It’s been a while since I updated everyone on my novel-that-also-doubles-as-my senior-thesis Rose, but I have the opportunity to do so now. Especially since I can’t do my job search without updating my resume, and I’m waiting to hear back from a couple of people on whether I can use them as references.

Well, if you’ll remember my post on my first thesis meeting, you know I ended up switching to first person and rewriting some of the early chapters to make them darker. Well, this past Wednesday there was another meeting with my advisor and the other student I’m working with (I keep meaning to ask if I can use their real names, but I keep forgetting. Oh well, I think I’ll stick to M, my advisor, and P, the other student I’m working with). They had a lot of suggestions for me:

  • Probably a hold over from writing Reborn City and Video Rage, but I have a tendency to explain the stranger elements of the story. Works great for science fiction, but terrible for horror. So I’m trying not to explain the stranger aspects and let the story tell it through what happens.
  • There are a few comedy elements that I’m trying to cut out. We’ll see how that goes.
  • There are some things I will need to change for the first couple chapters, but that’ll wait for the second draft.
  • Most importantly, I’ve switched to narrating in present tense.

That last one is a big one for me. In a previous post, I mentioned that I probably shouldn’t narrate in present tense because I’m not very good or familiar with it and because I have the tendency to switch back into past tense. I explained that to M, but he insisted that I at least try it. His reasoning was that since I’ve been narrating the story in past tense with a first person narrator this whole time, it’s pretty much assumed that things will turn out for the best (probably true). Putting the story in first person would probably serve to add a little mystery and uncertainty to the story.

So I thought, might as well give it a shot. I’d switched from third to first person already, and that had brought about a definite improvement, though I have to work harder to make sure that Rose’s constant state of terror doesn’t start to sound boring. On the other hand, I was already comfortable with writing in the first person. One of my early attempts at writing a novel was in the first person, and for a story written in my early-to-mid teens I did a pretty good job. Writing in the present tense was something I’d hardly ever done before.

So I rewrote parts of Chapter Three to start with, the parts that needed some holes to be plugged so that the story could continue to flow.Then I wrote Chapter Four, and over the past twenty-four hours or so I wrote Chapter Five. Both of those chapters and the parts of Chapter Three I rewrote were written in present tense. And it is weird for me. I don’t know many other authors who write that way, so I don’t have an example to refer back to. I’m basically feeling it out as I go.

But I somehow managed to do it. And it’s been a rather dramatic shift, like the DNA of the story has been altered. I keep thinking back to that scene from the first Sam Raimi Spider-Man film, when Peter Parker’s DNA gets rewritten by spider-DNA, causing his whole self to change. It’s that dramatic a shift, like the whole thing has changed in a very important way while still remaining the same basic story. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it before.

Well, I’ll keep writing it in first-person present tense, hopefully gaining a knack for writing stories like this along the way (it could be useful for a future story). I just hope that when we meet again on Halloween, I don’t have to do another major change to the story. Writing this thing’s been hard enough as it is with just a busy schedule. Writing in unfamiliar styles and with so many new rules or ideas to incorporate certainly makes the job a bit tougher.

Well, it’s late, so I’m going to bed. Hopefully I’ll start Chapter Six tomorrow after classes and homework. Wish me luck, my Followers of Fear.

Before I start, I just want to make sure everyone is aware that I’m not actually showing you how to curse someone. I do know how to do that, but I don’t want to share the method lest someone use it on me. That would suck. No, I’m talking about creating a curse for a story, one that would terrify all who read your work.

The thing about curses is that they are relentless and awful. A curse doesn’t discriminate based on how nice you are, how much money you make, what religion you belong to, or any other factor. No, once a curse locks onto you, it’s like you have a target on your back that you can’t get off, and you won’t get that target off until the curse has run its course (usually this means death). That’s what makes them so scary.

So how do you create a curse? First you need to decide on this:

Person, place, and/or thing. A curse is usually associated with a specific object, location, or person, though sometimes a curse can be associated with more than one of these (such as with an entire family, multiple houses, or a person who lived in a house). In the movie The Conjuring and its spinoff/prequel Annabelle (which I just saw recently), a curse was placed on the doll, allowing a demon to possess it and make havoc for anyone who came into contact with the doll. That’s an example of a cursed object. The house in The Grudge is an example of a cursed location, as well as an example of a cursed person (Kayako, the woman who lived in the house, is the one who carries out the curse). Another example of a cursed person is simply someone who has a curse placed upon them, making interaction with others difficult, if not impossible. Boy, would that suck!

This brings me to my next point, though:

The well is essential to Samara’s curse and origin story.

The origin story. Every curse has its story of how it came to be, and often that the basis of how the curse can be warded off (more on that later). Generally this involves some horrific event happening, causing the curse to manifest or be cast. For example, in the Buffy universe Angel’s curse was caused when he killed the beloved child of a tribe of gypsies, who restored his soul to him through magic. Another example is when Samara/Sadako from the Ring movies was trapped in the well and died, her soul was filled with rage and she infected a blank video cassette. And in The Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, Freddy’s curse came into being when he was killed in a fire by the parents of the children he’d killed/molested (depending on if you’re going with the original movie series or the remake).

 

The trigger. For a curse to take hold of a target, something specific has to happen. For instance, in the popular Bloody Mary legend (which I’ve tested numerous times, by the way), you have to say Bloody Mary three times in the mirror in order to summon her. In the Stephen King story Bag of Bones, the curse was triggered when a child descended from one of any of the families involved in a gruesome murder, whose name usually began with a K, got to a certain age (in the TV miniseries, this was simplified to just the daughters). And in the popular story The Monkey’s Paw, one had to make a wish on the titular paw in order to start the curse. Which leads to the fun part:

How the curse manifests. A curse manifests after the trigger has been…well, triggered. In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (yes, I’m pulling Harry Potter out), Katie Bell was put in unimaginable pain when she touched the cursed necklace. Touching the necklace was the trigger, and the pain was the manifestation. Another form of manifestation would be the Tecumseh curse, which was that any President elected in a year divisible by twenty would die in office (though Ronald Reagan and President Bush managed to get away). The election year is the trigger, while the death of the President is the manifestation.

How to ward it off. This is optional for literary curses, but it’s something you want to consider in creating a curse. In Jewish folklore, the demon Lilith tries to take the souls of newborns or eat them. However, if one has a mezuzah, a marker on one’s doorpost  that has the name of three angels on it, Lilith cannot enter the home and attempt to take the child. The angels whose names are on the mezuzah were the same angels who tried to get Lilith to return to Adam when she was still his wife. When she refused, they cursed her to become a demon and made it that she could not enter a home with their names on it (that’s how the origin story relates to warding off the curse).

The hamsa, a symbol prevalent in Judaism and Islam, is also good at warding off evil. It’s no good at warding off taxes though.

In another example, there’s a curse among some actors about saying the name Macbeth in a theater which leads to bad luck. Depending on who you ask, there are different methods to dispelling the curse, a popular one being to leave the theater, walk around the building three times, spit over one’s left shoulder, say an obscenity, and then wait to be invited back into the theater.

Containing/canceling the curse. This is also optional in writing fiction, but it should be considered. Two things one should consider when figuring out how to cancel or seal a curse is that it should be difficult, and that it doesn’t necessarily have to do with the origin story. In the movie The Unborn, the dybbuk couldn’t be stopped until it was exorcised. A similar thing happened in the third movie in the American Grudge movies, in which case an exorcism that sealed Kayako into a little girl was needed before she could be stopped. In Japanese onryo legends, the spirit needs to have whatever is disturbing it resolved or it will continue to seek revenge.And in Bag of Bones, Sarah Tidwell did not end her curse until her bones were dissolved with lye, thereby releasing her from Earth.

That’s how you create a curse. As for creating a terrifying story involving that curse…well, that’s up to you. I’m not going to give you directions on that. Not in this post, anyway.

Oh, and one more thing: I saw Dracula Untold and Annabelle at the movies today with a friend. Both were excellent, getting 4.5 out of 5 from me. But something in the latter film really stuck with me: near the end, the priest character says that evil can only be contained, it’s not created or destroyed (or something like that). I think that when you’re writing a scary story, especially one involving curses, that’s some pretty good stuff to keep in mind. True evil is not something you can easily be rid of. At least, not in my experience.

What advice do you have for creating curses?

Have you written anything with curses recently?

Are there any stories of curses that are your favorite or that I didn’t include? Tell me a bit about them.

It’s Week 8 of the semester, which means it’s time I update you on how I’ve been doing so far in the semester. So if you haven’t heard the news so far, I’m extremely busy. I’ve got five classes and a thesis I’m working on, and a part-time job on top of that. I’ve got barely any time for blogging, and I’ve completely cut out television. And if I didn’t manage to find time most evenings right before bed, I’d think pleasure reading was some sort of drug the young people are on these days (though from what I hear that’s not the case at all).

Anyway, I’ve somehow managed to keep my grades up, though I’ll definitely try harder for the next exam in my History of War class, I’m not satisfied with the grade I got on the first one. My History of Pre-Modern East Asia course is going well, though the recitation class is a pain in the butt, even if it is somewhat helpful. Shakespeare is pretty interesting. The teacher is a fun character, and I’ve enjoyed reading Taming of the Shrew and The Merchant of Venice (we start Othello tomorrow as well as take our midterm). And remember that Biology course where we mainly watched movies about human anatomy? It’s like what I expected and then it’s not: most of the films we’ve watched deal with a lot of aspects of human health, so we’ve watched documentaries on our healthcare system and vaccines, a biopic on Louis Pasteur, and films on mental conditions like autism, addiction, and schizophrenia, among others. I think this week we watch a film about an English professor with cancer, but I’m not sure.

My creative writing class has been where I’ve learned the most, probably. I think I’ve made it clear that short stories are not my forte, but I’ve gotten some ideas on how to improve my short stories and my work in general. Already I’ve posted on some of the advice I’ve gotten from my classmates for one of my other short stories, and I’m looking forward to what they say about my next short story when I turn it in two weeks from now.

I’m also learning a lot from working on my thesis. My advisor, the other guy who’s also working on a thesis, and I don’t always have a lot of opportunities to meet up due to everyone having busy schedules and just the craziness of life, but I’ve found our sessions so far illuminating. While work on Rose has been slow due to the short story I’ve been working on for class, I’ve gotten some good advice on how to improve it, including making sure that the tone and atmosphere of the novel is consistent throughout. When it’s finished, I feel like it will have already have been edited a little bit due to the feedback I’ve gotten in the sessions we’ve had together.

Well, that’s all for now. I’ve got work to do, so I’m going to do it. I’ll update everyone again on how my semester is going when it’s over, so have a good 8-10 weeks until then. Until then, Followers of Fear. Wish me luck with the rest of the semester!

I just finished the second short story I’ll be submitting to my creative writing class. This one is titled “Frauwolf”, and it’s about a woman who turns into a werewolf–or as she prefers, frauwolf, meaning “woman wolf”. Werewolf mean “man wolf”, so my character thought she’d coin a term for the ladies out there. Anyway, she turns into a werewolf, but at a certain point she can’t tell whether she’s actually changing into a wolf creature or if she’s nuts, and I write it so I make it hard for even the reader to figure it out either.

This story’s also significant because the main character and her partner are both women, and it’s been a long while since I’ve written any characters that were LGBT (I originally intended to make 011 from Reborn City gay, but I didn’t think it fit with the story I was trying to create, so I mase him just creepy and sadistic and possibly asexual). I’m wondering if having two women in love will influence how anyone sees or likes this story. As far as I’m aware, non-hetero couples are still not very prominent in horror fiction, and it’s common for those that are to die pretty early on or be shunted to the side where they won’t make that much impact in the story. Perhaps having them at the forefront will make a difference.

This particular short story was probably one of the hardest I’ve ever had to work with ever. I had to go back three times to the beginning and start over because I didn’t like the way the story was going. Thus, about two or three weeks that could have been devoted to my thesis were devoted to this particular short story. Finally on the fourth try I came out with a version I happened to like.

Still, considering how I’m more suited for writing novels, I doubt “Frauwolf” will come away from critique day without a lot of comments and plenty of edits to make. I say, bring it on. I’m pretty sure there’s plenty of stuff I could do to improve the story, and if I decide to try to publish it in a magazine or something, plenty of the story I could cut out and rewrite to be shorter. And considering how much I love this story’s concept, I’m really hoping to find ways to improve it.

In any case, I’m putting this story away until it’s actually time to deal with it. I’ve still got a thesis to work on and I’ve taken too long of a break from it to get this thing done. If I finish my homework early (and that happens a lot on Tuesdays, for some reason), I’ll get right on the next chapter. Wish me luck, because I’ve got a meeting with my advisor on Wednesday and I don’t want to tell him I have nothing new to send him!

Well, I’m exhausted, so I’m going to rest and relax till bed. You have a good night, my Followers of Fear. Sweet nightmares to you all.

It’s been a while, but I just posted an article on Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors. This latest article is about following up on submissions to magazines after a lot of time has passed and you haven’t heard anything from them. I thought this would be a good article since my last one was about submitting to magazines in general. I’m hoping for those whose stories are stuck in a wait pile, this will prove very helpful and that they’ll be able to use the advice I give to maybe get their stories read and even published.

If you get the chance, please check out the article. And if you are so inclined, check out the rest of the site. Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors is a great resource for indie authors and even traditionally-published authors on how to write, edit, publish, and market in a cost efficient manner. I’ve found it very helpful, and I’m sure everyone else can too.

Well, I published my two or three articles. Now I’m going to work on a short story till bed. You all have a good night, my Followers of Fear. And if I get the chance, I’ll post something else tomorrow. Hopefully something spooky.

tqg cover

If you’re a fan of horror and you’re looking for something scary to read this October, then you’re probably looking for something in the vein of the masters: Anne Rice, Stephen King, Edgar Allen Poe, HP Lovecraft. If you’re a fan of horror and you’re looking for something scary to read this October and would like to check out something by a lesser known or independent author, then maybe I could persuade you to check out the first book I ever published, The Quiet Game: Five Tales To Chill Your Bones.

Over the year and three months since The Quiet Game has been published, people have checked out this creepy little tome, and judging by the reviews they’ve come away good and scared. Here are what readers have been saying:

This is the first time I’ve read any of Rami’s stories. I was very impressed with the wide variety of stories and the way he wove the paranormal into each piece. Paranormal is not something I usually read and I enjoyed this collection very much. The collection reminded me of the Twlight Zone. The descriptions were especially well developed. Keep on writing Rami!

–Arthur siegal

Imagine if you will a young Stephen King penning dark scenarios inspired by his youth, and what you get is this anthology. Through this collection of short stories, Rami Ungar brings us into the world of dark urges, childhood traumas, ghosts, phantoms, and dark psychological thrillers. An inspired creation, and definitely a good intro to this indie author’s world!
 –Matthew Williams
5 wonderfully crafted tales! I purchased this as an eBook originally and put off reading it for quite a while, I really wish I hadn’t waited. Sometimes when one purchases a collection of short stories you expect some of them to be less entertaining or of lower quality than the others, but none of these disappoint. Well worth the money, especially considering after you read each story the author gives you creative insight into what inspired him to write each tale, which is really wonderful.
 –Jeff D.

I’ve often mentioned that writing short stories is not my forte in the least, but at least with these stories people seem to really enjoy them. So if you’d like to see if these stories will spice up your October something frightening, check out The Quiet Game: Five Tales To Chill Your Bones, available in paperback and e-book from Amazon, Smashwords, and even Barnes & Noble.

And if you like what you read, or if you hate it, please let me know, either in a comment or in a review. Good or bad, I love feedback on my work. It encourages me to keep writing no matter what.
Hope you’re having a spooky month so far. I know I am, Followers of Fear.

I think you’ll notice that when I am able to post something new this month, it’s more likely than not because it’s related to Halloween. Why? Because Halloween is awesome! Anyway, I managed to somehow get through critiquing five short stories and a biology assignment, so before I attempt to finish a short story for class, I thought I’d take the time to write 2 or 3 blog posts. God knows I’ve been meaning to for days.

The first of these posts is dedicated to those who are still planning what to do for Halloween. And if you’re planning on giving out candy and have some time and funds on your hands, I would like to recommend you guys do this fun little attraction, which I call the Terror Home Theater. You can set this up outside your house, or if you’re able to, in your own garage. What you do is you create a four-sided structure big enough for a group of people to stand in. You have people line up outside and have them enter five or less at a time through the only door in the structure. Remember, the structure should not allow anyone from the outside to see inside, and they should only be aware of thedoor that everyone is entering and exiting through.

On the inside, you should have your computer and a projector that’s aimed at the far wall. Once people are inside, the computer will play a movie that the projector will show everyone. The movie should be no more than a minute or two, and should have plenty of scary imagery. Think the footage from the video in Ring if you’re looking for an example (see video below if you’re unfamiliar with the movie).

The idea of the Terror Home Theater is that while everyone is focused on the movie, someone wearing a really scary costume will sneak in, either from a hidden side entrance or from behind a curtain. When the group of people have finished the movie, they will most likely turn around, either a little unsettled or wondering why that movie was supposed to be scary. At that point they will notice the person in the scary costume standing behind them, who is hopefully doing their best to scare them. And hopefully they will scream.

This is the Terror Home Theater, and there are lots of ways you can go about creating it and/or customizing it. The way I outline it above is a basic version that I thought would be interesting to do, if only I had the supplies and the time to set it up, as well as a neighborhood that people trick or treat in to do it. If you can, you can set it up in your garage using nothing more than curtains and someone manning the entrance and/or the controls (how you get the movie to play is up to you).

If you get the chance and are able to create one, I hope you will do me the honor of filming it, posting the results on YouTube, and then sending it my way. I would love to see what you pull off.

Would you do the Terror Home Theater if possible?

How would you make it your own?