Thursday, June 19, 2014

SM Johnson ~ Guest Post ~ 10 Rules for Authors of Dark Fic

Welcome to Thursday!

I am busy in Maine, ready to attend the wedding of the man who made my dreams come true, my publisher, Sven Davisson of Rebel Satori Press (round of applause, please) (moment of silence) (bow of worthy respect)...

And so I've solicited a guest blog, not from a blogger, per se, but from a reader I highly respect, whose thoughts were invaluable to me when she graciously beta read Jeremiah Quick as a favor to me. And honestly, her feedback made my book so much better!

So... without further ado, here is my friend, Bluerabella, along with another friend Zosia, offering a few rules for authors of Dark fiction, that grew out of a discussion in the Goodreads group I created and loosely moderate, DarkSafe.


Do you know the feeling of reading the blurb of a book and thinking: "Yeah! Yeah! That sounds great! I want to read that! What's left of my pocket allowance, 'cause I need to get that, and read that, asap!"

Do you? Of course you do. You're a reader. Same as me. You know the excitement. You know what you want to read next. You know what you read before. You know what direction you want to turn next. Or if you don't, you recognize it when you see it.

It. The blurb. You read the opening chapters when they're available. You think, "Yeah!" again. And you click the "Buy Now" button. And excitement floods your veins as you see the arrow light up, indicating that it is in fact downloaded and waiting for you to be read.

Aaaaaah. You think. Me time. And you settle back. And read the copyright notice, the warning sticker, the intro note, and you get to the first line of the first chapter and you're ready to dive into a whole new experience. Another's words. Creating a world for you. To lose yourself in. Pure pure bliss.

Or so you think. Because in chapter 3, which was not in the teaser chapters, you notice something. She said what? He did what? But you hold on. Hey. We have an open mind. Give the author a break. It'll pick up. And it doesn't.

You check the blurb again. The title again. Yeah, this is what I got, or thought I would get. Then how, why, she, he.... And you think, "Um excuse me, what's going on here, exactly?"

But dogged determination, if nothing else, will keep you reading. You hate her. He seems to be... A copy of someone else you read about? And then the really weird stuff comes along. You close your - whatever you're reading it on - and think "Ugh!".

Only dear husband looks up with a worried question mark in his eyes. And you find you said that out loud. And furthermore, you can't explain without wanting to rant at him. Him. Who's done you no wrong, ever. And you sigh and smile a weak smile. And you see him thinking, "That time of the month again..."

But it's not. It's the book. The promise it held. That seems to be blown into smithereens at the moment. You sigh. You have a good night's sleep. And you pick it up again. You drag yourself through the pages. How could this have had all those rave reviews? How is this possible? Is this the beta version you have? Nope. It is what it is.

And by the time you've finished, you're ready to kill someone. Yourself most likely. Or at least pull out every hair that ever lived on your head. Because there went your pocket money down the drain, along with the last chapter, the last paragraph, the last words.

The end notes confirm that you have, in fact, finished the book. This is what it is. There's nothing more. You want to scream again. And again and again. But you don't. It would upset dear husband, not to mention the kids, or the person sitting next to you on the train into work.

You need to talk to someone though. And you find your favorite online book buddy. And together you rant and rant and rant. Not just about this book. No. About all the books you ever wanted to rant about before but couldn't, because you hadn't found each other yet. And you do it in a respectful, constructive, fair, civilized tone of voice. That goes without saying, doesn't it? But fully reflective of the crushing of the dream, the disbelief, the frustration, the anger, the sadness, the mourning, until finally, the acceptance comes. It was what it was.

And this is what came out of the rant that I had with my best book buddy on June 14, 2014:

Ten Things Every Author Should Know to Create the Perfect Dark Depraved Novel
- that will get you rich and famous as well as those high ratings you always wanted

1) No series with annoying cliff hangers at the end of the first novel in the series.

2) No series should take longer than 3 novels to tell the actual story. Each novel in a series has to tell a significant and rounded part of the overall story. The parts of the series should be novel length or if they're not they need to be combined into one novel. It is allowed to elaborate, add on, extend the story beyond the basic story line in additional sequels, either by adding characters or sideline stories. These can not conflict, contradict, detract from the original basic story. Each of the sequels has to follow these same guidelines.

3) Do not, ever, break the fourth wall. Do not make a character say to us, the readers, what you, the author, wanted to say. Let your characters speak for themselves. Let your text speak for itself. You, the author, have plenty of space to do your own talking in the blurb, introductory notes and end notes.

4) The blurb should not distort the premise of the story. No false advertising. No lemons where peaches were promised and/or hinted at. Or vice versa.

5) Keep your novel free of high-tech, unbelievable, impossible, coulda-shoulda-woulda-talked-but-didn't plot mechanisms.  Do not try to force our suspension of disbelief so far that it detracts/distracts from anything else.

6) If you're gonna pull a rabbit out of the hat at 80% of the novel, reversing everything the reader has come to understand about the characters/plot/story direction, bloody make sure that the remaining 20% is spectacular enough to compensate for that.

7) Write with the reader in mind. Use descriptive prose and fluid dialogue. Use scene sequencing to achieve desired effect. Have someone beta read and proofread at the very very least, to take out the more stupid things like killing off the grandmother in chapter 3 and having her to babysit in chapter 10 and the sillier there/their spelling errors as well as the typos. Adapt text according to hints and tips.

8) If there's gonna be mean things, describe the mean things so we can see/feel/hear/smell how mean they are. Show, don't tell. Don't keep the nasty business off camera (all the time), don't shove it down our throats either.

9) If you're gonna do a meanie, make him a meanie. The perfect monster is not a sniveling pussy, he dominates. He is consistent, even if only in his inconsistencies. He cannot be out of control for extended periods of time. He can be aggressive, must be superior in most ways and although he may have weaknesses, he must be close to infallible. He must have a reason for being the meanie he is, even if it is not known to the reader (yet). We do want to find out about it though, and his reasons, however outrageous they may be, better be good. The perfect monster has a libido that is at least beyond average and he does not rely on (the size of) his dick alone to do his nasty meanie sexy business. He has a varied repertoire of techniques and/or tools. There will be at least some to an amazing amount of pleasure for the object of his attention. Any pain he inflicts, harm he does, cannot be for the sake of maiming, destroying, killing alone.

10) The woman/girl that attracts the perfect monster's attention, desire, affection, interest is not too stupid to live. She cannot be an unworthy opponent. If the perfect monster kills her off at the end, make sure it happens in a memorable, worthy way.

(c) Copyrighted and written by Bluerabella ( & Zosia, in DarkSafe group of the Goodreads forum, on June 14 2014. This text may be spread around freely, provided you do so in its entirety, including this (c) notice. (Don't forget to send us an ARC when you think you've come up with one that qualifies, thank you very much in advance :D)

PS - send her ARC's - really. Bluerabella is an amazingly astute reader and reviewer! And, you know, she's my friend and all that, and I'm (SM Johnson) a shitty reviewer, so definitely send ARCs to her, k? Thx.

Thank you so so so much, Blue and Zosia, for permission to use your list as a blog post this week, while I'm on vacation. It means more than you know : )

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