Have a Walking Dead Easter!

Walking Dead Easter Eggs (from Texas Toyz in Corpus Christi, TX)
Walking Dead Easter Eggs
(from Texas Toyz in Corpus Christi, TX)
 
Zombie Peeps(from Texas Toys in Corpus Christi, TX)
Zombie Peeps
(from Texas Toyz in Corpus Christi, TX)

 

Our friend Alyssa Milano from B&J’s Pizza in Corpus Christi, TX posted these on Facebook.  They were too delicious not to share with the world.  According to her the eggs were brought by the Zombie Easter Bunny. 🙂     Have a Walking Dead Easter!

 

 

Comments on “Murder by Plastic”

Since “Murder by Plastic” was published by Every Day Fiction on March 24, I have been getting some interesting comments on it:  some critical, some laudatory.   For those of you who haven’t had a chance to visit the site yet, here they are:

9 Responses to “MURDER BY PLASTIC • by Phil Slattery”

  1. lizardyoga Says: March 24th, 2013 at 2:54 amChilling and brilliantly economical
  2. Binnnie Dot Says: March 24th, 2013 at 4:21 amVery well-paced and intriguing. Well done.
  3. Paul A. Freeman Says: March 24th, 2013 at 4:22 amWekk written, but one huge pothole. How could Joey be certain Don Antonio Vespucci would not take the duct tape off?
  4. Tina Wayland Says: March 24th, 2013 at 6:52 amI can’t help feeling like this one needed another rewrite. The story shines through so wonderfully in spots, but it feels hidden beneath some predictable plot twists and un-careful writing. The repeated words, like “heartbeat,” got caught in the writing instead of really reverberating.That said, I think the story itself takes us by the hand and runs. And what a ride!
  5. Amanda Says: March 24th, 2013 at 10:04 amI think Joey may have been involved in a similar scenario before with Don Antonio and was aware of how it would play out. And, like the Don says, who wants to listen to a bunch of denials?Well written and enjoyable, but I also agree that repeated words took me out of the story a couple of times. The first line was brilliant, but the second reference to duct tape diminished the line’s impact.

    Overall, a very enjoyable read.

  6. Paul A. Freeman Says: March 24th, 2013 at 10:26 amBelieve it or not, I was perfectly sober when I posted #3.‘Wekk’; ‘potholes’? Maybe I should have loosened up with a drink or two before posting.
  7. JenM Says: March 24th, 2013 at 10:51 amFabulous story! Five stars!
  8. Michael Robertson Says: March 24th, 2013 at 12:48 pmI liked this. It was a good story. I agree with the rewrite comments. Overall an enjoyable read. Well, horrible read but that’s the point.
  9. john malone Says: March 27th, 2013 at 8:39 pma terrific read; i loved it. I was tensed up just like ‘Mr. Wilson’ throughout the story

Today, My Story “Murder by Plastic” Was Published.

My work of flash fiction, “Murder by Plastic”, was published today at www.everydayfiction.com.  Please read the story at your leisure and peruse the other literary works available at Every Day Fiction as well.  My heartfelt thanks go out to the very patient, professional staff at Every Day Fiction, who brought this story to you.  I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Jorge Oscar Rossi’s “Archetypal Horror: H.P. Lovecraft and Carl Gustav Jung”

Cthulhu

I ran across an interesting article today at http://www.quintadimension.com/article66.html, entitled “Archetypal Horror:  H.P. Lovecraft and Carl Gustav Jung”.  It was written by Jorge Oscar Rossi, an Argentinian writer of science fiction (and fantastic literature in general), and published on December, 8, 2000.  Please note that the article and his autobiography are in Spanish.

I am no master of Spanish, having had only two years in college and some practical, albeit frequent, experience in Texas and Mexico over the last twenty years.   However, Señor Rossi’s article is well-written and relatively easy reading, so that I feel I caught the gist of it, if not all the nuances.

His main point (and anyone with a better knowledge of Spanish than I, including Señor Rossi, may correct me if I am wrong) is that Lovecraft’s ancient gods of the Cthulhu mythos represent archetypal forms of horror in the Jungian sense of “archetype”.

If you have a basic comprehension of Spanish, the article is quite intriguing and worth taking a shot at reading.

If nothing esle, the article will help you view the poster above from another perspective: what is the meaning of the poster if the creature above symbolizes archetypal fears shared by everyone?

Thoughts?  Comments?

Freud’s View of Fear

Sigmund FreudIllustration by FlyBit43
Sigmund Freud
Illustration by FlyBit43

While many people can write a horror story, those who have a profound understanding of the emotions associated with horror will have a greater chance of writing a truly great horror story.  With that in mind, as tonight’s post I offer a comment from Dr. C. George Boeree on Freud’s view of fear, which he termed “anxiety”.   This quote is part of a longer articles which can be found at http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/freud.html.  I like the quote, because it explains Freud’s concept in a straightforward, simple, clear way that I can grasp easily.   I also like the quote because it gives me three different types of fear to instill in my audience vicariously.  As I have mentioned in previous posts, when someone reads a story, they are experiencing the events of that story vicariously.  As writers of horror, one of the primary emotions we want to instill is fear.   In this short comment, Dr. Boeree provides us with three flavors of fear we can instill in our audiences.

“The ego — the “I” — sits at the center of some pretty powerful forces: reality; society, as represented by the superego; biology, as represented by the id. When these make conflicting demands upon the poor ego, it is understandable if it — if you — feel threatened, feel overwhelmed, feel as if it were about to collapse under the weight of it all. This feeling is called anxiety, and it serves as a signal to the ego that its survival, and with it the survival of the whole organism, is in jeopardy.

“Freud mentions three different kind of anxieties: The first is realistic anxiety, which you and I would call fear. Actually Freud did, too, in German. But his translators thought “fear” too mundane! Nevertheless, if I throw you into a pit of poisonous snakes, you might experience realistic anxiety.

“The second is moral anxiety. This is what we feel when the threat comes not from the outer, physical world, but from the internalized social world of the superego. It is, in fact, just another word for feelings like shame and guilt and the fear of punishment.

“The last is neurotic anxiety. This is the fear of being overwhelmed by impulses from the id. If you have ever felt like you were about to “lose it,” lose control, your temper, your rationality, or even your mind, you have felt neurotic anxiety. Neurotic is actually the Latin word for nervous, so this is nervous anxiety. It is this kind of anxiety that intrigued Freud most, and we usually just call it anxiety, plain and simple.”

Undoubtedly, Jung had his own views of fear, with which I am not familiar, and other psychiatrists have theirs, and Freud’s views may well be outdated, or even proven wrong.  However, if we are to understand the nature of fear, Freud is a good a place to start as any.

Thoughts?  Comments?

St. Patrick’s Day Fun

Bram Stoker1847-1912
Bram Stoker
1847-1912
Joseph Thomas Sheridan Le Fanu1814-1873
Joseph Thomas Sheridan Le Fanu
1814-1873

For St. Patrick’s Day, I thought I would bring up just a couple of tidbits.

First of all, the first two Irish horror authors who spring to mind are Joseph Thomas Sheridan Le Fanu (born at 45 Lower Dominick Street, Dublin, according to Wikipedia) and Bram Stoker (born in Clontarf, north of Dublim (also according to Wikipedia).   Follow the links to my articles on each.

Second, I did a quick search for “Irish horror humor” on Google and found reviews for Grabbers.  I haven’t seen the movie yet myself, but it looks like fun.  I will definitely check it out at my first opportunity and I recommend that you do too.

Third, never drink and blog.  If you have ever seen the movie Sideways starring Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church, you know the dangers of drinking and dialing.  The dangers of drinking and blogging are similar, but on an international scale.   🙂

Conflict or Struggle?

Higuchi Jiro Kanemitsu on a wooded mountainside struggling with a giant Monkey which grips his sword-blade between its teeth. Painting by Utagawa Kuniyoshi, 1798 - 1861
Higuchi Jiro Kanemitsu on a wooded mountainside struggling with a giant Monkey which grips his sword-blade between its teeth. Painting by Utagawa Kuniyoshi, 1798 – 1861

 

If a work of fiction is to succeed in entertaining its audience, there must be conflict.  As this conflict pertains to the horror genre, it may be best to think of it as a struggle.

I think of a conflict as something that can happen over a very short to a very long period of time and may or may not contain any substantial action.  Conflict is a very broad term and can apply to any work of literature or film.   Conflict can apply to Tracy Chevalier’s mind-numbingly boring novel Girl with Pearl Earring as it can to Clive Barker’s The Hellbound Heart.   Struggle connotates not only a protracted conflict, which is necessary if the work (or anything involving conflict for that matter) is to have any subtantial length.  A boxing match that goes the full fifteen rounds is much more entertaining than one in which one contender is suddenly floored in the first half of the first round.

Struggle connotates action as well, which is as essential for any work of the horror genre as it is to boxing.  In the most entertaining works of horror that come to my mind, the struggle usually begins on or close to the first page and continues on to or close to the last page.  Usually the struggle is between two or more characters, though it can be against inanimate forces (such as surviving a storm) or it can be against inner drives or forces in which the protagonist struggles against himself.

What are your thoughts?  Which term is more suitable for the horror genre:  struggle or conflict?

Shades of Countess Bathory

Elizabeth, Countess Bathory
Elizabeth, Countess Bathory

I confess.  I don’t know how to begin tonight’s article.  It is just so weird that it boggles the mind.

If you are a fan of horror, you may know of Elizabeth, Countess Bathory, the infamous “Blood Countess” and the subject of many books and at least 2-3 movies.   I happen to have a modicum of knowledge about the Countess, because some time back I researched her for a short story for which I am now trying to find a publisher.  The Countess is alleged to have killed perhaps as many as 600 young women in what is now the Czech Republic from about 1604-1610 just to bathe in their blood in order to preserve her beauty.  If you are not familiar with her, just Google “Elizabeth Bathory”.  There are a lot of good articles on her and the one in Wikipedia is a good synopsis of her life.

Fast forward to 2012.

I am sitting at my desk, surfing the net while talking to my mom on the phone, and I come across an article on Yahoo News about Kim Kardashian having a blood facial!

Let me be the first to note that the major difference between the Countess’s and Kim’s blood treatments is that Kim uses her own blood (let me repeat that for the benefit of any unscrupulous lawyers looking for a case:  the Yahoo article states that Kim Kardashian uses her own blood) and not the blood of innocents like the Countess is alleged to have done.

What more can I say?  I could probably write an extensive article just on whether bathing in blood has any actual value as a beauty treatment or whether the charges of bathing in blood put forth by her accusers and detractors have any merit or if it was just a form of black magic practiced by the Countess, but, as fascinating a subject as it is, I unfortunately don’t have the time to pursue it.  Please feel free to conduct your own research though.  I found out some fascinating things during my own and put as many as I could into the aforementioned story.   If and when it is published, I will announce it in this blog.

By the way, one thing I found out about the Countess is that while many people believe the worst about her, there are many who believe that she was innocent. Their opinion tends to be that the vicious stories about her were simply inventions of her enemies to justify their seizing of her land or they were written by gullible historians believing local legends a hundred or more years after her death.  Usually I find the truth of any issue is somewhere between the two extremes of viewpoints.

If you would like an alternate view on the Countess, I would like to recommend a movie entitled “Bathory”, which stars Anna Friel and Karel Roden.  I believe it is a Czech production.  It gives a good, plausible alternative to the legends about the Countess, and in my humble opinion, is probably much closer to the truth than the usual blood-soaked splatterfests you may find.

Horror Humor

From horrorhumor.com
From horrorhumor.com

As you have probably surmised by now, occasionally I like to surf the net looking for the humorous side of horror.  Today,  I found a website called appropriately horrorhumor.com.  From what I can see, they have only been up since February of this year and have only a few posts, but if you like the sample above, they are worth checking out.

Thoughts?  Comments?

 

Thoughts on Speculative Fiction

Lovecraft in the Agony of ContemplationIllustration by MirrorCradle
Lovecraft in the Agony of Contemplation
Illustration by MirrorCradle

As I was driving about town today, I started reflecting on the difference between mainstream, so-to-speak literary fiction and speculative fiction (usually defined as consisting of the science-fiction, fantasy, and horror genres).  I recall reading somewhere, years ago, in the submissions guidelines for a mainstream fiction magazine, that mainstream fiction consisted of whatever did not fit into a genre.  Then, I considered that accurate and reasonable;  now I consider it somewhat snobbish.  In fact, the more I think about it, the more short-sighted and narrow-minded that statement becomes.

Speculative fiction, including the horror genre, deals with fantastic, often surreal, situations.  Mainstream fiction, if you go by the definition above, deals with anything not fantastic, not surreal, i.e. the real, events that could happen in the real world.  It would seem to me that the truly gifted writer would be the one with the greater imagination, the one who can conjure entire civilizations and fantastic creatures out of his mind alone.  My favorite authors for many years have been, and continue to be, Hemingway and Fitzgerald, based on their styles and how their stories can touch me.  However, if had to state who had the greatest imagination out of the history of writers, Tolkien would be at the top, simply because he was able to create an entire world out of his imagination (granted most of the ideas were based in Nordic mythology) and make it and his characters believeable.  Lovecraft and his Cthulhu mythos would be a close second.

Reading the guidelines of horror publications, I find that many of them do not want werewolf/vampire/zombie (w/v/z)stories.  They want something different, original.   That is a difficult challenge.   I could dream up w/v/z stories all day long, but creating something out of thin air, like Stephen King or Clive Barker does,  and to do it consistenly, is truly admirable. I have written one or two stories along the w/v/z line, but now I am taking up the challenge of writing something truly imaginative.    I have no good ideas just yet, but I am examining how horror authors of the past came up with ideas and what were their inspirations.

So now here is a question of the night:  if you are trying to write material outside the w/v/z tradition, how are you coming up with ideas?  Have you put any new slant on horror?  Do your inspirations come from dreams or from looking at real-world object and then allowing yourself to explore the possibities if something about that scene was just a little bit different?

Thoughts?  Comments?

 

 

Lovecraft Country

Lovecraft CountryIllustration by Miihkali, 2009
Lovecraft Country
Illustration by Miihkali, 2009

I love maps and found an interesting one at Wikimedia tonight.  The above is an illustration of “Lovecraft Country” as drawn by Miihkali (from Finland) in 2009.   It is in the public domain. 

The description that accompanies the map (the bottom paragraph is in Finnish) reads:

English: So called ‘Lovecraft country’ of Cthulhu Mythos, showing some of the most important cities of Massachusetts alongside with towns invented by Lovecraft. Imaginary towns are marked with square, real ones with circle.

Suomi: Cthulhu-mytologian “Lovecraft-maa”; joitain merkittäviä Massachusettsin kaupunkeja yhdessä Lovecraftin keksimien kanssa. Kuvitteelliset paikat on merkitty neliöllä, oikeat pallolla.
 
Thoughts?  Comments?

Slattery’s Tao of Writing, Part 6: Profanity

Profanity

“There is a time for everything,  and a season for every activity under the heavens:..”  Ecclesiastes 3:1 (New International Version)

So when is the right time for profanity in literature?  I have my beliefs, but I thought it would be interesting in finding some quotations from more respected writers (and entertainers) other than myself, so I went quote-shopping through BrainyQuotes.com and Goodreads.com.

“Under certain circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer.”   –Mark Twain

“I’ve tried to reduce profanity but I reduced so much profanity when writing the book that I’m afraid not much could come out. Perhaps we will have to consider it simply as a profane book and hope that the next book will be less profane or perhaps more sacred.”  –Ernest Hemingway

“There was certainly less profanity in the Godfather than in the Sopranos. There was a kind of respect. It’s not that I totally agreed with it, but it was a great piece of art.”  –Danny Aiello

“profanity and obscenity entitle people who don’t want unpleasant information to close their ears and eyes to you.”  ― Kurt Vonnegut, Hocus Pocus

“Never use a big word when a little filthy one will do.” ― Johnny Carson

“What I’m saying might be profane, but it’s also profound.” ― Richard Pryor, Pryor Convictions: and Other Life Sentences

All make excellent points.

My personal belief is best summarized by Ecclesiastes 3:1 above, with the following addenda:

  1. A  word is either the expression of an idea or of an emotion and should be used accordingly.  Profanity is therefore the expression of profane ideas or of intense emotions and should be used accordingly.
  2. Profanity is by nature shocking to most of the general public.  If used too frequently, it loses its effect and becomes tiresome.  I have known people who have used profanity to excess and although they shock and offend on first meeting, they quickly become tiresome and annoying and their limited vocabulary quickly shows their narrow intellect (with few exceptions–I have heard some respected authors have had colorful vocabularies).    Thus profanity is useful as a literary device only if it is used to show a person of that low character or to indicate irony.   An example of the latter would be a person who is superficially of low character, but on closer examination is more profound and intelligent than expected–there are a few people like that.   If profanity is to retain its shock value within a story, its use must be limited (the more limited the better), otherwise the story becomes tiresome and annoying.
  3. Vonnegut makes an excellent point above.   The more profanity one uses in a story, the less readers one will have–for whatever reason.  This parallels Stephen Hawking’s experience as a writer.  In the introduction of A Brief History of Time, Hawking says that someone told him that for every number used in a book, he would lose one reader.  Therefore, in A Brief History of Time Hawking uses only one number in describing one of the most profound and complex scientific theories of history.   An example from cinema would be the single profanity used in Gone with the Wind.  That profanity was used at a critical moment and because it expressed so much at the right time, it was memorable and powerful.  That moment would have lost much of its impact, if the movie had been as laced with profanity as Pulp Fiction (admittedly, I am a big fan of Pulp Fiction).  For those reasons, I believe profanity in literature should be kept to an absolute minimum.  
  4. When used, profanity should have a definite purpose:  to say something about a character, their emotional state, their state of mind, or their environment (e.g. in my story “A Tale of Hell”, the main character has problems with intense anger and actually ends up in hell.  Profanity is part of his character on earth and part of his surroundings in hell, where, understandably, it would be constant and ubiquitous.  
  5. Profanity has only been commonly accepted in literature since the early Twentieth Century at best.  Probably the foremost example of this would be Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer, which was first published in France in 1934, but which was banned in the U.S.   Its publication by Grove Press in 1961 led to a series of obscenity trials ending in the Supreme Court finally declaring it non-obscene in 1964.   Many, if not most, of the recognized masters of the horror genre wrote around or prior to 1934 and never used a single profanity, e.g. Lovecraft, Poe, Machen, Lord Dunsany, M.R. James, Sheridan Le Fanu, Blackwood, Ambrose Bierce, et cetera.  Profanity is not necessary to achieve a horrifying effect.  In fact, it becomes more of an artistic challenge to write something horrifying without profanity.  Shock may be part of horror, but horror is much more than shock.

The upshot of all this for the contemporary writer is that, like everything else, profanity has its place, but its use must be balanced against what the author wishes to achieve while bearing in mind that its careless overuse can severely damage the reader’s experience and taint that reader’s perception of the author.

Thoughts?  Comments?

Notes on “I am Legend”

Cover of First Edition, 1954(Please note that this cover is protected by copyright; please refer to Wikipedia for details on permissible use)
Cover of First Edition, 1954
(Please note that this cover is protected by copyright; please refer to Wikipedia for details on permissible use)

I have been reading Richard Matheson’s I am Legend recently whenever I have the opportunity.  I would not say it is a fascinating book, but it is interesting.   One particularly interesting aspect is that the book is not just about one man’s fight against zombies (which he terms “vampires”, but which fit better into the modern concept of zombies) , but that it also deals extensively with his fight against depression and loneliness in a post-apocalyptic future.   Today, I happened to look up the work on Wikipedia and found the following interesting review written by Dan Schneider of International Writers Magazine:  Book Review n 2005:

“…despite having vampires in it, [the novel] is not a novel on vampires, nor even a horror nor sci-fi novel at all, in the deepest sense. Instead, it is perhaps the greatest novel written on human loneliness. It far surpasses Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe in that regard. Its insights into what it is to be human go far beyond genre, and is all the more surprising because, having read his short stories – which range from competent but simplistic, to having classic Twilight Zone twists (he was a major contributor to the original TV series) there is nothing within those short stories that suggests the supreme majesty of the existential masterpiece I Am Legend was aborning.”

Mr. Schneider may very well be right that it may be the greatest novel written on human loneliness.  If it is not, it is very close to the top.  I have read Robinson Crusoe and my impression is that I am Legend surpasses that in describing the mental and emotional anguish of loneliness and bringing that inner struggle home to the modern reader.

In my view, one reason I am Legend is important to the horror genre, is because it shows another aspect of horror: personal, inner anguish and turmoil, which probably should be classified as a form of horror, if no one has done so yet.  Anyone who has suffered extreme inner turmoil would probably agree that it is worthy of being termed horror.  It may even be the most common form of real-life horror.  I do not know the statistics for how many people are tortured at the hands of serial killers or executioners or other true-to-life monsters, but I would guess that it is far less than the number of people experiencing extreme negative emotions without actually having been physically tormented.

This aspect of inner horror can add another dimension to the otherwise average horror novel or movie, which, based on what I have seen, tends to emphasize physical violence or the threat of physical violence.   In those works, the inner horror of the protagonists is usually assumed, but not examined in detail.   Examining the inner emotions of protagonists and antagonists will help form empathy and sympathy for the characters within readers, particularly in those who have experienced a similar emotion, and will help form a tighter emotional connection between work and audience.  

I recommend reading the Wikipedia article on I am Legend.  It is quite fascinating.  However, do not do as I have done and read it before completing the book.  You will only spoil the ending for yourself.

Thoughts?  Comments?

Update on Publication of “Murder by Plastic”

Last night I received an e-mail from the editors at Every Day Fiction.  Among other items, they mentioned that “Murder by Plastic” would be published on March 24th.   Please look for it on their website about that time.   Don’t forget, however, that sometimes the unexpected happens and publication may have to be delayed.

Slattery’s Tao of Writing, Part 5: Illumination of the Particular

ScorpionPhoto by Phil Slattery
Scorpion
Photo by Phil Slattery

Someone once said that poetry is the “illumination of the particular”.

In 1992, when I was enamored of poetry and was striving to become a serious poet, I took that advice to heart and wrote the poem “Faust“, which describes the thoughts of the infamous Dr. Faust immediately after signing over his soul to Mephistopholes  in exchange for all knowledge.  What I describe there is everything that is going through Faust’s mind in a few seconds, the amount of time it takes to actually read the poem.   The hardest part for me was to choose the right moment to illuminate.  I could have chosen the moment before signing or a moment a year later or the moment when he first met Mephistopholes or an infinite amount of others. But that second seemed the most pregnant with meaning, because it is the moment realizes that what he has done can never be undone and that he has lost everything meaningful as a result.   After that I just had to work out the details of what he had lost, the sensations he was experiencing, the future consequences, and the wording, all of  which took about a solid eight hours.   Choosing the particular moment to illuminate was the critical decision in construction of the poem.

Good prose is often compared to poetry.  When Ray Bradbury was introduced to Aldous Huxley at tea after publication of The Martian Chronicles in 1950, Huxley leaned forward and asked Bradbury, “do you know what you are?  You are a poet.”  “I’ll be damned,” responded Bradbury.

I believe that good writing (both prose and poetry) is like good photography: it illuminates the particulars in the subject so that the viewer sees them in their abundant wonder for the first time, though he may have seen that scene a thousand times before.  Take the photo at the top of the page for example.  I happened to see a scorpion crawling across a floor one day (when I was heavy into nature and wildlife photography), grabbed the nearest camera, lined up the shot as best I could, and snapped it.   To my surprise, the focus and lighting came off better than I had planned, and thousands of details popped out in the photo that I had never anticipated.   I had walked across that floor tile I do not know how many thousands of times previously and I had never noticed the texture in its surface.   I had never been as close to a scorpion before either and I was amazed at the details that popped out in it.

Great writers seem to have an innate sense for the proper amount of details and how to use them.   Among writers of horror, Poe springs to mind immediately as a master of detail with “The Tell-Tale Heart” as a prime example of how he used details.  Poe seems to string together a series of moments (describing the old man’s eye, creeping through the door to the old man’s bed, killing him, listening to the heart as it beats beneath his floorboards) and illuminates the details in each to produce a story of tremendous power.  But among all these, is there a single, superfluous detail that does not heighten the drama?  No.  Poe knew which details to illuminate and how to illuminate the details in each of those.

Several years ago, I saw a biography of Napoleon Bonaparte on A&E.  One of the speakers was an instructor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.  He said that one thing Bonaparte recognized was that “while details are important, not all details are important.”  I found this a fascinating point as the speaker went on to point out that Bonaparte had a incredible memory for details.   For example, every two weeks he had the roster of the entire French army (about 200,000 troops) read out to him.  He could remember from sitting to sitting who was sick, dead, missing, and so forth.  He could ask detailed questions about the state of repair of equipment such as “last time the second gun of the third battery at Cherbourg had broken spokes in its left wheel, has that been fixed yet?”

I try to remember that these days as I write, so that I weed out the important details from the unimportant ones.

“But which details are important?” you ask.  I wish I could give a quick and easy answer on that.  At this point in my development as a writer (I may give a completely different answer years from now when my learning has progressed further), I would say:  (1) details that help the reader live the story vicariously, such as sensations, (2) details that help the reader understand the current situation and its implications, and (3) details to help the reader understand the characters, their thoughts, their perspectives, and their reactions, (4) details that tie the parts of the story together, such as a motif, and create unity, and (5) details that point toward a denouement.

Details can be critical in writing, but as with all other things, there must be a balance.    Drown the reader in details and the story becomes tedious.  Provide too few details, and the story becomes monotonous.   Choose the wrong details, and the story is boring.  Choose the right details and the reader can step into another world.

Thoughts?  Comments?

“Murder by Plastic” To Be Published

 

Today, I received an e-mail from the folks at Every Day Fiction saying that they will publish my story “Murder by Plastic”  either next month or the following month.  Please watch the table of contents on their site for when it appears.   I will post an update on my blog as soon as they notify me that it is up.

“Murder by Plastic” is flash fiction (about 998 words) that I can most accurately describe as on the border between crime thriller and horror.   Please watch for it and visit Every Day Fiction often.