“Notes on Writing Weird Fiction” by H.P. Lovecraft (1937) | Contextos, pretextos y apetencias desde Alejandría
If any of my Latinas are reading this, please send a thank you note to the original poster.
So, here’s the reworked outline for AMOS with Mecium completely removed. The narrator simply meets Fuligo himself.
I also pumped up the angle of the narrator being a stuffy old scientist that gets enchanted with Fuligo’s world of magic and mystery.
[chapter] Introduction – 250/500.
[scene] Narrator reads that Fuligo has been found dead. He begins his story..
The Narrator reveals that he was friends with the mysterious dead body recently pulled from the alcohol sea.
He decides that it is past time that he record the strange story of his friend Fuligo.
[scene] Narrator meets Fuligo at the Pro Club.
The Narrator hears Fuligo talking about occult matters.
He snorts derisively.
[chapter] Rising Action – 375/750.
[scene] Narrator learns that Fuligo is a famous scientist, is enchanted by romantic thoughts of exploration..
Thoughts of the mysterious reef bring out a child-like sense of wonder in the starchy narrator.
When he hears that Fuligo is a researcher there, he feels ashamed for mocking him.
[scene] Narrator grows close with Fuligo, scoffs initially at his supernatural stories, but is drawn to him.
The narrator befriends Fuligo despite their differences in world views.
He learns that folks who believe in the supernatural can still be intelligent and reasonable.
[chapter] Progress – 625/1250.
[scene] The gandeur and mystery in Fuligo’s occult stories begins to inspire the Narrator.
WIth Fuligo, the narrator recaptures his sense of magic in the natural sciences.
[scene] Narrator really begins to learn from Fuligo.
The narrator finally begins to help Fuligo with his paranormal investigations.
[chapter] Raising the Stakes – 625/1250.
[scene] Fuligo begins to obsess about the reef.
Fuligo’s mania begins to reveal itself.
He becomes more and more obsessed with the reef.
The narrator starts to get scared.
[scene] Fuligo tells the Narrator about being overcome at the reef.
Fuligo tells the narrator about the time he had a strange vision while taking samples from the reef.
His sense of perspective was permanantly warped by it.
He still has a sample which he intends to ingest…
[chapter] Final Push – 500/1000.
[scene] Fuligo runs into Narrator.
Fuligo, panicked and wide eyed, runs into the Narrator.
Fuligo finally agrees to tell the narrator what happened when he ingested the reef sample.
[scene] Fuligo sees the Fthunghus.
Fuligo tells the tale of his experience with an immense, multi-cellular amalgam gestalt, an impossible composite multi-creature.
Here he describes the differences between himself and the creature. It becomes apparent that Fuligo is a single celled organism (dog vomit slime mold?) encountering a more complex lifeform(mold. possibly one hallucinogenic dust spores?).
It is not the simple and elegant bodies of the narrator or Fuligo.
The individuals that made it up were twisted slaves, warped into mere functioning cogs, serving only a part in the greater purpose of the whole. Bound together inextricably, their wills bent to the awful compound creature.
[scene] Fuligo gives Narrator the sample and runs off.
After recounting his tale, Fuligo is even more shaken.
He regrets all his paranormal investigation and gives the reef sample to the narrator.
[chapter] Denouement – 125/250.
[scene] Narrator’s ruminations.
He reveals that his “journal” is really the stringing together of cellular level memory RNA protein chains.
He shudders at the tale and remarks on his newly discovered insignificance.
Eyes the package of mold spore/reef chunk/hallucinogenic drugs.
Working on A Matter of Scale for Fungus has two great things going for it:
1) A pre-fabricated, fun topic
2) A hard deadline
Now, here’s another event with the same great qualities:
After A Matter of Scale, it’s back to An American Warlock in R’lreh for me. But if you’ve been sitting around your entire life thinking, “Gee, I should write a book.. eh, someday…” Thursday Never Looking Back might be just the kick in the ass you need.
Well, this is turning out harder than I expected. I figured I could pretty much replace all “Mecium”s with “Fuligo”s and be 90% done. No such luck.
I think I’ll be able to salvage most of the text in the end, but it’s no use trying to reshape the story while reading it in a single document. It needs some heavy reorganization.
This means I’m going back to the drawing board: starting a completely new outline in yWriter.
So expect a new rough draft soon, complete with all the typos you’ve come to know and love in my stuff.
Why is Zemanta recommending an article about Sonic 4′s Physics?
Maybe you remember last month when BlackAlchemy hosted a bunch of fan written, werewolf flash fiction over at The Voice of Rage and Ruin. Well, it looks like it’s falling to me to take over for February since she’s been MIA for a few weeks now.
I hope she’s:
A) Drinking margaritas on the beach in Mexico, petting pool boys
B) A rich, successful, published author with far too little time to maintain her blog
C) Holed up somewhere with an axe and some Molotov cocktails fending off zombie hordes
My original plan was to just let Howlings fall into obscurity because I’m totally lazy. It turns out though, that we’ve already got submissions lined up! The people have spoken and who am I to deny them?
So what are you waiting for? Write your werewolf stories already! Post them in the comments below. Haiku, flash fiction, short stories, we like them all. If you’ve got something longer you’d like to share(that’s what she said), email it to us and we’ll post a link and an excerpt.
This month, we’ve got a great story from cool chick DeadEndEmily. Chickens can check out her tamer – and remember “tamer” is a relative word – works here, while the braver among you can see her gorier stuff here.
Merry Christmas, Anya by DeadEndEmily
Read the full version here
She took a drag of his cigarette before snapping his neck. He lay there lifeless as a dead bird that had plunged head first into a glass window. “Sucks to be you,” Anya mused aloud looking down at his broken form. She was naked, and her ivory skin was streaked in mud from the back alley where she was now standing. The man was a known murderer for the Polish mob. The only people who would miss him were the scum that paid for his services. There might be a short hunt for his killer by both the police and Pols but they wouldn’t find anything except a smoked cigarette and his body. The police would assume it was a mob hit, and the mob would probably think it was a revenge scheme. Of course both of them would be wrong. Anya stepped out the cigarette with her bare foot and looked up at the shinning luminescence of mother moon and let out a piercing howl as she melted from woman to wolf. She looked back once more at her kill and sprinted into the darkness.
I got some more great feedback on A Matter of Scale from fellow handsome writer John. I’m going to put his comments in a post as well so everyone can see them.
Mike! Did I know that you were writing? What fun! I feel like maybe I didn’t, or maybe I did and forgot, either way, saw this in my hotmail box and spent some time exploring your wordpress site. I don’t think I’m quite adventurous enough to tackle one of your longer pieces, but thought I could at least help with your Fungus Amongus story. Plus, it gives me an opportunity to shirk my responsibilities for a bit.
So, I read this a couple times. And I copied it into word so I could track changes with my edits and comments.
Being as I am me and you are you, I will skip the pleasantries if that’s OK, and dive into the edits.
And now onto his comments. First, he noticed plenty of parts where the timeline is inconsistent.
Comment on timeline. I think the timeline is a bit overworked, and more confusing than it needs to be. So the actual timeline of this story is one night, PC is at the club, is distracted about what he knows about Mecium and the reef, and goes home to write about it in his journal. What’s the impetus? Why is tonight the night to write or why are his thoughts about mecium occurring today. The inciting events from Mecium must have taken place a while back because the scene on the street and Mecium’s death must have occurred at least a little while back. I like the idea that Mecium’s death gets introduced earlier, it’s a nice hook, and could start as a better jumping off point as PC thinks about what there is to say about his once close friend who is now dead and then can retrack what lead to his death, thus giving us the meat of this story. Otherwise, if you don’t want to do that, it would help if this story had a bigger lag, like PC is recounting this story as an old man, thinking back on his old friend Mecium and the oddity of his death.
Timeline again. He can’t have met Mecium on the street the same night that he’s writing this log, or how would he know that Mecium is dead?
He’s right! At the beginning of the story, the narrator is talking about how he was distracted this evening at the SMRAM club because of the strange story he had recently heard from his pal, Mecium. By the end of the story, the narrator is writing in his journal after having just run into Mecium in the streets earlier that evening.
I’m not quite sure I like the idea of the narrator telling the story many years after the fact. I think that hearing the story and exposure to Mecium’s “sample” would have a quick insanitizing effect of the narrator.
Let’s say the narrator holds onto the sample and keeps quiet about it until he’s old. Before he dies, he wants to get his story out and heard by people. That would jive with his confessions of vanity earlier on.
“how would he know that Mecium is dead?”
There’s a little line at the end: “Mecium is dead. His desiccated corpse will be found floating…” I thought having the narrator display knowledge of horrible events yet to come might make it seem like he’s already starting to go a little mad himself. Maybe it was too much of a throw-away line?
If the narrator meets Mecium one night, hears his tale and receives the sample, then Mecium could disappear mysteriously. Years later, a bizarre, unidentifiable corpse could be found. The narrator knows who it is: Mecium. And that prompts him to write his journal entry.
I’d prefer a particular finding/fake journal article title instead of “latest findings in the fashionable scientific journals.” Think something concrete will feel more real.
I have to agree with that. Some old timey, clearly crackpot pseudo-science talk would sound good here.
“I record Mr. Mecium’s tale tonight as a cautionary one for whatever audience…”
Story isn’t really a cautionary tale, feels more like the recounting of some fantastic insight, but it doesn’t end with a warning.
True, again. It sounds good, though. He doesn’t need to explain that it’s a cautionary tale if it’s made clear he’s writing it in a fit of hubris.
I think I want to focus n that aspect of the narrator a little more: his need for being remembered, living on. At a guess, I would say protozoa live only a very short time. A fungus lives longer, but still way less than a human. It might be cool for the narrator to look at a blink-of-the-eye, POS fungus as eternal.
I want more description in this scee[Mecium's tale of his personal experience with the supernatural]: size of the balls of light, where he was, how long it lasted, how did they disappear, was there sound, etc…
Sally requested more detail here too. The problem is that I want this encounter to be revealed as merely mitochondria at the end of the story, so I can’t gve too much away here. I kind of thought that since this was the narrator recounting Mecium’s story that he would just say, “Oh, he saw some dang old balls of light or something.” Really, though, but the point that he’s writing this entry, he would be more open to the possibility of the supernatural.
Maore detail can’t hurt, right? Duration, size, sound, just like you suggest.
“many hours of conversation that we partook in .”
I think that if you rephrased to have sentences not end in prepositions that will help with the “old-timey” feel, i.e. “many hours of conversation in which we partook.”
Good spot and suggestion! I should look for that kind of phrasing throughout the story.
“After all, what was electricity a mere hundred years ago if not magic? To our ancient troglodyte ancestors even the sun rising each morning must have been an hideous occult mystery “
These two examples of magic: I think it would be fun if one of them was an incorrect thing that we today know is false. Like something they believe in at PC’s time that is greater than the wisdom before it, but we the reader know that that thing is discredited today. Like something about the body’s humors or something.
That does sound fun and goes back to the suggestion of the comment where he wanted more detail about what the SMRAM club was talking about. The humors of the body is just about perfect sinec it sounds so ye olde timey AND fits perfectly with single celled organisms.
“I suppose it was the mention of “speaking through time” to our descendants that spoke to me, that made me pause to take his nearly babbling rambles seriously. “
PC seems to be the staunch empiricist, rigid and tempermental, it seems a little bit off to me that he is pliant just because of this mention of the journal. I think at this point he still keeps his intellectual distance, but remains interested in a scientific sense, with a desire to observe and analyze Mecium and his story, versus being convinced by him.
While the narrator is the voice of reason in this story, I think he needs at least a dash of imagination and romance in him. That’s why I put in the part where he gets excited about the exploration of the reef. If he was just a no-nonsense, science dude, he’d dismiss the entire affair as twaddle(a word I should use more often in this story).
Focusing more on his desire to achieve immortality through memory will, I think, help to explain why Mecium’s speech here strikes a chord in the narrator.
“The key difference was that instead of chip-chipping away with these facts at the stone and mortar of the universe in an attempt to uncover the secrets held within, we used these new data as road maps . We followed them outward in the hopes of expanding our knowledge of our world ever farther.”
Road maps feels too modern. Cartography maybe?
I really struggled with this sentence. I like the comparison between Mecium/Fuligo versus the narrator. The narrator whittles away the mysteries and magic of the word to get to the cold hard facts at the center. Fuligo opens his mind to the supernatural to gain a wider view of the world.
I like the first half of the metaphor: the narrator chip-chipping away at a marble block to reveal a statue. The “road map” half is weak, though, I agree. What else could go there? I guess building blocks that fit together into an ever growing structure? That sounds better to me.
“Fuligo was THE Fuligo. The one I had been reading about week after week only a few years back.”
This feels like a late reveal. I think its fine at the beginning of Mecium’s story we can reveal the he knows the famous Fuligo. It seems odd that Mecium would have mentioned Fuligo a few times prior at the SMRAm club without ever noting that he knew a newsworthy intrepid explorer.
This is especially true if I cut out Mecium altogether and just have the narrator meet Fuligo. I think there should be a period where the narrator is disgusted with this new Fulgo chap with his superstitious baloney. Then he can feel embarrassed when he finds out that Fuligo is a famous scientist and explorer.
Not a huge fan of this third layer coming in. Maybe mecium recounts Fuligo’s tale, his own circumspection, his journey to discover the truth behind Fuligo’s words, etc, instead of a rote recital of Fuligo’s letter.
I’m pretty sure at this point that I’m getting rid of the middle-man Mecium. That should help this part out.
Boson feels too modern.
Feels too early for fractals too.
Boson I can cut easily.
Besides fractal, is there another word that conveys that each part of a whole contains the entire whole within it?
I think we need something of the “man learns a lesson” trope to cap off the story a little bit, like PC realizes the limited nature of what he call science, or that he wishes he had the nerve to taste the fungus and challenge it with his mind or that he will be the pioneer to truly understand the fungus and its ramifications, or that he wishes he could dismiss what he knows and turn back to a world where everything made sense. I need him to change or retrospectate (love that word I just made up) a little.
At the end, he should definitely be admitting how wrong he’s been his entire life. That there are crazy things out there that his science just can’t explain.
They’re protozoa! I get it and like the reveal. Actually, I had a suspicion that something like this would happen, although I don’t think the story forecasted it so much so as possibly from knowing you. Anyway, overall I thought the story was fun, and certainly has that classic horror feel to it. It’s also a fun idea, but I can see how it’s a head hurting one trying to determine just what about the protozoan world is like us and unlike us.
A thought about the world: I think it should feel one of two ways, 1) distinctly set somewhere in our history, i.e. the history of human lives like turn the 1800s or something or it should be distinctly be similar to our world but with some minor description, incidental information that makes the reader aware already that there’s something a little bit off about the world we are reading about, not enough to give it away, just some sense that things aren’t quite right with this place. Does that make sense?
I didn’t get too much into the specificities of language too much, copy editing and style, that sort of thing, since I spent most of my time on the big structure and story arc. I could go back into a later draft with a finer look at things like that if you want.
Anyway, big fun, but I suppose now I’ll have to race you to my own story about fungus as such:
It began with the Clinton growing nose watch.
Then the Rotato.
Also, some Fungus.
Man, that’s like two entire novels! I’m properly cowed.
As for setting the story in a “slightly-off” version of our world, does the giant reef do enough of that? Maybe I should specify that it’s a “land reef” or something?
The problem, again, is that I don’t want to give away that they’re protozoa until the end and I don’t want to give false details at the beginning.
I guess I mention fireplaces and bookshelves, though, which amoebae don’t have. (OR DO THEY dun dun DUUUHHHN!!)
Anyway, tons of great feedback! Thanks again!
Now to rewrite this entire damn thing.
I got some amazing feedback on the first draft of “A Matter of Scale” from Sally Panayiotou. Sally, thank you once again for writing out this great critique! I think it’s really going to help me shape AMOS into something readable and enjoyable.
Sally has a great site all about the writing, editing and publishing process. Take a look at it here.
And don’t forget to download her free novels!
Sally was nice enough to let me post her comments here along with my responses. If anyone else reads this, please chime in with your opinions.
Before I start, here’s a little history about this story. It is intended as a complete short story for Fungus, which is being published by Innsmouth Free Press. You can read all about Fungus here.
The requirements for Fungus are:
1. 5000 or fewer words (it is)
2. A fungus of some type must be a key element in the story (it *spoiler alert* does)
Innsmouth Free Press has a real love for H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos. You can see that I do as well if you read my 2011 NaNoWriMo entry, An American Warlock in R’yleh.
If you’re unfamiliar with Lovecraft, or just interested in reading his stories, you can download them in digital format free and legally here.
For AMOS, I wanted to take a traditional Lovecraft tale of encountering an unknowable horror and give it the fungal twist that Innsmouth Free Press is looking for.
For inspirations for AMOS, check out Lovecraft’s “The Call of Cthulhu”, arguably his most famous work as well as the story that AMOS is most paying tribute to.
Let’s get started! In Sally’s comments, I’ll interject my thoughts in bold.
This is well written and there’s intrigue here to keep me engaged So far, so good. This chick really seems like she has a head on her shoulders, but as you’re clear this is a draft I’m going to try and be constructive here. This is just my opinion so of course accept or dismiss at will. Also I don’t have any background on this so I’m not sure if this is an extract partway in or the beginning: This is supposed to be a full short story. Does it feel incomplete?
- There are some beautiful phrases and choices of words in here. “It was there that I met many of my closest friends and also where I made several of my dearest enemies”
The oxymoron of ‘dearest enemies’ as well as the contrast of using such an affectionate term against the lukewarm ‘closest friends’ is fantastic. It instantly tells us so much about the character. This phrase hadn’t really made a ripple in me. I’m glad you liked it. Maybe I should even “luke warm it up” a little? Change it from ‘friends’ to ‘acquaintances’ or something along those lines. That whole paragraph is beautifully written, with the word ‘hindsight’ giving us a good sense of him having travelled some kind of journey.
I also really liked:
“The subject of his mania – once a source of derisive laughter from me – became merely an endearing quirk that I happily side-stepped during the many hours of conversation that we partook in. Mecium, a true gentleman, was all too happy to leave the offending subject behind and to focus on our more mutual interests.”
It gives us a good sense of both characters.
- This feels as if its set in the 19th century and written in the style of the time. On the whole that works well, although there’s a bit of a contrast when we get to the description of the reef, which feels a little more contemporary (also I’m not sure how true ‘awe-inspiring’ is to the style). I’m not sure what the solution is but it left me a bit unclear on when it is actually set. I did want this story to sound “Old Timey”. If there are parts that stick out and contemporary, I need to fix them.
- There are a few example where I feel you over-describe:
“Or the preternatural or super-mundane While back then, of course, I would have used the words occult, even eldritch or simply weird.” (‘simply weird’ is modern vernacular, which feels stylistically out of place)
I feel like “weird” is the right word to use here. These days, “weird” means “silly” or “strange”, but it used to mean “unearthly” or “eerie”. Like the Weird Sisters in Macbeth. That’s the usage I was going for. Would it seem less out of place if I spelled it “wyrd”? Not sure I like that, though. What if I changed the “simply”? “…or – more succinctly – weird.”
“Listen to it well and take heed, for although it may sound fantastical, even ludicrous, remember that I do have in my possession a physical bit of evidence that lends it a certain air of credibility and phenomenality.”
“micrified and belittled by still a more prodigious bulk”
“My mind reels and rebels against the image of the thousand thousand unfinished, embryonic, compound bodies that comprised it.”
A lot of the time you’re using two words that say the same thing, which slows the pace of the story. I’m not saying only ever use one word, but if you do it more sparingly it will be a stronger emotive device.
This is something I should probably really listen to. I use double – even triple when I dare! – adjectives a lot! I think it works well with the old-timey and slow-boiling, Lovecraftian horror feel, but I need to watch out not to over use that technique. She makes a good point here(that can be applied to any trick of writing, not just multiple-adjectives): save it for when you really want it to hit home.
- First couple of paragraphs on Mecium’s tale need to make it clear what his claims were – was he claiming paranormal activity?
He was certainly supposed to be doing so! I guess I need to make that more clear, probably by adding a little more scoffing from the narrator at the “preternatural events” Mecium describes.
- The biggest issue for me is that it only becomes clear at the end why this is being told from Carolinensis’ viewpoint. We start the story from his view and get a sense of impending drama, but then there’s a long reportage section from Mecium, who in turn is telling Fuglio’s story.
This means you lose the opportunity to make the most of the drama of what happened because you’re telling us something that happened rather than showing us and I started to wonder why we were hearing this from Carolinensis. It may be this is an extract later in a book so we’ve already engaged with C. but I think it would benefit either from somehow taking us to the action; or greater promise of impending action from the beginning. For example something like starting with C. in a high drama, impending doom situation, with the report of the encounter being more of a flashback to explain how he’s ended up here. Maybe start with the knowledge that Mecium is dead so we’re more engaged with his story.
I was a bit worried about the three layers of narratives, to be honest.
I think, in order to stick with the Lovecraft tribute feel, the story should be told from the POV of a reader after the fact. The horror is supposed to come from someone discovering the terrible events that happened to someone else. Many of Lovecraft’s stories are told as journal entries recounting something that has already happened. I think this story needs to stay as a journal entry.
What about getting rid of Mecium completely? Can’t the narrator just tell the story of his friend Fuligo? Wouldn’t that keep the entire spirit of the story, but remove an extra layer of BS that might not be adding anything?
Starting with the fact that Mecium – or Fuligo, if Mecium gets cut – is dead does sound like a good way to draw the reader in. And it makes sense. Of course the first thing the narrator mentions in his journal is that his friend is dead! And the death of Mecium/Fuligo isn’t the punch at the end of the story, so there’s no harm in revealing it earlier.
Phew, I hope this helps and you absolutely have nothing to be embarrassed about – you’re a great writer!
Sally, I can’t thank you enough for leaving these comments. If we loved in the same city, state, country or even continent, I’d buy you a drink!
Well, faithful readers, anything to add?
What do you all think about the ending by the way?
Was it clear at the end that the reef was a patch of fungus and the main characters were all protozoa?
Was that surprising or interesting when you read it?
Did I make it clear that to a Dog Vomit Slime Mold (Fuligo) and a Pelomyxa Chaos Carolinensis (the narrator) even a simple spot of mold is an ancient(1), unknowable(2) terror from beyond the realms of sanity?