Short story or first draft?

inside pages of the book A curious incident of the dog in the night time

Recently I’ve been noticing a trend. More and more writers have been writing short stories and then blowing them up into full novels instead of writing first drafts.

I have to admit, I’ve done that before too. In my novel, It’s a stony road through Hell, it was originally written as a short story and then years later I re-wrote it as a short-ish novel. It made a surprisingly high quality final piece. Usually I have to re-write a piece over and over again just to get it to be kind of readable, but from the short story starting point it came together fairly easily.

its-a-stony-road-through-hell-coverThe writer I heard about most recently doing this is Isaac Marion, author of Warm Bodies. Evidently, the story was originally written as a seven page short story (practically a flash fiction) and it only really covered what an internal monologue might be for a zombie. Later, he expanded on it to create an entire post-apocalyptic world for the main characters to live in. I think it’s amazing how he took just seven pages and turned it into a 239 page novel.

My short story of ISRTH started out significantly longer. I’m not sure I even doubled my word count.

But it really shows what you can do, if you have a good starting point. See, I think that’s the whole point of starting with a short story. You get to start with something that’s already good.

Writing a novel is hard. Writing a good novel is even harder. They’re big, they’re meandering, and they spiral out of control quickly. How novels are usually written is a writer writes the first draft and it’s terrible. Let’s face it, even first drafts from great authors are pretty bad. Then the writer is supposed to take this bad writing and re-write it over and over again until it’s good. The problem is your starting point is with a whole lot of bad writing.

IMG_0263In contrast, short stories are easy to write because they are so much smaller. It’s kind of like the difference between wrestling with a tiger vs. wrestling with a kitten. Best of all, short stories are easy to write well the first time around. So, if you start with a short story, you might not have much to work with, but it’s all high quality. All you have to do is expand on it.

Have you ever blown up a short story into a novel? Was it a blow-out or did it turn nuclear? Please share in the comments area below.

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The Mummy re-write

caution tape over door

I recently watched the latest version of the movie “The Mummy“, and I have to admit I was a little disappointed. It was all just kind of so-so. I really thought that was a shame, because “The Mummy” certainly had the potential to be a great movie, it just kind of fell flat. Of course, lots of people had ideas of why the movie was so lackluster. Most people blame it on the actor Tome Cruise and his age. I kind of disagree. Just because an actor is old, doesn’t mean they loose the ability to act. Both Sean Connery and Harrison Ford continued to act well into their golden years. I think it has more to do with the writing of the film than the actors in it. I mean, there’s only so much an actor can do with a crumby script.

If I was going to re-write the movie, there is a lot of things I would change. First I would re-think the genre of the film. The studio supposedly wanted the movie to be more of a horror film then the previous “Mummy” movies, yet the most recent incarnation wasn’t scary at all. If the studio said they wanted horror, than I would write serious scary into the script!

  1. The leading lady has to go. I don’t mean that there should be no leading lady, but the way she was in the movie, just didn’t work. Her as the ex-girlfriend as been way over done. I’d also steer clear of making her the ex-wife too. In fact, I wouldn’t make her an ex-anything. How about she’s someone the main character hasn’t met before? Even better, someone he hasn’t met before, but he’s heard rumors about her. Bad rumors. Like, soldiers that go with her on missions disappear mysteriously. This works great to make viewers nervous about the mission before it even starts.
  2. The chop the mummy princess. The evil mummy princess had her time, that was a while ago. And in my opinion, the sexy mummy was never scary. Because this is supposed to be a horror movie, how about instead of a princess we go with a witch. An evil, ugly, old witch. Maybe in her first life she terrorized the Egyptian kingdom by sending plagues and things. I would writer her as irredeemably evil by having her kidnap little kids and use their bodies to power her evil spells.  Her look needs to be both ugly and creepy. I’m thinking chard and skeletal with both upper and lower fangs. Her cheeks would be rotted away to give her a great baboon-esque profile. Eye sockets would be dark empty holes. I would have her acted in an animalistic, barely human way. Lots of crouching down, snapping her big teeth in people’s faces, and sudden lunges at the camera. I might even go so far as to give her some claws.
  3. Location stays put. Every time there is a location change in a horror movie, the fear of that location gets diluted. Think of a haunted house story, how many haunted houses are in the story? That’s right, just one. Writers do this for a reason. It’s so readers or viewers can develop a good level of fear for the location itself. Once you change location, you’ve recked all that. So, I would keep the whole movie in the desert. I mean, right in the middle of the desert. Most people get a little freaked out when there is no sign of habitation in sight. The “Blair Witch Project” would have been a lot less scary if it had been filmed in a city park. Of course, if the movie stays in the desert that means the whole meeting the monster hunters part would have to be cut too. Though I love the excuse to see Russel Crowe, his character and the monster hunters in general, don’t really add anything to the story. So they have to go.
  4. The End. Yeah, that’s got some problems. Having the main character turn into a god, just seems kind of “deus ex machina”. I think I would stay with the classic horror format of starting with a large group and the villain slowly picks them off one by one. In the end there’s only the main character and the leading lady. The main character thinks of this great plan to kill the evil witch once and for all, but just as he’s about to enact his plan, surprise, it ends up the one person that has always been trustworthy (the leading lady) was actually working with the witch the whole time. “Mwahaha!” So now he has to defeat them both, and after killing all his buddies the witch is stronger than ever. Just when things look their bleakest, the witch double crosses the leading lady and kills her to gain more power. This is when the main character pounces and slays the evil witch. The main character is victorious, but battle worn and still lost at night in a desert strewn with the body parts of his dead comrades. In my opinion, horror stories are just a little bit better when you don’t know for certain if the main character actually survives in the end.

Wow, this was a long post, but a whole lot of fun! Anytime I see a movie that wasn’t as good as it could have been, my first thoughts are how I would re-write it, and I’m so glad I could share that with you today. Is there any movies you’ve seen that you would really like to re-write? Maybe you know of some books or TV shows that could use some re-writing? Please share them in the comments area below.

A writer reading aka their happy place.

IMG_0257I haven’t been reading much this year, just a novel here and there. I know, I know, a writer not reading is like an astronomer not looking at the stars. It’s like a five star chef living off of microwaved burritos. It’s like an artist throwing out their paint brushes. It’s like, well, it’s like a writer not reading.

I’ve just been so busy recently. I have so many side projects, besides work that actually pays the bills, that now I have to schedule everything in. At the end of the day, I just don’t have a schedule block left for reading. I need to get at least six hours of sleep in, or I don’t function well the next day and it ends up throwing off the rest of my schedule.

IMG_0302I miss the days when I was young and resilient. When four hours of sleep was more than enough. Ahh, I was so productive back then! FYI, you know you’re a life-long insomniac when you start remembering fondly about the times when you didn’t sleep.

Anyway, my reading dry spell finally came to an end when I found a copy of Howl’s Moving Castle at my local library. I’m a huge fan of Studio Ghibli and HMC is one of my favorite movies, so I thought it might be fun to read the novel that the movie was based on. I already know that whatever format you first see or hear a story, that’s the format you’re going to like the most. So people that saw the Harry Potter movies first before reading the books almost always liked the movies better, and it’s the other way around for people that read the books first. So I started this novel with the expectation that I just naturally wouldn’t like it as much as the movie.

After the first couple chapters, I was completely surprised. I really loved the story. But I still loved the movie too. Weird, right? The novel was like the Ghibli film, but expanded. It’s just as visual and quirky as the lush animation that Ghibli is known for, but you also get all sorts of extras, like the background story of Howl, and Letty plays a bigger role in the story, and you get a little bit of Markle/Michael’s background story. And so much more! Like have you ever wondered why Sophi was so defeatist in the movie? Well, the book explains that. I really loved this book and it just made me love the movie even more. This is the way book and movie duos should be.

IMG_0383It was really a great read and I highly recommend it to anyone that’s a fan of Ghibli films, fantasy stories, or funky quirky British lit.

 

P.S. I added in these photos because when ever I think of Ghibli’s animation I always think of lush beautiful scenery filled with flowers.