Originally posted on Novel Writing Festival: PITCH: Title: The Vorbing Written by: Stewart Stafford Type: Novel Genre: Fantasy/Horror Logline: The Vorbing is a fantasy/horror concerning Vlad Ingisbohr’s struggle to free his village from the reign of terror of vampires and avenge his father’s death at their hands. Interested in this logline, please email us at…
Where do you start your story? A key question and one of hundreds if not thousands to be answered when writing and publishing a book. Do you start when your character is born or before? When they are a child? A teenager? An adult? When they get married? When they are old? Do you start at the point of death or after and tell the story in flashback?
If you were telling the story of your life, where would you choose to start and why? Looking at your characters in the same way and treating their lives as real can be hugely beneficial. When you start treating them seriously, they become more realistic to you and hopefully your readers.
When a potential reader opens your book, how do you pique their interest? Your first sentence is crucial. The point you choose to start the story will determine that first sentence. The whole structure is like a line of dominoes (no, not the pizza place); set the first one right and the rest should stand. Get it wrong and they all could topple.
It took me many years to publish my book The Vorbing and, during that time, I wrote many different versions of it. I went through a city map of blind alleys but it taught me what worked and didn’t work each time and sharpened the story. When the time came to pull all the strands together, I could use all the best bits from all the various drafts to come up with a kind of “greatest hits” version of the story. All those ideas gave the whole thing a fast pace and fresh perspective. I won’t have that luxury on book two, but such is the challenge of writing.
This is where a fresh pair of (preferably experienced) eyes on your work can pinpoint a loss of initial focus. Even if you need to lose earlier material, you can use it later in the story or in a sequel or even just as backstory to help you know your characters better. No piece of writing is ever really wasted. You can cannibalize it later or even combine bits to create a new story (Anne Rice was writing a book set in Atlantis and hit a dead end, so she put her vampire Lestat into the mix and, hey presto, got a new Vampire Chronicles book out of it – Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis.)
That old cliche “you never get a second chance to make a first impression” is doubly true for writers, especially in the internet age. If someone is viewing a preview of your book using the “Look Inside” option on Amazon, that mouse button is right at their fingertips and they are ready to click off if you fail to hook them. So think carefully about that first sentence. Be original. Be surprising, but be true to your characters, your story and yourself above all.
© Stewart Stafford, 2016. All rights reserved.
Imaginary things take time to write. Fantasy and horror and, to a lesser extent, science fiction can be among the toughest genres to write as they are works of pure imagination. Science fiction can be slightly researched and current trends can be followed to their logical conclusion. Educated guesses can be made as to what direction science will go in. Fantasy and horror mostly comprise world-building from scratch and, depending on the writer, the concepts can take time to generate.
Added to that, readers want new product yesterday. They’ve become ultra-impatient in the internet age. Some of them even refuse to read the first book in a series as they are unable to wait for the other books to be written and published. “Am I going to have to wait years for you to finish your Vorbing trilogy? I’m an impatient bitch,” one of my readers helpfully explained to me.
In their book, The Neuroscience of Clinical Psychiatry: The Pathophysiology of Behavior and Mental Illness, Edmund S. Higgins and Mark S. George note: “People who can delay gratification and control their impulses appear to achieve more in the long run. Attention and impulsivity are opposite sides of the same coin.” This is especially true of all those internet babies who have grown up in the technological age. So the internet is a bit like Brexit; we don’t know what the full implications of its arrival are yet.
The web has its advantages. It’s a phenomenal communication tool. Twitter has definitely made me think faster and streamline messages better, that is certain. As a way of quickly disseminating a message or a product worldwide immediately, the web takes some beating. The net is like a giant synthetic brain our thought patterns are connected to (a strength and a weakness that can be exploited). There are concerns over privacy and who is doing what with our data and those worries will only increase as time goes on.
Back to the writing. This awareness of the disintegration of attention spans has unquestionably changed both the method and style I employ when writing books. I started writing my first book when the internet was in its infancy. I was able to remain in the world I had created all day interacting with my characters. I was totally immersed in it and wouldn’t notice hours passing. Now social media, that great thief of time, eats up chunks of my day without me noticing hours passing. I mostly interact online with people I don’t know instead of my characters. I’m totally immersed in the internet. Writing is done now in feverish bursts to meet my daily word count so I can get back online. Experience has enabled me to do much more in less time though. I no longer need to spend all day going down blind alleys trying to find myself creatively. So perhaps there is no damage done there.
There are writers who have given up social media for a month to get books out there. I’d be concerned about losing half my hard-earned followers. You can’t expect people to continue following you if you’re offline for weeks. Especially if you’re a self-published writer dependent on social media to market your books. It appears to be a 21st-century Faustian pact with the web.
Then there is the pace of the novel itself. I am only too aware that if you fail to hold the attention of your readers, social media is tickling their ears non-stop to woo them away. So they’re dealing with getting their electronic fix too (especially if they’re consuming your book on an e-reader or smartphone app that’s connected to the internet and the ejector seat button for your novel is half an inch away). The pacing of a novel has to match the online frenzy going on out there or you’re toast. Then again, if the flour is going rotten to begin with, maybe the quality of the toast isn’t so important these days. We shall see.
So the internet has rewired our brains, changed our expectations and how books are written, edited, sold and read (or not as the case may be). What form will books take in 2026? 2036? 2066? Will we be taking downloads directly into our brains as in a William Gibson cyberpunk novel? I have a saying: “The possible is just the impossible that we’ve come to accept.” It will happen.
My novel “The Vorbing” is available here
© Stewart Stafford, 2016. All rights reserved.
The first review of my book came in last night. For some reason, it took a long time to load on my computer. So I was pacing the room looking at the screen out of the corner of my eye, wanting to see and not wanting to see. Finally, it uploaded and this flashed up:
“A dark, debut fantasy that chronicles a young man’s war against an army of vampires terrorizing his village.
Vlad Ingisbohr lives in the medieval town of Nocturne, which is full of Christian believers and plagued by bestial, winged vampires. Led by the savage Deadulus, the vampires spend each night tearing unwary people apart. Their feeding—or “vorbing”—is so brutal that no victims are left intact to rise from the dead as new bloodsuckers. The Nocturnians’ will to live is bolstered by a prophecy that claims that a blind man will “deliver them all from evil by defeating the vampires.” Vlad would rather take action himself, however, and get revenge on the monsters who killed his father at the battle of McLintock’s Spit. But when he tries to rouse the citizens of Nocturne against their common enemies, the village elders banish him for questioning God’s will. Distraught, and separated from both his mother, Hana, and his love, Ula, Vlad heads for the garrison town of Mortis. There, he hopes to recruit knights to Nocturne’s cause. Along the way, Vlad meets some strange new allies, like Norvad the beggar, as well as enemies, like the tree-dwelling Yara-Ma. Meanwhile, Deadulus and his minions follow the courageous lad’s movements from Vampire Mountain. Stafford’s novel proceeds in a stately cadence that fans of H.P. Lovecraft and Lord Dunsany will appreciate. He finely crafts his Gothic atmosphere at every turn: “Birds had pecked out the dead man’s eyes and the gaping, congealed eye sockets…seemed to stare eerily at Vlad.” The “vorbing” descriptions are equally detailed and not for the easily disturbed (“[A]n arterial spray usually erupted forth from the victim and every vampire…captured all of it in their gaping mouths”). Stafford hasn’t just delivered a splatterfest, though. There are twists aplenty, as well as hefty bolts of wisdom throughout Vlad’s epic quest, including the notion that the hero shouldn’t run from the vampires: “By surviving, he could learn and transcend anything.” A monstrously satisfying—and shocking—ending allows for a sequel.
A novel that’s a gift to lovers of heroic philosophy, vampire lore and gory action.”
I’d love your feedback on this. What do you think of the review? Is this the kind of book you’d like to read? Please leave any comments below.
Who is the baddest-ass vampire of them all?
Dark Shadows fans, I summon thee!
Barnabas Collins, the anti-heroic bloodsucker from ABC’s undyingly popular supernatural soap opera of the 1960s, has been selected as one of eight candidates for Best Vampire in the World Series of Monsters, an 11-category competition going on now on the HitFix website. But, with voting set to close today (October 26), TV’s “cool ghoul” is currently in last place.
This is an outrage of the first order. And one that must not stand.
As portrayed by Canadian actor Jonathan Frid, Barnabas became an international sensation when he was introduced to the viewers of the ratings-starved daytime soap in April of 1967. What was intended to be a 13-week ratings stunt turned into four years of witches, werewolves and zombies, with some of the most outlandish plotlines ever to grace TV screens at any hour of the day. And…
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