it has helped me face fears that I didn’t understand were fears. A life without horror, to a degree for me, would be a dreary one. I wouldn’t know how to react in many situations that may come and go in my life. I learned not to panic when the fires get bigger. I have learned that to breathe in the method I asked you to do at the beginning, it’s a meditative method I picked up to calm my heart rate and to realign myself when need be, and to calm.

So, in the month, that we in the literature recognize so many that contribute to horror in all the branches from the tree, I enjoy it because I recognize that a world, for me, without horror would’ve made me less of a person. It has taken me to some scary places, but it has also given me the candlelight in the dark so it’s not so bad after all.

L Bachman

At a young age, L. Bachman started creating stories and art. This form of expression led to becoming a published author with the stories Maxwell DemonHuman Ouija, and Harvest. She has also been included in several anthologies. In March 2016, her short story, The Painting of Martel, was included in the anthology Painted Mayhem. Following its release, she was once more included in an anthology, And the World Will Burn: A Dystopian Anthology, with her work The Gaze of Destruction. She will once again be included in a December 2016 anthology called Crossroads in the Dark II: Urban Legends with a short story, A Farmhouse Haunting.

Bachman first gained attention in the independent publishing community with her cover design of the collection entitled Murder, Mayhem, Monsters, and Mistletoe: An Anthology. This led to her working with several authors, including Lindy Spencer and Rae Ford. Following her work on the anthology, she wrote The Blasphemer Series: Maxwell Demon in January 2015. It was nominated for Indie Book of 2016 by Metamorph Publishing, along with her bestselling short Human Ouija.

Her graphic arts provided the beginnings of her portfolio. Testimonials of her clients can be seen on her graphic design website, Bachman Designs. When she is not working in the graphics arts sector of the independent publishing industry, she works for the publishing house Burning Willow Press, LLC. They took notice of her portfolio after she provided a graphic design for author Kindra Sowder, CEO of Burning Willow Press. L. Bachman now is a full-time staff member working in the graphics department of the publishing house doing promotional media… videos, promotional materials, and cover design. Through her work with Burning Willow Press, she’s provided materials for the likes of Kerry Alan Denny, SL Perrine, Jay Michael Wright II, and James Master. She continues to work independently for her own clients, having plans to continue her independent writing.

After the passing of her father in April 2016, she dedicated The Blasphemer Series: Harvest to him, dubbing him one of her biggest supporters, if not her biggest fan. In honor of him, she continues to do charitable work and supports active duty military personnel. Her submission to the anthology Painted Mayhem raised money for military personnel suffering and living with PTSD. This also led to her donating some of her work to “Authors Supporting Our Troops”, an event held by author ArmandRosamilia that sends copies of books to active duty military.

Between her publishing and her graphic arts work, she has been a featured guest for many book releases held by other authors, interviewed multiple times by blogs, featured on many podcasts, such as “Unfleshed” with TJ Weeks in September 2015, and has been a returning guest on “Armcast” with Armand Rosamilia and “The Darkness Dwells”, just to name a few.

She continues to write from her home in Northern Alabama where she lives with her husband, the poet and writer DS Roland, their son, Damien, and one very judgmental rescued elderly cat named Mouse. Bachman continues to educate authors interested in improving their writing and marketing skills, as well as holding onto her mission of empowerment, inspiration, and aid to young writers.

Website: www.lbachman.com

Instagram: authorbachman

WIHM: Plant Horror – Or That Impressive Hogweed Is NOT Harmless!

Plant Horror – Or That Impressive Hogweed Is NOT Harmless!

By E. A. Black

 

Most people don’t think of plants as particularly harmful. It’s not like they’re going to uproot themselves, chase you, and attack you. Oh, wait, I’ve seen that movie… J

 

In fact, nature is brutal. It’s not always nice and pretty. You may twirl around in your New Age clothing in the woods to be closer to nature, but nature is also watching you. And waiting to pounce.

 

Plant horror is an interesting and frightening horror genre. I’m an amateur gardener and I’ve seen my fair share of wicked plants. There are the commonly known ones like poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac, and Venus flytraps, but some of the more obscure ones can scare the hell out of you. I live in Massachusetts where the giant hogweed reigns. It resembles a large Queen Anne’s lace and wild parsnip, but it is not harmless. This plant’s sap is highly toxic and causes blisters and scars. It’s so vicious it can blind you. Websites have advised if you see this plant to avoid it at all costs. Do NOT touch it!

 

Poison hemlock affects the respiratory muscles. This is the plant that Socrates chose to ingest when accused of impiety and corrupting young men of Athens.

 

Ingrid murdered her lover, Barry, in the book “White Oleander” when she discovered he was cheating on her. The poison she used included oleander sap. Symptoms of ingesting this sap include nausea, vomiting, excess salivation, abdominal pain, and diarrhea (may contain blood). There is also irregular heartbeat or racing heart that slows to a dangerous rate.

 

According to a Smithsonian article, scholar T. S. Miller wrote, “First, the traditional Western understanding of how the world works places plants at the bottom of a pyramid that contains all living things. In plant horror, they disrupt this seeming “natural order” by rising to the top as apex predators. Second, plants are at the bottom of the pyramid precisely because they are so very unlike humans. We can see ourselves in animals, even animals unlike us. But it’s much harder to see yourself in a rose bush, or even a Venus flytrap. They’re creatures from another world, a cellulose world, which is right next to us and which we depend on—but there’s no way to know what they might be thinking, or what, given the right circumstance, they might do.”

 

Books and movies that delve into plant horror include the following:

 

The Ruins – Travelers to Mexico discover nature run amok such as murderous vines that creep all over you (and inside you). Caustic sap burns their hands. The locals won’t let them leave the area because they’d carry the contagion into villages with them.

 

The Day of the Triffids – Triffids are large, venomous, carnivorous plants that can uproot themselves and chase you. Triffids pass on poison through stingers.  The protagonist suspects these plants were bioengineered by the Russians, and now triffids are a worldwide threat.

 

Little Shop Of Horrors – Audrey II is a man-eating plant that not only talks but also breaks out in blooms with its victim’s faces inside. Influences may have been John Collier’s “Green Thoughts” and Arthur C. Clarke’s “The Reluctant Orchid”.

 

The Invasion of the Body Snatchers – Spores from outer space mimic humans in the form of gigantic seed pods that impersonate individual victims. The story starts with a doctor’s patients who suffer from Capgras delusion – the belief that their loved ones have been replaced by exact replicas. Determining who is human and who is a pod person provides much fear for this story. You’ll never look at sleep quite the same way again after watching or reading it.

 

The Happening – M. Night Shyamalan’s movie about mass suicides caused by toxic plants.

 

Rappaccini’s Daughter – Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic short story about a man who watches his neighbor’s beautiful daughter Beatrice milling about in her father’s rare flowers garden. He is entranced, but the woman is not quite what she appears to be.

 

Other movies that include plant horror are “Creepshow”, “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes”, and “Doctor Terror’s House of Horrors”.

 

I’ve written a plant horror short story recently, and I’m looking for a home for it. This story includes vines I describe as “flapping their blooms open and shut making squicky sounds like pulling your foot out of mud. It was a nauseating, mushy kiss.” I based the vines on pumpkin blossoms, which are large, pulpy, orange, and very alien-looking. I strongly suspect that the author of “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers” has seen pumpkin blossoms. Those blooms in the movie look suspiciously like them.

 

Next spring, when you see the greenery sprout from the ground and the blossoms bloom and the sweet smell of the flowers greets you, remember that Lily of the Valley can cause heart palpitations and a small animal that drinks water a foxglove has been sitting in can die from it. The heart drug digitalis was originally derived from foxglove. Even your Christmas poinsettia is poisonous. Pleasant dreams!

E. A Black

E. A Black had enjoyed telling scary stories to a captive audience since she was a child. She grew up in Baltimore, the home of Edgar Allan Poe who has inspired her to write. Due to her love for horror and dark fiction she joined Broad Universe, a networking group for women who write speculative fiction. Her short stories have appeared in Zippered Flesh 2, Zippered Flesh 3, Teeming Terrors, Midnight Movie Creature Feature 2, Wicked Tales: The Journal of the New England Horror Writers Vol. 3, Heart of Farkness, and more. She won a Best Short Story mention on The Solstice [email protected] 2017: The Best Of Horror for Invisible, which appears in Zippered Flesh 3. In addition to horror, she writes erotica and romance as Elizabeth Black. Friend her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter, where she posts as Elizabeth Black. Check out her web site at eablack-writer.blogspot.com. Sign up for her newsletter: http://eepurl.com/b76GWD She lives on the Massachusetts coast in Lovecraft country. The beaches often call to her, but she has yet to run into Cthulhu.

E. A. Black – Blog and Web Site
 
Elizabeth Black – Facebook
 
Elizabeth Black/E. A. Black – Facebook Page
 
Elizabeth Black – Twitter
 
Elizabeth Black – Newsletter

 

WIHM: Channeling Character Development Through Acting

Channeling Character Development Through Acting

By: Robyn Alezanders 

“Write what you know” is a funny, tricky one for horror writers – nevermind the fantastical or supernatural elements we may create for our stories, but what about mundane yet no less sinister characteristics? How do we believably convey terrifying, unsettling thoughts, actions, and behaviors  if we’re (hopefully!) not enacting it ourselves? It’ can stifle our passion for the genre….

 

As one of those writers who’s more of an introverted, quiet type, yet always fancied being in front of people, I recently accomplished the bucket list goal, and personal challenge, of acting. A dream role debut, I played a vampire Vixen/Bride in a community theatre production of Dracula, one of four women who were nameless, but each portraying a distinct persona: a classic looking pale “ballerina” (she did a creepy dance around a sleeping Jonathan Harker); a royal beauty (voluminous curls and a hint of glitzy makeup); an assertive femme fatale with white eyes and blotchy decomposing skin; and me – a “bloodhound,” with yellow wolf eyes, and flaming red hair to match the blood all over my dress, neck, hands, and mouth. Simply by appearance, I was the most feral, vicious of the group, the one that exudes the monstrous side of vampires, alongside the vixens’ simmering sensuality.

 

I had had a notion about theatre that people were simply assigned roles, and just went right into rehearsal. But, pleasantly, surprisingly, we spent quite a bit of time analyzing characters, together and individually, our own and who others were portraying. And even as rehearsals progressed and it seemed as if we all understood our characters, we still continued to discuss and theorize motivations, histories, and intentions. It became a fascinating psycho-analytical foray that inspired and excited me to hear what everyone thought regarding their roles and how they interacted with and affected others. Adding to the intrigue was that we had to stay in context to the time period, and apply insight (social conformities, expectations, mannerisms, etc.) as it pertained to late 1800s’ Europe- that alone was a terrific exercise in character development!

 

The big scene for my Vixen occurred near the end of and closed out Act 1. The four Brides seductively descend upon Harker, until Dracula interrupts our frenzy before we can indulge our bloodlust. Two Vixens scurry off, while I and another have our hunger pacified with a baby that the good Count has nabbed. It’s a jolting sequence that encompasses pack mentality, hunting prey, anger, impatience, and the one-two sucker punch combination of sexual desire and the need to kill and eat. I had to get into the mindset of a creature driven by hunger – licking, touching, cooing at, and trying to hold down our coveted snack, then defiantly hissing at Dracula and imploring him to give us something, then ravenously tearing apart and eating a “live” infant (cut up doll, crying sound effects, and edible “bloody guts”) sleeping in a picnic basket.

 

How did I thus do it? At first I had considered method acting, but cast mates suggested not to, so that I didn’t miss out on the fun camaraderie that everyone indulged in between scenes. So while I joked and gossiped and took photos while awaiting direction or discussion, I also created a specific trigger – a playlist akin to what I typically do when writing, compiling songs that evoked deadly yet alluring vampiresses. I avoided softer music the days of performances and added my own distinctive details to my portrayal – sniffing the air like a predator would, and giggling “all mine!”as I skipped away with the basket of baby. I exerted more purpose into the way I possessively caressed Harker, and how I held onto Dr. Van Helsing (during a fight scene between Vixens and the male heroes), and tried intimidating him into submission (until he broke the spell and “stabbed” me into scuttling off.) As rehearsals got closer to performances, I found myself settling into character much more, and with each stage presence, became stronger, more confident, more real in portrayal.

 

 

You can break from writing, edit, and redo sentences. With theatre, you have to be and stay in the moment, and go with however the flow of the scene dictates. Delving deeper into my psych, as I had never before, eliciting a newer energy vibration, and awakening another jigsaw piece to who I am is how I channeled introspection into a different art medium. Literally stepping into a physical role, rather than just through words, has elevated my comprehension. Actively working on being a scary woman for the last four months, a character who’s meant to terrify, to attract while simultaneously repulse, has taught me how to better craft one in a story. I learned how to truly transform myself into someone who represents an iconic staple in horror, and to find the magick to effectively bring her out to an audience. Based upon the reactions and post-show comments, I did it quite well – made people uneasy, fearful, uncertain; in some instances, to get up and leave once intermission allowed so. It’s an amalgamation of sentiments that form the highest compliments for someone in horror, and reinforces the notion that I have achieved yet another step in making a formidable mark.

 

If you’re struggling with character development, or want another perspective on breathing life into fictional personas, consider theatre. It will sharpen your writing, make an unforgettable impression, and may even turn you on to another wonderful outlet for your artistic spirit.

Robyn Alezanders

Robyn Alezanders made her horror debut with the short story, “ Soul Stains,” in Des Lewis’ critically acclaimed Nemonymous 5, and earned an Honorable Mention in the 19th Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror. Her work has also appeared in The Mammoth Book of the Kama Sutra, Eternal Haunted Summer, and New Spirit Journal. She hopes to pursue more theatrical roles after Dracula, and to further explore the intricacy of haunting women characters. Find her on FB, posting about scary stuff, vegan baking, her jedi master chihuahua, and whatever else is on her creepy yet loveable mind.

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