Usually I don't allow myself to watch horror films outside the month of October (in preparation for Halloween), but this was an itch that I just had to scratch.
The other night I went to my local Book/Video store and bought a scary film that I saw in theaters last year and thoroughly enjoyed. I also picked up a new one that I wanted to see in theaters but missed the opportunity.
I'm a big "save the best for last" kind of person. So I decided to watch the one I had already seen first, before I watched the film that I was waiting to see.
Sinister was the movie I watched first.
If you haven't seen it, you should because it really is a fantastic piece of storytelling.
Upon my second viewing I still got all the heebie-jeebies that I did the first time I saw it.
Then I watched Dark Skies which was also quite scary (for me) and terribly enjoyable.
The same production team was involved with both films so naturally there are similarities to the way the stories were told.
The following day, my hunger for something scary still wasn't entirely sated. I own many horror films, but I wanted something new and fresh that I hadn't seen before. I was so pleased with my viewing of Dark Skies that I wanted more of those same feelings.
Alas, by the time I got off work the shop where I buy most of my movies and books was already closed. So I came home and turned on Sinister, not to watch the film again, but because I had noticed that there were two different commentaries for the film. One by the Director, and one by the Writers.
Sinister is such a unique film in so many ways that I was quite curious as to how they found the inspiration for the film, and what led them to make some of the storytelling choices that they did.
Not only did I get the answer to those questions, but I also got an impromptu writing class by listening to the commentary.
One quote stood out to me in particular:
"When you're writing speculative, or genre fiction ... come up with your story first then introduce the genre elements later. At it's heart, Sinister is a movie about a guy's fear of failure, and how his family is slowly being torn apart by his quest to reclaim his fame..."
I actually paused the film, and went back to memorize that quote again for you.
My eyes were probably the size of tennis balls.
You see, I write Middle Grade Fantasy - speculative fiction. No doubt many of you also write speculative (genre) fiction.
I sat up and thought about some of the greatest stories.
They all revolved around an emotional idea. The Heart of the story.
The setting, the world-building, the twist ending, the intricate plotting all were secondary to the most important thing: The Heart.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is about a girl and her three friends on a quest to find what makes them whole.
Harry Potter is about an abused orphan on a mission to confront the man who murdered his parents.
The Gone series is a modern day Lord of the Flies that shows the depths of darkness in a young person's soul, and questions the Nature versus Nurture aspect of Good and Evil.
The Dark Tower series is about one man's quest to find the meaning of life while being surrounded by (and propagating) death.
I must admit, I panicked for a moment.
Sure, I just re-wrote my manuscript. I went down from 95,000 to 71,000 then to 52,000 words. But what was my story about? What was the Heart of this new draft?
Three seconds after I asked this question I had my answer...
What is the heart of your story? Can it be summed up in a sentence? Is it the thing around which your entire manuscript revolves?
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