© Gjs | Dreamstime Stock Photos
© Gjs | Dreamstime Stock Photos
Sex and violence sell very well. So you have to learn how to write the darned scenes that contain them. But you’re not alone if you’ve never written a love or fight scene before. We’ve all been in that position. It’s daunting because involve similar — movements, limbs in awkward positions, adrenaline
Easier said than done. But let’s concentrate on the violence for this time.
You may not be choreographing a Hollywood fight scene but even the most far-fetched sequences are grounded in reality. Heroes dodge bullets and take beatings but they still bleed. I’ve discovered that it really helps to take an assortment of self-defence or martial arts class. You’ll discover that the most important part of combat is the mind. Strength and lightning-speed reflexes are nothing without control. You’ll also find out that most fights are brief and brutal. Real punches and kicks hurt (and you’re only sparring). I’ve been hit with the end of a fencing foil many times — so, imagine one lethal stab.
The other inhibition is related to writing love scenes. Some writers feel a little awkward at first, because they feel that readers may think the violence described in the story comes directly out of the writer’s own experience. Relax, just because you know of 50 different ways to kill a person with a pair of chopsticks doesn’t mean you’re a killer. A little more inventive, perhaps.
“My life sucks!” wailed a teenage girl to me.
I gazed at her and replied, “Really? Can you answer ‘Yes’ to any of the following questions?” :
1. Is someone trying to kill you?
2. Is someone trying to kill you because all you want is to go to school and have a basic education?
3. Is your family threatening to kill you because you have a crush on a boy?
4. Is your life in danger because you are a woman who dares to speak her mind?
5. Do you suffer pain, torture and physical/mental abuse just because you’re born a woman?
6. Is your life in danger on a daily basis just because you’re a woman?
7. Is your life in danger because you’re a woman who dares to stand up for herself, her children and her sisters?
“I can’t answer ‘yes’ to any of those questions.” said the girl.
“That’s because your life most definitely DOES NOT SUCK. ” I replied.
“Book to film” — the phrase sounds simple, like traversing two different mediums but the process is more like a change of state. Think of dry ice sublimating into carbon dioxide and the amount of energy required for the transformation. You may get a weak fizzing or a loud explosion before viewing the final product.
Some adaptations are good films but bad adaptations (Blade Runner is off-worlds away from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) or bad films and good adaptations (Perfume managed to convey the olfactory overload of the novel at the cost of pacing and charactezisation). When a film delivers on both counts (good film and adaptation), readers and movie audiences should rejoice.
Life of Pi is not perfect but it takes the best elements from an unfilmable source text. The main draw is the interaction between Bengal tiger, Richard Parker and shipwrecked boy, Pi Patel . If you thought the apes in Rise of the Planet of the Apes were realistic you will be glad that you are not stuck on the same lifeboat as Richard Parker.
It’s the end of 2012 (and no Mayan end of the world in sight ). I round off another year with a new short story, “Ninja Wings’, published in the December 2012 issue of Esquire Magazine, Malaysia.
Alison Flood’s article article in The Guardian set me thinking about horror/supernatural fiction. Readers cite the usual horror suspects (King, Poe, Shirley Jackson…) but I remember as a reader that my literary scares came from reading short stories in old anthologies borrowed from libraries or unearthed in clearance book sales. I discovered new names and old names; wonderful tales by one-hit wonders and stories by writers that you’d normally would not associate with horror/ supernatural fiction.
Some of these old anthologies are long out of print, but links to more available editions are included where possible.
1) ”Not Exactly Ghosts” Andrew Caldecott (Wordsworth Editions 2007)
Sir Andrew Caldecott is better known as a diplomat and ex-governor of Hong Kong and Singapore. His administrative legacy endures (Mediacorp, the home of Singapore Broadcasting, resides on Caldecott Hill) but his literary legacy is criminally underrated. Buy this if you want subtle early 20th-Century ghost stories, where mundane objects like a water pump, a pair of trousers and a church organ are haunted .
2)“The Party” “The Partnership” William F. Nolan
What? Horror from one of the writers of “Logan’s Run”? I had to struggle to put the 1976 movie out of my head, Nolan writes superb dark psychological tales and “The Party” was as chosen by Newsweek as one of the top ten most effective horror stories. ”The Partnership” is an unsettling sample of American Gothic that was adapted for the anthology TV series “Darkroom” in 1980. Now I want a copy of “Logan’s Run” because the book is much grittier and deserves better, before Hollywood got its mitts on it for the movie.
3)”Video Nasty” Phillip Pullman (1996). Published in “The Mammoth Book of Modern Ghost Stories” edited by Peter Haining (Mammoth Books 2007)
Yes, dear reader you read the name correctly. Mr. Pullman, of “Northern Lights” fame . Just like its title, “Video Nasty” is an unmercifully visceral short ghost story that raises more troubling questions than answers. Parallels between ‘The Ring’ are merely coincidental (it was written 3 years before the Japanese film version hit mainstream Western audiences)
4) The Machine Stops E.M Forster
A dystopian science-fiction story by one of the foremost critics of science-fiction. This is not a horror story but I urge you not to shudder at Forster’s vision of future humans reduced to fungoid growths by their slavish dependence on technology.
5) The Lamp Agatha Christie(1933). Published in“The Hound of Death and other stories” (Harper Collins Ltd)
The Queen of Crime also reigns supreme as a ghost story writer . Poignant and eerie, “The Lamp” has a unique atmosphere that does not disperse, even when you have switched on all the lights.
6) All But Empty Graham Greene
A murder is connected to an afternoon matinee attended by only two people. Invariably, there is a twist ending but *what* a twist it is.
7) Close Behind Him John Wyndham
In his famous novels such as ‘The Day of the Triffids’ and ‘The Midwich Cuckoos’, Wyndham created his own genre of ‘logical fantasy’ and he applies the same precise structuring and prose to this story of murder avenged.
8) The Ball Room, China Mieville “Looking For Jake and Other Stories” (Pan, 2006)
Can China Mieville’s prose hack it in a real-world setting? It does and you almost wish he wrote more contemporary fiction. You will never dare go near a children’s play area after reading this.
9) The Dancing Partner Jerome K. Jerome
The author of the classic comic novel “Three Men In a Boat” displays a rarely-seen warped sense of humour in this tale of a toy dancing-partner that *never* wants to stop dancing.
10) The Signalman Charles Dickens
Incisive social commentary of Victorian England? Check. Effortless lucid prose from a master writer? Check. Eccentric ghosts a la “A Christmas Carol”? Absent. A disturbing ending that ensures sleeping with all the lights on? Present.
Other suggestions/ additions to this list? Comment below thank you