Musical Terms Require Research, Too

You wouldn’t think so, would you? I mean, I’ve barely done anything more musical than choir, cannot read sheet music, and have even decided to forget proper singing form so that I can belt it out while driving and not feel self-conscious about it. I know barely anything about music.

And yet I have read in a published novel how a male character’s voice rose two octaves in a shout due to the stress of the situation. The hero, in fact. I have also read about a “boy’s soft alto” and people’s voices dropping an octave or two when trying to be threatening.

STOP. You are going to break me. Not to mention what you’re going to do to all of my far more musically inclined friends.

For basic reference: don’t talk about even one octave unless you’re referring to nut shots, hysterics, demonic possession, or extreme puberty. Consider “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” The difference between “Some” and “where” is one octave. And you want your character’s voice to raise or drop two of those?! That is an incredible vocal range. Most people can only cover two octaves in total while singing, and remember that your speaking voice is right around the middle of your range.

Speaking of vocal range: alto is for girls. The one above tenor for boys is countertenor. Wikipedia has a lovely page on voice type that explains the difference and gives you plenty of options to choose from.

Yes, I understand that words related to music sound really good. They’re mostly Italian, what did you expect? Latin-based words always sound good. But that is no excuse for having your hero either scream like a little girl or suddenly turn into James Earl Jones just because you don’t know what an octave entails.

If you want to describe a specific voice (or other) sound effect in musical terms, please just double check that you know what the word means. I do, again because I have friends who play a bajillion different instruments. Consider how many people you know of who have at least dabbled in music like I have, and I think you’ll see what I’m talking about when I say that music is something you are not allowed to screw up on in any context other than a tone deaf, rhythm-less first-person narrator. So if you don’t know much about something, research it before you start throwing around its technical terms.

Whew. Slightly less annoyed now.

A. C. F.


Jack and the Haunted House Study

*NOTE: This was originally the second half of the post “Suspense with Respect to Horror.

Before I pick the specific episode apart piece by piece, I recommend that you watch this episode, as well as the rest of Samurai Jack. No, really, go watch it. I’m going to deconstruct practically every single second of this episode.

The episode in question is the 9th episode of season 3 of Samurai Jack titled Episode XXXV and commonly known as “Jack and the Haunted House.” It opens on a forest at night, complete with crickets and creaking tree limbs. A full moon illuminates Jack’s path as a breeze wraps around him. Jack looks uncomfortable, and is paying a lot of attention to the noises around him. Jack is normally very calm (the benefits of prior character development), and we wonder why he has reason to be tense. An unsettling atmosphere has been successfully created.

Jack continues on a little more quickly, pausing at a tree when a bird calls out. He scans his surroundings, his gaze passing over a small cloaked figure that blends into the background, and for the first time that episode we hear music. The music for this episode is all rather low and disjointed, which is disturbing. It sounds wrong, and we still haven’t seen anything that proves there is something wrong.

Jack looks back at the lump, and begins to approach. We hear the sounds of a little girl crying, and see the cloaked figure holding a stuffed toy. Jack pauses behind her and says, “Excuse me.”

A jump scare is used as a close up of the figure’s eyes is shown, which is followed immediately by a shot of them running away, leaving the stuffed toy on the ground as the footsteps fade away. This is not a pointless jump scare, however, because that is not normal behaviour for a little girl. We don’t know why she (it?) is acting this way, and it adds to the sense of wrongness.

Jack, even though he is as confused as we are, nice guy that he is, picks up the toy and calls after her to wait. She doesn’t listen, and he runs after her. The music builds until he emerges on a hill in the forest, with a clear view of a Japanese mansion on another nearby hill. He stops, staring at the dark, backlit, angular building, then glances at the toy, and continues onward.

A caveat: Jack has been trained to face the personification of evil that currently rules the world for his whole life, and has frequently come close to defeating it. Him not just bugging out is because of his desire to help others and his confidence (justified) in his skills, rather than idiocy. He’s the type of guy that runs into burning buildings when there’s the possibility of someone being trapped in them. Why would he do any differently this time?

The music quiets again as he continues through the orchard surrounding the mansion, shadows passing over his face from the branches overhead. He reaches the base of the stairs to the mansion, where the solid front door, slightly open, creaks as it is closed by the figure. All of this detail, lengthening his approach to the mansion, gives us more time to anticipate the wrongness we are now expecting to come to fruition, and builds the suspense.

Even more detail is provided to us as the music cuts out completely and he walks up the stairs. We get to hear every creak of every step, until the railing breaks beneath his hand. The mansion certainly appears ill-kept. Abandoned. As with most buildings, the concept of no one being inside of it makes you wary of entering. The fact that we just saw someone go inside it is dissonant, and (you guessed it) builds up the sense of wrongness.

At the front door, Jack considers entering that way, but sees a moth flit to the side, almost seeming to beckon him, and decides to follow it. Cautiously, he peaks around the corner of the house before approaching the shogi doors on the side, where the moth continues to lead him. Again, we hear the boards creak under his weight as every step of his approach is shown. Light is coming from the doors, and we see the shadow of a woman kneeling before a fire. Gentle but not particularly soothing music plays.

Jack touches the door with the intention of opening it, and we get our second jump scare. Moths come out of the house. A frankly ridiculous number of moths, that all fly toward the moon and disappear in its light. This one comes with no music, just the sound of flapping wings. The light we had just seen inside the house can no longer be seen. Again, I would argue that it is not pointless, bringing up more questions than answers and reinforcing the abandoned status of the mansion. Why were there so many in one place? That’s not normal. And why were they trying so hard to, dare I say it, escape?

Jack is a bit freaked out by the moths, and reaches slowly for the shogi doors again. Another moth comes out, and he settles his nerves to slide open one door abruptly. There is nothing there but a few more moths and a statue, its face hidden in shadow while one hand is raised over the offering plate held in the other.

I’m going to go on a slight tangent here. That statue does literally nothing all episode, but you cannot comprehend just how much it disturbs me. I think it has to do with never seeing the face, and so never knowing exactly what I’m looking at, but I swear that it is one of the most disturbing parts of the episode for me. It’s obviously a religious artifact, so maybe it’s the concept that the god or goddess these people prayed to couldn’t help them that gets to me. Or perhaps I somehow think that the god or goddess is directly responsible for whatever happened in some way. Whatever the reason, the statue is incredibly disquieting to me, and other than its shadowed face, I couldn’t tell you why. Perhaps you can discover why for yourself.

Jack enters the room, and accidentally kicks a small copper pot. The pot rolls across the floor, clanging, until slowing and coming to rest at the foot of the statue. It jars the nerves. And it is followed by something even more jarring.

The animation changes to a blotchy black and white, and we see a hand placing an incense stick into the pot. It’s some kind of vision that Jack has gotten of the past. He doesn’t know what to think of it.

This vision and the ones that follow could be considered a form of pay off, but they don’t actually spend any of the suspense that has been built up. This first in particular shows you that someone used to live there, but nothing else. It isn’t really a jump scare, and again, it raises more questions than answers. How and why did it just happen? It can’t be a warning; there was nothing significant in it. It is strange, and like the rest of the episode so far, the strangeness is a sign of the wrongness gathering on the horizon.

Jack approaches the pot, and reaches to pick it up, when an area next to him creaks unexpectedly. A demolished table there cues another vision, this time of bonsai trees being swept by some destructive force.

Jack is getting very tense, and so is the audience. He cautiously gets up, studying the next room suspiciously. A creak sounds from the dark corner he is studying, and he moves some debris out of the way in order to proceed. A candle that has been sliced in half is the source of another brief vision, this one showing the woman who had been in the shadow on the shogi door being approached by an unseen something and screaming before the sliced candle drops to the floor. Again, not really showing much other than someone lived there, they were attacked, and they are no longer there. It’s the way in which it is done, leaving the source of the horror a mystery by showing the visions from its perspective. Is it still there? Obviously it is, considering the episode name, but we have seen no sign of it, other than the visions. We don’t know what, or why, or how, and only vaguely when any of this happened, and the not knowing is starting to get to us.

Jack shakes the vision away and lights a piece of the candle, returning to the first room to study the abandoned and cobweb filled areas. Creaks sound on odd occasions, and we haven’t heard any music since he walked away from the pot. The lack of music is almost worse than having unsettling music at this point. It’s not something you would normally notice, but the absence makes everything feel just a little bit more disconcerting.

Jack hears a creak from an upper floor, and raises the candle toward it. It gets blown out by…a draft, I suppose, and the smoke wafts toward a different set of shogi doors. The music returns, and I am sorry I ever missed it, since the ambient, dissonant hums only make things more disturbing. The room contains a set of stairs to one side, and a trap door prominently in the foreground. If you’ve seen anything related to horror before, you’re probably screaming inside to avoid the trap door.

Not to worry. Jack scouts out the room a bit, examining a model boat that triggers another vision. A young man is carefully painting the model, when something between a roar and a whistling gust of wind is heard from the trapdoor. The trapdoor is blasted open, and we are treated to the evil-thing-o-vision heading up through the trapdoor, straight for the young man’s terrified face.

Jack drops the boat and rubs his head, getting frustrated with these visions. He looks over at the trapdoor before edging along the far wall back to the door he came in by, only taking his eyes off the trapdoor to run out of the room. Cue shot of trapdoor overlaid with creepy ambient music, which is standard, but works this time by giving you time to think. Your first thought is one of relief. “Oh thank goodness, he didn’t open the creepy trapdoor where the thing was.” Thought two is the disturbing one. “But if it got out in that vision of the past…is it really still down there?”

Jack goes to a different set of stairs and sees the figure he was chasing at the start at the top. He runs up them, reaching an abandoned upper room with windows. He searches it, but finds no one. He tries to convince the probably-a-little-girl to come out, but when she doesn’t, he sets her toy on the mantle with every intention of leaving. He is distracted by the painting above the mantle, showing a man on a horse shooting at a number of dark animalistic blobs. He gets a vision of a rider under a cloudy sky, who was apparently also attacked by the thing. Fed up, he says goodbye and turns to leave.

Footsteps patter behind him, and he turns to see the toy gone from the mantle. A shape is seen ducking behind a chair, and the music picks up with one of Samurai Jack’s more standard battle rhythms as he drags the figure out from behind the chair to reveal…an adorable little girl.

For reference, we are just about halfway through the episode, and only now are we getting a bit of pay off from the start. You don’t really get much time to feel good about this reveal, though, because she asks in a voice that is both cute and creepy, “Did I scare you?” Jack’s “Um…no” in response is probably only true for him. He starts asking about the house that has been freaking him out, if she has been living there, and the little girl immediately starts crying again. Jack asks what is wrong, but she claims that it’s nothing. Nope, not a bad sign at all.

The music starts up again as Jack and the girl both look around suddenly, as if something is there. Jack suggests that they leave. As Jack says, “I think we have been here too long already,” the metaphorical animation camera focuses on a close up of the very demonic eyes of a dog in the painting over the mantle, which seem to be looking straight out at them and possibly seeing them.

Jack hauls the little girl downstairs, intending to take her back to the shogi doors he came in by. He uses the statue as a landmark, its face still shadowed even when he lifts the candle towards it, and as mentioned before, it disturbs me. Jack is cheerfully detailing to the girl all the good things about the outside, and encounters a literal brick wall. Understandably, he freaks out, saying, “What is this? There was a door here!” The little girl just looks up at him, then away again, and he stops yelling.

He very quickly hauls her back upstairs, trying for the windows and finding another solid wall. The unknown evil is irrevocably starting to take action. Jack freaks out about the windows the same way he did about the door, but is interrupted by the little girl crying. He takes a breath and calms down, trying to understand what is happening but failing. The girl says that she is tired and cold, and Jack suggests that yes, sleep would be a good idea.

Commercial break!

We come back from commercial with some seizure-inducing visions. They include colour-shifting images of specific features of the house, of a sketchy Jack in trouble, and of a something. A something with a snout and claws and teeth. You only see it very briefly, but it’s not really something you want to see again.

Jack wakes up, and finds the little girl gone, her blanket left behind. He starts to walk elsewhere in search of her, when he hears music. Nice, legitimately soothing music. It’s coming from a well-lit doorway, which Jack approaches, battle-ready. He sees a clean, well kept room where the little girl and what must be her family sit, drinking tea.

It is the most unsettling part of the episode. This is so far from what is expected that your mind can’t keep from screaming how wrong it all is. It cannot be real, you think in disbelief. There is no way this can be real. It doesn’t help that you recognize the mother, older brother, and father from Jack’s visions.

Jack agrees with the audience on that count, demanding to know what is going on, what kind of illusion this is. He is quite hostile, even drawing his sword, as the father very kindly tries to talk him down and offers him tea. He even offers a matrix-like choice: “Drink the tea if you don’t believe we are real.” He introduces his family, and everyone is very calm and polite. Jack has trouble staying hostile, likely because of the familiarity of such a scene and the loneliness he’s had to deal with since being flung out of his own time. He drinks the tea.

Tea is evidently the way to his heart (unsurprising, given how much of it we’ve seen him drink previously in the series), and he sits down with them, chatting about where the tea came from. Jack asks about the state of the house, and the father quite obviously doesn’t have an answer. “There was a storm,” his wife offers nervously. The father agrees with a smile, saying that they’ve tried to make the best of things, turning to his son for agreement.

This is where the nightmare begins to be fully realized, and all that suspense that was built up pays off.

The son doesn’t answer, his eyes starting to roll back into his head. The father tries to laugh it off as shyness, sweating all the while, and prompts his son to talk about his studies instead. The boy shakes, and the pupils that where half-hidden behind his upper eyelids roll back even further to leave his eyes completely white. The room around Jack flickers in colour. The son starts foaming at the mouth, and the mother isn’t far behind him. The father laughs faintly again, still sweating, and tries to claim it as illness. All the while, that gentle music is still playing. The little girl says, “I’m sorry,” and even the music begins to skip, slowing down and distorting until it is gone. The father also succumbs to the “illness” while the illusion of the room continues to flicker. Jack jumps away, horrified, as the room changes back to a destitute wreck. The little girl runs away to hide behind a pot. Black, blotchy evil begins to pour out of the other family member’s mouths, merging in midair to reveal the monster.

There is more to the episode, but it’s all pay off, and that’s not what this post is about. Even though the episode continues to do so in a way that supports small scale suspense, the main breakdown is complete.

A. C. F.

Suspense With Respect to Horror

When someone suggests I check out a horror movie, I usually hem and haw briefly before saying that the horror genre just isn’t something I enjoy.

This is a lie. Mostly.

The problem I have with many horror movies is lack of suspense. Also, protagonist idiocy, but let’s focus on lack of suspense here. Without suspense, horror is usually gore for the sake of gore. If I’m watching a gore movie, I prefer it to be in the vein of “Shoot ‘Em Up”; ridiculousness with a side of testosterone, rather than something that’s just gross. When it’s not gore for the sake of gore, weak and dragging subplots can fill the space that should have been devoted to suspense. I tune out of these quickly.

What is suspense? The dictionary defines it as a state or condition of mental uncertainty or excitement, as from awaiting a decision or outcome. In terms of a horror story, I consider it to be a build up of expectation that something is wrong, without specifically showing anything to be wrong. This is where American Horror Story’s sixth season failed with me. I had agreed to try out Roanoke with a few friends, but fairly early on, the show jumped from what I considered to be a good build up of suspense (my, that’s a creepy window she’s doing yoga in front of all alone) straight to low level payoffs, such as teeth hail. (Teeth hail. Teeth. Hail. I couldn’t help but imagine some poor stage hand on the roof shaking a bucket of teeth.) The teeth disappear, which should play to my fears of being unable to trust my own perceptions a lot, but without any subtle hints that perceptions couldn’t be trusted at that point in the series, building suspense, it just feels like a fake out, rather than proof that something is really wrong.

That’s something to be aware of. Suspense is like a currency, which is why pointless jump scares tend to make these types of films weaker. Jump scares convert the sensation of general wrongness to “something bad is happening right now.” When that belief proves to be a lie, some of your currency has been spent without adding to the sense of unease or wrongness.

There are other ways to cheapen the suspense you’ve tried so hard to build. One that should be obvious immediately is to NOT use foreshadowing. No more than the vaguest hints should be given, since you very specifically do not want your reader to solve the problem early. Horror suspense is driven by the unknown danger, and that unknown is usually the scariest part of the entire story. The mystery is what keeps you on edge. So why would you provide the audience a deliberate clue about what is going to happen?

There are a number of movies where the monster is foreshadowed or directly shown, so that what the characters are up against doesn’t come out of left field. There are other movies that set up a Chekov’s gun for future defeat of the monster. There are some that undergo both. Usually, when this happens, the suspense of the story is over because the mystery is gone. The reveal needs to be exceptionally disturbing in order to overcome that, and it rarely is.

It comes down to timing. The longer you can hold off any reveals, the longer you can build suspense.

Keep in mind that knowing what the monster is doesn’t necessarily detract from the unknown portion of the horror, even when the monster is a human. Consider the movie “Alien.” It’s about a random alien monster that a mining ship accidently picks up in outer space. Even so, you don’t know any of the rules it functions by. You don’t know if it’s intelligent enough to have motivations beyond eating them. You don’t know what can kill it, nor do you know what it looks like. You know it’s an alien monster, but that’s all you know. The alien remains terrifying.

Contrast “Pitch Black,” the first Riddick movie. The capabilities of these aliens are established pretty early. The suspense in this case comes from the knowledge that they don’t have the tools to survive, and that they just might kill each other instead. This movie follows more of the thriller format of building suspense than the horror format; the difference between them is a positive/negative thing. Thriller suspense builds up, “How are they possibly going to do that?” while horror suspense asks, “What’s going to go wrong next?” One builds to a solution; the other builds towards a defeat.

Back on track: that is a concept of how suspense is built, but execution is everything in this case. To understand the mechanics of suspense, I’d recommend watching almost anything by Hitchcock. In particular, I found Vertigo, Psycho, Suspicion, and Rope to use suspense to their full advantage. As mentioned before, Alien is also very suspenseful.

Surprisingly, one of the best suspense sequences I’ve seen was from an episode of a children’s cartoon—well, as much as Samurai Jack can be considered a children’s cartoon. The show is about a prince of feudal Japan flung thousands of years into an anarchist future ruled by the embodiment of evil he has been trained to defeat. It is well done, and I recommend it. You can find a study of the episode in question here.


“But how does any of that help me write suspense?” you ask. “I don’t have any sound cues or timing choices or even any creepy visuals like that statue I can throw in with the written word.”

Well, you do and you don’t. Instead of timing choices, you have pacing. You can describe things in minute detail, and thereby stretch out the time it takes for the reader to get up the stairs, as it were. You can describe the chill from the slight wind as you leave the trees behind. You can describe the sharpness of the moon shadows that make it seem as if you’re walking precariously on many thin poles. You can expound on the creaking of each step, and how they all give just a little more than you’re comfortable with under your weight. You’ll have to figure out where to draw the line so that you don’t go overboard and convince the reader to just skip your lengthy description, though.

Instead of music and sound cues, you have word choice. I don’t recommend breaking out the mauve paint, but do break out your thesaurus and find a few of the more off-putting words in existence. Nacreous, for example. Moist works as well in the right context. You’re just going to have to find the right words, which is part of why it’s so important to pay attention to how your work sounds.

In place of creepy visuals, you’ll have to substitute your character’s emotions and your descriptions again. The right turn of phrase can let you imagine that creepy statue almost as perfectly as it can be visually portrayed.

Finally, since you are writing, you would be better served to give your monster the ability to knowingly enact a fate worse than death, rather than just having it look horrifying or kill people. Because you are writing, having the concept be the most horrifying aspect of the monster plays to your strengths. For example, a race of malicious shadow demons that intend to devour the world (Into the Out Of, Alan Dean Foster) is more terrifying to me than dinosaurs doing what dinosaurs do. Even in Jurassic Park, there is a reason why the intelligent raptors are scarier than the unthinking tyrannosaur.

A couple of final recommendations. First, I’d recommend writing from front to back. I find this helpful all the time, but if you’re writing from start to finish directly, you’ll be more likely to organically ramp up the suspense of your story, which can only make it better. Second, as I’ve basically harped on this entire post, nuance is preferable to blatancy in building suspense. Once you’re working on the payoff, feel free to go nuts on being blunt, but mystery maketh suspense of the horror kind.

I don’t claim to be an expert on suspense. These are all based on my own observations and thoughts on the subject. I made an effort at it myself in writing “Reflections.” All in all, I’m not sure how well I actually did at that. This is definitely a case of easier said than done, and requires the dreaded “practice” to perfect. Feel free to follow the link to my story and check it out to see how much you should scoff at how completely inexpert I am.

Happy All Hallows’ Eve! Don’t let the plants eat you, nor the transvestites cut you up for spare parts, and whatever you do don’t sign a contract with Death Records.

A. C. F.

A New Old Story

I finally had a moment to edit this one. It’s been sitting around for a few months now.

Unmalleable Time” is a story that arose from my love of pocket watches and a few random prompt words.

There’s really nothing more to say about that. So, news on Novel the Second! It’s turned darker than expected, but I believe it will still be enjoyable. It’s certainly a challenge. I’m currently working on chapter five, writing it in a notebook to later transcribe. I’ve been writing about 10 words at a time between lectures. If you look at the side, you’ll see that at least 10K words are written. Progress!


A. C. F.

I’m out of my mind

You remember this post? It mentioned that I had written a short story that could easily double as Chapter 1 of Novel the Second.

I have finished the outline for Novel the Second. To celebrate this, I have put the counter that probably none of you remember back on the sidebar of the site. Note: the estimated final word count is just that, an estimate. It is subject to change in the future.

Why I say that I am out of my mind, is because engineering courses don’t leave a lot of room for anything. Working full time for my co-op terms is a vacation in comparison. And in this sort of intense, high stress course, I’m going to add the stress and distraction of writing on top of this. Genius. You can see how I’ve managed to get as far as I have in life.

So, the rough draft probably won’t be finished before 2021. The counter on the side may even move backwards. None of this matters, because I do writing for the love of it, and only for the love of it. Yes, I would like to be published, but it isn’t a high priority for me. Graduating is. It ties into the phrase, “don’t quit your day job,” some of the soundest advice ever given. I agree that it is probably hard to think about how to demonstrate a character’s mistake in a sympathetic manner when you have to write the scene on the back of your overdue hydro bill.

In summary: I am writing another novel. Yay! I am going to have a lot of fun with this, and probably stretch my abilities even further. It is not a priority because school.

To the writing!

A. C. F.

Scamming the Scammers

My parents usually get quite a number of phone scammers, of both the Windows and CRA variety. To amuse themselves, they’ve come up with a number of ways to get back at them. These are a few of the ways:


1) The classic.`

“Hello, we’re calling about your Windows computer—“

“I have a Mac.”

Mom doesn’t, in fact, have a Mac, but it’s too good a line to pass up.


2) Deliberate misinterpretation.

“Hello, we’re calling about your Windows computer—“

“I know it’s bad. You’ll have to talk to the landlord. He is responsible for all the windows; I’m not allowed to do anything with them.”

“No, sir, we’re not talking about the windows in your house. We’re talking about your Windows operating system—“

“You’re just going to have to talk to the landlord. It says in the agreement that I can’t do anything about them.”

“Sir. Sir, do you have a computer?”

“Yes, I have a computer.”

“We’re talking about the Windows system on your—“

“I keep telling you, the landlord is responsible for the windows. I really want to do something about them, but I’m not allowed to—“


…it’s my understanding that this went on for a while before one of them decided to hang up.


3) Klingon

“Hello, is this Mr. Franklin?”

“Uncted instigs locathm. Procks wumungump sepolololo. N-no speakada Anglich. No Aanglich.”

“Sir? Is there someone there that speaks English?”

“Pele katunk pharat podonkul weritla ga. Noo Anglich. Ferpu tyg derad coboco pyta.”

“Sir? Sir? Can you give the phone to someone there who speaks English?”

“No Aanglich. Notoctes grinju derutu kapolu sitpro gredfur gopotcle nor.”

“Does anybody know what this guy is saying? I don’t speak this language!”

“Gutubi ported sufugu ni. Rupesed tracud fulupo P’tak!” *Click*

…I know it’s not real Klingon, but that last word is the clincher.


4) Too late

“Mrs. Franklin, this is the CRA.”

“I don’t know why you’re calling me. You are supposed to be talking to my lawyer.”


You’ve already frozen all of my accounts and seized all my assets. There’s nothing left. Talk to my lawyer!”

“…you’re bankrupeted?”

“It is what it is.”

At which point the scammer hung up.


5) You’ve reached a scam. (My dad’s done this one three times already. He really likes it.)

“Hello, is this Mr. Franklin?”

“Hello, you’ve reached George’s custom luggage! All our luggage is currently on sale. First, let’s start with your credit card number—“

The scammer always hangs up first.


I’ve come up with a new one for them, which I term the “Bible thumper.” For the Windows scam, just start going on and on about how computers are the tool of the devil, the day of judgement is coming and they need to renounce their false idols. Start to pray with them. The challenge is to see how long it takes them to hang up. We’ll see if we get a chance to use it.

A. C. F.

Style vs. Substance

If plot is king, then execution is queen.

To be perfectly clear, I mean that as a chess analogy.

Plot is important. It is very important. (I feel that plot and character are inextricably linked, so the argument “plot vs. character” is not happening right now. The answer is yes.) Plot is what drives your story. It’s the spine. Without it, you have a mass of amorphous goo.

Similarly, the king is the most important piece on the chess board. It is the entire reason for the game. Nothing could happen without it.

But on the whole, it has little effect on the game. I tend to play chess badly, so when I get down to a few pawns, a knight, and a rook, I allow the king to wander the board and go on a killing spree. It’s quite fun, but it does nothing to change the outcome.

That’s where execution comes in. The queen. The most versatile piece of the game. It changes things very quickly. It is a guiding force of the game.

Similarly, the execution is what sells the reader on your story. Execution is what allows you to suspend your disbelief and enjoy a ridiculous premise. Execution is why people read what you write. It’s your unique voice, it’s the way you share the images, sounds, emotions, and scents in your mind. It determines the clarity of those sensations. Execution is the queen that wins you the game, or allows you to lose, depending on how well she is directed.

Random writing analogy over. Have a nice day!

A. C. F.

So What If I’m a Dork?

I will admit to being a dork. And to being overly excited about silly things. So what? Right now, I’m a very happy dork.

I have collected all Fullmetal Alchemist manga volumes.

fullmetal alchemist
Fullmetal Alchemist 3-in-1 volumes.


Not only do I have all the FMA manga, I have the pocket watch. I will wear this watch every day, because pocket watches are awesome.

pocket watch
Alan Parson’s Project Vulture Culture album cover works surprisingly well as a backdrop for the pocket watch.

YES!!! YES!!!! YES!!!!!!!!!!

Now, I can deconstruct it, reconstruct it, and derive the equations of all its secrets! With the power of alchemy, my writing will grow stronger than can be imagined. And then, I WILL BE INVINCIBLE!!!

But wait…it may be that I am missing a key element. A highly important element…the element of….

cowboy bebop
Cowboy Bebop. Kind of reminds you of Firefly, doesn’t it?

Cowboy Bebop.

Yes. Yes, that should do it. That is the missing element, the one that completes the equation. The Perfect Theory for the Perfect Story!



Oh no.

Wait, no, it should have worked. It should have worked!

Not the Gate. Not the Gate, ple—

The Truth
The Truth is creepy.


In all seriousness, (setting aside the melodramatic FMA references), whenever I have the time and inclination, I will both enjoy these, and attempt to evaluate what makes them work so well to improve my own writing. Good luck to me, I guess.

A. C. F.


New Story the Second!

Posted as promised. You can find it here: Independent Contractors.

It has a similar background to the last story. I started it a year or so ago, petered off for want of an ending, and finished it up more recently before editing it to its current presentable state. The process of writing a story can be quite boring, can’t it?

On another note, I finished the story I mentioned yesterday. I don’t know if the ending is going to stay the way it is or not; it has a very frustrating, evil cliff-hanger at the moment. Evil in a bad way, unlike A Good Neighbour. But I don’t really want to change it, because it could so easily lead into the novel I want to grow out of this universe, with these characters…I really shouldn’t be thinking about novels, with university starting up again in September, but I can’t help it.

We’ll see what happens.



New Story

…or a kind of old one, depending on how you look at things. I started it over a year ago, I think, and I trailed off due to lack of an ending. Then I came back, made an effort to finish it, and hated the result. Then I edited it, had help editing it, continued to edit it, and finally polished it to a point where it was actually good.

Without further ado, a third Miss Leona story: Ladies and Shootists

Tomorrow, I intend to post the other year old story I’ve finally finished (let’s call it spring cleaning). Allow me to depart now to work on the other story I’m currently writing. Work terms are so open and free!