What Are My Top 15 Horror Films?? — Derek Barton – 2019

Top 15 Horror

 

As a horror story writer, I do get this question put to me often.  I’m no expert on what makes a great film, but as a fan and a reader of horror fiction, I do know what makes me jump or gets under my skin.

One of the common elements I find in horror films is the overuse of “Jump Scares” — objects suddenly thrown, animals (especially cats for some reason) leaping for no reason out of the shadows or people appearing out of the thin air behind the main character.  “Jump Scares” as cheap and often detracting from the story in my opinion.  They can be done right, of course, like in the movie, Alien, when Dallas cannot find the creature supposedly right on him. He climbs down two steps of his ladder and there it is!

Another abused element is gore, especially in most of Rob Zombie’s films (fan of his music, not his movies!). Gore has its place — can you imagine the scene where Danny Torrance from The Shining rides alone on his Big Wheel then turns into the hallway with the mutilated twin girls without any blood or bodies? Wouldn’t have the same chilling effect. Yet if you constantly throw gore in my face I’m either going to get sickened or bored with it.

When I watch a horror movie, I want to be fully immersed in the tension of the movie, on the edge of my seat as I react to the character actions, and holding my breath as I see something the hero/heroine doesn’t see in the background!

My list has some surprises, but being that I am a Stephen King fanatic, well…some films won’t surprise you. I didn’t list films that I consider horror/comedies — Shaun of the Dead and Dale and Tucker vs Evil being some of my ultimate favorites. I wanted to do a list of true, classic horror.

Listed in last place to best of the best:

15# Scream — A year after the murder of her mother, a teenage girl is terrorized by a new killer, who targets the girl and her friends by using horror films as part of a deadly game.

Not a completely great film, but I listed it due to its genre-expanding twists and the incredible performance by Drew Barrymore in the opening scene.

14# Don’t Breathe — Hoping to walk away with a massive fortune, a trio of thieves break into the house of a blind man who isn’t as helpless as he seems.

Very intense suspenseful film.  Sad that this was based on an actual similar account where the homeowner lured teenage thieves and waited for them with loaded guns in the shadows of his basement. Burglary sucks but no one deserves death sentences for it.

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13# The Eye — A blind girl gets a cornea transplant so that she would be able to see again. However, she got more than what she bargained for when she realized she could even see ghosts.

This isn’t the bland remake done with Jessica Alba. This is the original Chinese film.  I can still feel the hair on my arms rise when I think about the ghost floating behind the woman in the elevator.  *Shudder!

12# The Grudge — An American nurse living and working in Tokyo is exposed to a mysterious supernatural curse, one that locks a person in a powerful rage before claiming their life and spreading to another victim.

A film based in Tokyo and very well done! Superb acting and special effects that were unique (copied many times after!).  Used sound as extra way to horrify the audience — the groaning little boy was awesome!

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11# Autopsy of Jane Doe — A father and son, both coroners, are pulled into a complex mystery while attempting to identify the body of a young woman, who was apparently harboring dark secrets.

A really creepy twist to a witch story. Freaky effects and intense up close and personal with a gray corpse makes for a great horror story.  I rank this as one of Brian Cox’s best roles as the father.

10# Nightmare on Elm Street — The monstrous spirit of a slain janitor seeks revenge by invading the dreams of teenagers whose parents were responsible for his untimely death.

Another film that broke through the genre’s cliche barriers. Actually based on an urban legend from Japan, Wes Craven delivered an unforgettable villain!

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9# Evil Dead (2013) — Five friends head to a remote cabin, where the discovery of a Book of the Dead leads them to unwittingly summon up demons living in the nearby woods.

Yes, I have to say it, but I like the remake better than the original. Bruce Campbell is one of my favorite B-actors! So funny!! Yet, even the producers and writers of the films said that the remake was what they wanted to do with the original but just didn’t have the budget for and it came out pretty campy. Both have their place but overall this one was truly terrorizing and a better film. Viewer warning…a lot of gore in this one!

8# Saw — Two strangers, who awaken in a room with no recollection of how they got there, soon discover they’re pawns in a deadly game perpetrated by a notorious serial killer.

Many people don’t like this film due to the torture aspects of it, but I have a spot in my top list for it due to the fact that one of the stars, Leigh Whannell, actually wrote the screenplay.  Kind of inspiring when a writer gets such a great response from his own work…

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7# Ghost Story —  Two generations of men find themselves haunted by the presence of a spectral woman. When the son of one of the elderly men returns to his hometown after his brother’s mysterious death, they attempt to unravel her story.  

Probably not many people remember this sleeper hit, but it is still a great thrill and an epic tale of hidden guilt and revenge.

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6# A Quiet Place — In a post-apocalyptic world, a family is forced to live in silence while hiding from monsters with ultra-sensitive hearing.

Another inspiring horror story that was written by one of its stars, John Krasinski (from The Office fame).  He created such an elaborate and unique story that already clone-like films, The Bird Box and The Silence have tried to jump on the bandwagon. A sequel is in the works and I am very excited to see it!

5# Jaws — When a killer shark unleashes chaos on a beach community, it’s up to a local sheriff, a marine biologist, and an old seafarer to hunt the beast down.

If you haven’t heard of this film or seen it, then I say “welcome to America!” as you must’ve just come here! LOL.  All kidding aside, award-winning acting from Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw.  It has aged well and yet to be outdone by any recent shark-themed movies. (Although I will say that The Shallows was pretty damn good too for a modern twist.)

4# Alien — After a space merchant vessel perceives an unknown transmission as a distress call, its landing on the source moon finds one of the crew attacked by a mysterious lifeform, and they soon realize that its life cycle has merely begun.

While this is a sci-fi film it has such a horror foundation that it is essential to the list of great horror films. Plus Sigourney Weaver turned in a surprise breakthrough performance which she will always be remembered for.

3# IT — In the summer of 1989, a group of bullied kids band together to destroy a shape-shifting monster, which disguises itself as a clown and preys on the children of Derry, their small Maine town.

This was one of my all-time favorite books by Stephen King, but other than Tim Curry’s amazing performance as Pennywise in the television mini-series, it had not been done well up to this point.  Liked this version, but would have been phenomenal had Tim Curry been the clown.  Still a great rendition of King’s book.

2# The Thing — A research team in Antarctica is hunted by a shape-shifting alien that assumes the appearance of its victims.

Seeing this film was like walking in a haunted house for two hours. Gruesome effects to bring out the best scares in this classic and a twist almost at every turn.  Even its ending is still controversial and debated about who was what. And this was by far to me the best performance of Kurt Russel’s career.

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1# The Shining — A family heads to an isolated hotel for the winter where a sinister presence influences the father into violence, while his psychic son sees horrific forebodings from both past and future. 

An epic film filled with iconic scenes like an elevator filled with blood to an ax thrusting threw a door inches from someone’s face. Truly a great terrifying film. Stephen King didn’t like this version and while I understand his reasons, it is still a jaw-dropping film with incredible performances by Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall.  The upcoming sequel, Doctor Sleep, should be a great look back to the film and I’m excited that they got Ewan McGregor in the lead role as Danny Torrance!

 

Honorable Mentions:

Brightburn — What if a child from another world crash-landed on Earth, but instead of becoming a hero to mankind, he proved to be something far more sinister? (Aka. An Evil Superman)

The Ring — A journalist must investigate a mysterious videotape which seems to cause the death of anyone one week to the day after they view it. (Dorky story idea but really well told.)

Hereditary — After the family matriarch passes away, a grieving family is haunted by tragic and disturbing occurrences, and begin to unravel dark secrets. (Some pretty original traumatic scenes.  Bit of a slow-burner though…)

Mama — A young couple take in their two nieces only to suspect that a supernatural spirit named Mama has latched itself to their family. (The ending on this one killed it for me. Up to then, it was a great film!)

Pet Sematary — After tragedy strikes, a grieving father discovers an ancient burial ground behind his home with the power to raise the dead. (Recently gave you my opinion on this one!  Click here for that blog review of the recent two film versions).

Silent Hill — A woman, Rose, goes in search for her adopted daughter within the confines of a strange, desolate town called Silent Hill. (Great atmospheric horror film. What an incredible setting using a mining town that has been abandoned due to still burning fires below them?  Fog and ash drifting down…creatures leaping out from the smoke. Perfect fun!)

 

Movies I want to check out in the near future:

Us –– A family’s serene beach vacation turns to chaos when their doppelgängers appear and begin to terrorize them.

Bone Tomahawk — In the dying days of the old west, an elderly sheriff and his posse set out to rescue their town’s doctor from cannibalistic cave dwellers.

Crawl — A young woman, while attempting to save her father during a Category 5 hurricane, finds herself trapped in a flooding house and must fight for her life against alligators.

Are there better films than some of what I listed?  Maybe.  Sure probably. But it’s just my humble opinion and these were films that I remembered long after I had seen them. Some of the films just had one or two elements that I didn’t like that precluded them as well.  So, what I’m saying is, no nasty comments about what an idiot I am for forgetting such-an-such film.  I have my list, you can make yours! ha

NOW you have insight into what a horror story writer looks for when watching movies and reading books…and what we want to recapture in our own works!

Wishful Thinking — The SEQUEL! — Derek Barton – 2018

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Back in February of 2017, I wrote a little blog, Wishful Thinking, which was a whimsical fantasy movie casting of my characters from my first book, Consequences Within Chaos.  I did a small bio of each of the characters and a slideshow of who I would pick to play the characters.

You guessed it…you are already ahead of me.  I am going to do it again, but this time for The Bleeding Crown.  Now some of the major characters in the sequel were creatures, so suffice it to say, I will only be highlighting the humans.  Also, I will give some updated bios on characters from the last book.  I will warn you now there are some SPOILERS FOR CONSEQUENCES WITHIN CHAOS that could be learned here…So, if you want to stop now, go buy and read the book first, I won’t be mad ya at all. (hint, hint 🙂 )

 

THE BLEEDING CROWN

 

LETANDRA ARTADEUS  —  Georgie Henley

letandra-artadeus

During the fierce battle between Prince Taihven and the Pale Mage, Auste Cros’seau, the Lady Magistrate was magically kidnapped and taken away.  Now she must struggle to survive in a foreign land on her own.  While she waits for rescue, she has no idea if Wyvernshield has even won against Auste or his terrible army of Viestrahl beasts. She will form new alliances and strengths, but in the end, she learns she has no time left — the future hangs in the balance on her efforts.

TAIHVEN ARTADEUS  —  Andrew Garfield

taihven-artadeus

Prince Taihven, having proven himself more than capable and resourceful in the battle against Auste, was crowned King of Tayneva.  However, the heavy cost he paid to keep the Artadeus Throne, weighs heavily upon him.  The city is partially in ruins, his parents are dead, his sister missing, and a deadly plague continues to haunt the citizenry.  After losing his entire family, he succumbs to depression and loses faith that they will find Princess Letandra. More trials lay ahead for him which will test him like never before.

CHROYANNE CROS’SEAU  — Michelle Trachtenberg

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History has been washed clean of her vile family’s name, but Chroyanne Cros’seau has been freed of her own Soul Render in Aberrisc.  With the help of a mysterious magical artifact, The Bleeding Crown, Chroyanne has become an incredible terror in the land.  She hopes that her Quietus Dominion and her own armies will make her brother proud when he returns or calls for her to join him in Tayneva.

TALIAH   —  Isla Fisher

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Regretting her role as an unwilling spy for the Viestrahl and Auste Cros’seau, the exiled maid, Taliah, has found her place in the world as a Blood Seeress.  She has been taken in by the Khestal Ezan Order, a group dedicated to stopping the evil machinations of the Cult of Beleardea.  She uses her newfound powers of prophetic visions to help them and outsiders with questions that keep their lives in turmoil.

LLASHER  —  Nestor Carbonell

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Barely surviving his own encounter with the Pale Mage, the ex-slaver, LLasher, has dedicated his second chance at life to prove he was worthy of that effort and redeeming himself.  His first steps toward that goal are trying to track down the wayward Princess Letandra.  He will find this path will take him to many dangerous regions as well as making forced alliances with the dangerous Viestrahl.

HUMPHREYS  — Steven Ogg

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As LLasher’s First Mate aboard the Corrta Da’Eale, Humphreys has sailed to many places within the world, but this hunt for Princess Letandra will even surprise this experienced world traveler.  Always quick with a sarcastic word or wide grin, he will stick loyally at LLasher’s side no matter the crazy odds…and that he gets well paid.

RASHAD RUESSARD  — Josh Hutcherson

J Hutcherson

Rashad paid the same cost of losing a family member during the Viestrahl’s last Horde March as King Taihven.  This helps the two bond and form a strong partnership.  As the new Wyvernguard Captain, it has been a challenge, but when a new threat emerges in the form of Pirate Captain Tarsk, the soldier’s mettle is truly tested.

AMA’YEN — Nadine Njeim

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As a powerful sorceress, Ama’yen can offer a lot to her new queen, Chroyanne.  However, when she learns of Princess Letandra and the connection the princess has to Chroyanne’s past, she wonders if an opportunity is forming.  Inspired by the love that Letandra has for Taihven, she contemplates a plan of her own to rescue her own brothers being held hostage.

TAL CROWAN  — Michio Kaku

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As the founder and dedicated leader of the Khestal Ezan, Tal has recruited a unique band of warriors, mages, spies, and even a Blood Seeress to his cause against the Beleardea Cult members as they peddle evil and cursed artifacts to the desperate or depraved in Tayneva.  These ruthless fanatics are building influence and wealth in an endeavor to resurrect an eldritch god of unlimited power.

PIRATE CAPTAIN TARSK  — Tom Hardy

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Known as Captain Tarsk the Torch, this sadistic pirate sees an opportunity in the weakened condition of Wyvernshield and its armed forces.  Seizing upon the moment, he and his allies strike with surgical precision, cutting off Taihven and Rashad from any assistance.  As a seasoned veteran of battle, King Taihven finds himself outmatched and up against a foe unlike any other he has ever faced.

RIVYEN  — Josh Upshaw

J Upshaw

Although he is a lost warrior from another plane of existence, Rivyen brings a unique perspective as well as a wealth of knowledge to Tal Crowan.  He has become a critical part to the Khestal Ezan’s structure. Together they have pledged to stop the Beleardea and find their hidden Veraera Vault of cursed items the cult has accumulated.  Some of those items belong to Rivyen’s own people — he knows just how destructive some of those items can be including The Bleeding Crown!

If you have read The Bleeding Crown, I hope you got a little kick out of this as I did.  I wish some of the other characters like Scars and Ka Shayla could’ve been represented, but I guess, you will just have to read the book!  This book was an amazing thrill for me to write, and I am excited to bring you the next adventures in Tayneva and Aberrisc soon!

Immerse or Die! — Derek Barton – 2017

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Yes, I am stealing this title directly from a great writing website, Creativity Hacker  created by the author Jefferson Smith.
Or… rather I am paying homage to it.
Why?  Because one, that title is sure to catch your attention and it has a literal punch to it.  And I want your attention with this blog.  Two, this is one of the most important things you have to know as a writer in my opinion.  If you are not pulling that reader in and capturing their complete attention, then you are not fulfilling your obligation to take them away from their lives and take them by the hand into your world, your story.
A break in immersion occurs at the point when a reader has to stop and analyze any sentence for any reason. If they are thinking about your words, they are not thinking about your characters.
The concept behind Jefferson Smith’s Immerse or Die is that he takes new submitted books and reviews them while doing a 40 minute walk on his treadmill.  If his “immersion” is broken three times, he puts the book aside.  Later he writes up his reviews and then posts the results. He highlights the stories that live through the test period so they get full glory and recognition.
I spent a lot of time there and learned a lot from his ideas and rules to keep readers immersed in the story.
Look at the following chart that shows you the outcome of his reviews in 2015:
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Here is the Blog Link to his blog review.
Here are some of the most common errors to keep in mind especially when you are editing!
 
Clarity!  Be careful when you are writing your prose. Keeping it simple and at the same time “poetic” is a very fine line that you have to tightrope walk.
The Hemingway App Editor is a great, free resource that will help your writing. It will identify and highlight sentences that are not in an easy to read format or structure.  It will also detail what grade level the work is.  The lower the grade the more relatable it will be to the readers.
Another way to keep the reader immersed is avoiding Echo Words, Echo Headers and Repeat Passages.  This one was a huge problem for me and I was not even aware of it until I applied the rule during my own editing phase.  I had repeat words and overused phrases everywhere!
An example of an Echo Word or Echo Header is when the writer uses the same word for several sentences in a row or within the same paragraph in the prose.
Example:   The robot failed to stop the invaders.  Henry saw the aliens slip past the machine. The robot raced behind the attackers as they bolted up the stairs.  At the top, the aliens pounded upon the metal doors. The robot then sounded the alarm to alert the compound.
Yes, this is an obvious example, but it does happen often. Other examples include when you use the character’s name over and over on the same page.  I try hard to limit it to three or four times.  Also over using the pronouns instead of the name can be very distracting or repetitive to the reader.  Repetition equates to lack of unique description or lack of originality in the work. Come up with synonyms like the man, the boy, the warrior or the teacher, etc.
Another problem I still wrestle with revolves around names.  If you have too many names that sound similar or use the same starting letter (i.e. too many M or T names), readers may get confused on who is doing what.  If you have too many complex names (which is my dilemma), then the readers are always pulled out of immersion as they are trying to pronounce the name.  I felt at the time since I was establishing a fantasy world then they wouldn’t have the usual Bob or Mary names.  Yet, my “style” overrode my “message” and I got a lot of feedback on reviews about the complexity of the names. It was obvious that it stuck with my readers and thus, they weren’t always immersed in the tale.
Plot or Story Continuity is also critical in immersion.  If the characters are doing something in one scene based on knowledge of an event that has not happened, that will cause any reader to stop, shake their head and try to piece the puzzle together.
Or if the characters act out of character or do something for no reason, this also frustrates the reader.  Be sure on a final read-through to take the time to write out your plot events on a timeline as they happened.  You should do this even if you are a writer called a “pantser” (write-by-the-seat-of-your-pants style writer) and do not use outlines.  You have to be sure that during your editing you didn’t move a crucial point or event out of its correct time.  The timeline will keep you on track. And it is easier to spot any potential plot holes or inconsistencies.
Keeping immersion also means that the reader can feel, breathe, smell, hear or even taste the elements of the scene.  They are living through the story and not being told a tale. One way to dull your prose or separate your reader from the character is using Filter Words.   Filter Words are just that – words that appear when the reader’s experience has been filtered through a character’s point of view.
Filter examples (and any tense of the words):  To Hear, To Know, To Decide, To See, To Notice, To Feel, To Think, To Assume, To Believe and To Note.  There are a lot more out there, but this gives you an idea of what to look for.
Here are two paragraphs as an example:
Danny thought about tomorrow’s car race and he wondered how he would perform against all the other, more experienced drivers. He heard a car horn blare at him from the traffic waiting behind him.  It was then that he decided that he had to put aside his worries and do the best he could.
Without filters…
A vision of roaring race cars flashed across Danny’s mind.  The day of the race had almost arrived.  How would he do against the other more experienced drivers?  A car horn blared behind him from an impatient driver and interrupted his thoughts.  He shook his head to clear away the doubts.  “I have got this!” he said aloud to himself.
Not all uses of the words above are considered filtering. But, it is a tough trap to avoid and like I said before, one must walk a fine line. Restrict your Filter Words to when they are critical to the meaning of the sentence.
The last Immersion Alert I want to hit upon is Exposition — The “writer’s diarrhea of the mouth”.  Do not fill your pages with tons of historical facts (real or imaginary) or with complex, scientific exposition.  If you do not bore the reader, you will certainly confuse them.  Yes, you can relay some, but everything has to be in moderation.
Also in step with this, don’t fill your pages with huge paragraphs or have exhaustive chapters.  The reason for breaks in writing is just that:  a mental and physical break for the reader.
The current readers today are conditioned to fast action or events happening at the same time or in rapid order Producers have designed video games, television shows and movies to cater to short attention spans.
Fine-tuning your writing so that the reader lives through the character is a tall task, yet it is a very rewarding endeavor.  Don’t water down your message or limit your story’s potential by ignoring the rules to immersion.  After all, the very reason we spend hours pouring over our writing is to bring the reader inside, right?
In terms of jumping into a character’s skin, I try to immerse myself in the role as much as possible to bring me closer to them. All I do is what’s required to achieve what I want to achieve. – Dougray Scott

ONE YEAR BLOG-ANNIVERSARY!! — Derek Barton – 2017

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The picture is to pay homage to one of the books that most inspired me to be a horror/epic fantasy writer:  The Shining by Stephen King!

 

Jack and friends have come out to celebrate with me on MY ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY writing my blog!!

 

I am super thrilled to celebrate and mark this occasion.  It certainly doesn’t feel like I have been doing this blog for a whole year!  What an incredible journey it has been — in a good way filled with a lot of personal growth and accomplishments that I didn’t think were possible.

Just a few stats that I would like to point out.  Since July 17th, 2016:

  • Visitors to the site:  659
  • Views on the different pages:  1603
  • Visitor countries:  19 different nations (including Japan, Thailand, Australia, Indonesia, Czech Republic, United Kingdom, Romania and someplace called Guernsey!)
  • Blogs posted:  37 (this will be 38th!)
  • Stats for July 2016:  79 visitors, 219 views
  • Stats for July 2017:  184 visitors, 244 views (and the month hasn’t finished!)

 

Been an unbelievable year and I am ecstatic to see what the next year will bring! Thank you for being with me this year and enjoying the ride with me.  You are all my favorite passengers! ha!

 

Now back to work….

ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKE JACK A DULL BOY

ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKE JACK A DULL BOY

ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKE JACK A DULL BOY ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKE JACK A DULL BOY

ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKE JACK A DULL BOY

ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKE JACK A DULL BOY

ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKE JACK A DULL BOY ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKE JACK A DULL BOY

ALL

WORK

DULL BOY

 

 

 

 

The Wilds of Aberrisc… — Derek Barton – 2017

Aberrisc Map 2017

As promised in my blog A New Land to Behold…, here is my first draft of the Map to the Wilds of Aberrisc.
I am not completely happy with it so it may not find its way into the book like this, but perhaps another version will.   Yet, I do feel that a map was overdue.  And I have to admit they are fun to build!
“You were rumored to have been imprisoned by the Eulocths a while ago. Was this true?” Taihven was confused until an image of the Green Ones flashed in her mind.
“Oh, yes! Vicious, little lizard-like creatures.” He blurted out, but immediately he felt anxious and did not like the possible outcomes of this topic.
“Well, you see our race has had constant conflicts with the Eulocths. Ever since we got knotted in Yamtolak.”
“Knotted? What do you mean?” he asked.
“Yes, knotted. How do I explain…” she gathered her words. “Where you come from, do your lands not knot? When the lands collide, but connect versus pushing away from one another?”
The look of confusion on his face answered for him. “Our lands do not move. They are locked into position.”
“Ah!  You see, all the continents here float upon a massive ocean and they move along with the subterranean currents. Occasionally, the lands collide, but bounce off from each other. The knots are when the lands strike and lock into each other or part of the land tears free and remain with one land or another. Such is what happened with our Sacred Groves of Ara Turas. We have been knotted and trapped here on Yamtolak when it knotted with our homeland.”
In Consequences Within Chaos, the characters were in various locations, but a map was not as necessary to follow the story line. In the Bleeding Crown (the sequel to Consequences Within Chaos), I feel it will be very beneficial to see where the characters are and where the action is taking place in relation to one another.
Here is also a little write-up on each continent:

Wilds of Aberrisc

Ara Turas – Homeland of the Duradramyn; their lands exist of grassy plains and rolling tundra.  Duradramyn are a simplistic, tribal people that rely heavily on ritual or spiritual magic.  While renown for their agriculture, they are also dedicated to existing with nature, living among animals and preserving the environment.

Aviytoss – Homeland of the Flohki; sprawling wetlands and dwarf tree swamps. Flohki are half-bird humanoids that tend to be xenophobic and very territorial.  Their technology, militant personalities and scientific knowledge has fostered them several large cities and coastal fishing industries.

Bre’Avat — Vast jungles and volcanic mountain ranges.  The continent does not have a known race or humanoid culture, but is home to original species of Mammoth Bats, Khortha Lizards and Reaxes which are massive beetles that live within lava pits.  Abandoned ruins of an intelligent race have been found there, but no survivors or descendants are known.

Cordavail – Homeland of a small human kingdom.  They are very isolated in a ring of high mountains and rarely reach out to neighboring lands.

Dorminahz – Homeland to the Thettes and Brohmn Giant races.  These two clans are very war-like and have often battled in bloody and costly civil wars.  They live barbarian lifestyles, but the Thettes are nomadic and follow after migratory animal herds.  The Brohmn claim permanent residences and dig out immense structures in mountain sides and subterranean caverns.

Ele Tessis – Territory to the shadow race of Bal’Avals.  These mystical creatures tend to have sadistic desires and evil tendencies.  Little contact has been made with them; they protect their lands violently and will not suffer any trespassing.

Fhey Rhas – Homeland of the Yuul; their home is a ring of seven islands.  The Yuul are a feline/human race that dedicate their lives to the study of magic.  Political sciences and government organization are also key concerns to their culture.

Huuscia – Endless miles of desert wasteland; suspected to be unpopulated, but few explorers have ever returned from their expeditions.

Mescarne – A heat-blasted, barren plain; at its center is the legendary Quartz Tower.  The Tower is believed to be the key focal point for the magical energies and ley lines to the entire world of Aberrisc.  Few have found it and been able to return to describe the structure.  Some propose it is of ancient origin by a long-forgotten race.  No one has ever been able to describe the interior.

Peht Glacier Flats – Ice wasteland; unpopulated by humanoid creatures due to its weather and unstable lands and climate.

Rya – Desert dune lands cover most of this continent.  However, there are also long stretches of glass fields that mar this sand expanse.  Ancient tales and folklore describe the region as a homeland to a once noble and powerful race, but they unleashed a doomsday cataclysm which formed the glass fields and ever growing dunes.  No evidence of such a race has been discovered to date.

Utakraas – Homeland of the Balshazras; these lands are made up of sprawling swamp areas, deep lakes and enormous rivers.  Balshazras are reptilian, but have a high intellect that matches their natural gifts with arcane and elemental magic.  The unique creatures can continuously reincarnate and thus are seemingly immortal.

Yamtolak – Homeland of the Eulocths.  These vile lizard humanoids have very base, selfish desires and often make raids upon other lands for food, treasures or to take slaves.  They exist in linked clan villages that all answer to their tyrant king.  Their biggest strength and weapon is in their sheer numbers.  With a mob-mentality, the Eulocths do not fear anything or anyone.

I hope to create another world map of Wyvernshield soon for the next blog.  Please let me know what you thought and if you have any suggestions.

A New Land to Behold… — Derek Barton – 2017

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Recently I have been toying with the idea of making maps for my fantasy worlds detailed in Consequences Within Chaos, the prequel Seyde in Blood and my upcoming sequel The Bleeding Crown. 

There are a lot of debate on whether maps are a hindrance or a benefit to your story.  I think that like any other writing tool or technique that a writer can use, it should be considered carefully for each story, thought out thoroughly and done on a case by case basis.  Not every story will warrant a map.

The first important question to consider is:  will it add to the story for the reader?   Do you think that there may be too many names floating about in your prose or do you feel that the layout of your places are pretty straightforward for the reader to follow?  When I read George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, I had to often look at the maps to keep the story straight in my head.  For that matter, he had so many characters going all over the place and working with so many different characters, I even made an Excel Spreadsheet to keep the names straight!  But Mr. Martin has such a great talent and incredible story that I forgave him as a reader and put in the extra effort.

Another question:  Do you feel that the map is going to help you as the writer?  Will it guide you in keeping all the facts straight and keeping an accurate idea of where each character might be?  Or will a map also give you inspiration or show you where you have room to grow?

When you do decide, you will also face the dilemma of where are you going to get it?  Are you going to draw it yourself and if so, do you have the right amount of cartography skill?  If you are not taking up the challenge to create it, then what resources do you have to get one?  There are a ton of “free map images” out on the net, but then you may have to make concessions or even possibly alterations to your story.  Perhaps you might be wise to invest on getting it professional completed.  There are also many websites that will provide map-making services or websites like Cartographers Guild that has a forum for questions and/or advice.

Overall, the questions surrounding the “to map or not to map” debate really comes down to time, resources and whether or not it will benefit you as a writer and/or the readers.

For myself, I have started my sequel and I think it will be a positive addition for the readers to see where the lands are and maybe help give the readers a better perspective of all the key lands that are involved in the story.  My plan is to make a map of both worlds detailed in the books.  And yes, I do plan on designing the maps myself.  I designed several in my old Dungeon & Dragon days and found that it really provoked ideas and plots (usually evil plots to mess with the players!! haha)

I will keep you all in the loop and hopefully share my maps soon!!

When One Must Battle… — Derek Barton – 2017

Capture 1k

When I started my first novel, Consequences Within Chaos, I fell into an almost obsessive “plot mode” and wrote a rather long, bulleted outline of my story (60 pages to be exact).   However, for the battle scenes, I skipped past with a lazy wave of the hand and just wrote a line “insert battle scene here.”  Not giving the battle scene its proper respect was not only a big mistake as far as outlining, but it also became a huge stumbling block for me when I attempted my first drafts.

Why? 

Well, when it came time to write these epic battles, I found I had no real idea where to start.  Instinctively, I knew that there was a lot riding on capturing this part to my story just right.  I had lied to myself and naively thought that this would “all magically be revealed and come naturally to me”.

Suddenly with all that sitting upon my shoulders, I put off writing the first one; even postponed and put aside the book for months.  I wouldn’t categorize this period as writer’s block, but maybe a weird version of stage fright?  If I didn’t write the scene (didn’t walk out upon the stage), then I wouldn’t screw it up (I wouldn’t show how bad I was at this) and embarrass myself (fall flat on my face in front of the audience).

It took me a lot of research, experimentation, rewrites and some sheer will to get the battles done for the book.  They’re not perfect, but I am happy with them overall.  Will I do better nowadays?  I sure hope so! 

To save you from my pain, here are the critical factors you need to answer when using a battle scene (this includes all types of fights – barroom brawls, ambushes, street assaults and all the way to the epic, five army battles!):

  1. Determine who is all involved (Characters/groups) – this includes not just your main characters or protagonist and any friends, but it includes the antagonist (most times) and/or his minions or allies.  Also keep in mind any surprise attendees you may want to include.  This will add to the tension of the scene!
  1. Provide goals and personal motivations for all parties (Individual beliefs) – you will need to ask yourself why you are doing this battle.  Ask yourself if the battle is really important to the overall story (in other words, don’t include it just to have an action sequence).  Also ask what reasons and goals does each character have for the battle.  Make them have an invested motive to being there.  What do they have to lose being there or what do they need to achieve?  Here is a great chance to really highlight a person’s inner thoughts.  Showcase their strengths, courage or lack thereof.  And be sure that their reasons are not the same for each battle and you are not just repeating what you have already accomplished.
  1. Decide where the battle will take place (Setting) – this important step can elevate your scene to that next level.  Backgrounds can be key elements that bring the scene to life.  If the battle takes place in a cliché or too common landscape then the scene might come across as redundant or even predictable.  For example, look at the epic fight scene between Annakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars III: The Revenge of the Sith.  The frantic battle between the two characters was incredibly more entertaining due to tension of having their duel upon pieces of debris in a lava flow.  The battle was a highlight for this film (as there were very few that I can think of).  If the battle was just on a large open field, the scene would not have stuck in your mind.  However, use caution as there is a fine line between entertainment and disbelief!
  1. Orchestrate the exact movements and attacks (Pace) – here you must be careful with the “dance steps” of the battle.  Who moves where and who reacts to what.  It is very important to write the actions carefully so as to not be choppy (which happened with my first attempts) and has to be clear so that the reader isn’t confused.  Remember they cannot actually see it and are relying on your words to paint the proper picture.  Also in order for the prose to be read smoothly and the pace of the combat to be in line with the action, use short terms, small paragraphs and simpler words.  The whole hope is to have the readers become immersed, have their breaths taken away and have them on the edge of their seats trying to figure out what’s going to happen next.  If they are reading through intricate details, lengthy descriptions or wordy dialogue, they are not going to experience the same impact that they would with tighter pacing.
  1. Include at least one unexpected event or tactic (Conflict) – as a rule for myself, I try to bring a creative element to the battle that the readers as well as the characters were not expecting.  It heightens the tension of the whole scene.  In the movie Braveheart, they added often many twists to their battles that caught the viewers and the combatants by surprise.  During one battle that comes to mind, when the English were charging on horseback with swords held high and ready to trample the foot soldiers of Wallace’s armies, the Scots suddenly brought up spears that were hidden within the tall grass!  While the unfortunate horses paid the price mostly for this trick, this simple twist changed the whole expected outcome.
  1. Plan for and carry out the results (Outcome) – when you start designing the battle, be sure you know what you are getting for each side and be sure you what you really want for your plot and story.  Many writers have written themselves into a deep corner because they didn’t think ahead to the outcomes.  They focused so much on the battle that they didn’t plan for the results.  Your battles should serve you!  Whether the results pin your main character down even harder (which is great – the farther the point where the character has to come back from, the more tension and conflict it brings to the story) or whether they actually win at last what they have been struggling to obtain the entire story, battles are stepping stones for your characters. Battle outcomes are pivotal and vital to the future of the story and it can be disastrous to lose focus on that.

Every scene is a platform for your character to level up and grow in the direction you need them to in your story.  Their triumphs or losses are the very ingredients that make up who they are.  Just like us in every day life – if we don’t experience ups and downs then we do not grow from them or learn from the journey.

Writing a battle scene can place your character under intense scrutiny, pressure to succeed and motivate him or her to excel – without this extreme moment of their life they would not have achieved anything your story wants and needs them to accomplish.

For us as writers, battles are waged and won with swords and words!

New Character Sketch #2… — Derek Barton – 2017

Here is another sneak peek at an upcoming character for The Bleeding Crown, sequel to Consequences Within Chaos.

 

Scars

 

Character Profile Questions:

What is their name? Only known as Scars. He lost his birth name in battle and will never use the real one again.

How old? 48 years old (He is one of the species called Flohki which live on average to 110 years old.   Their upper torso features are mainly bird, the rest humanoid.)

What does your character look like? White feathered head, broken beak, scars running down left cheek and multiple scars along the top and back of his head. He has the muscular body of a weightlifter and the head features of a seagull and icy blue eyes.

Where does he live? During an ambush along the Flohki borders, he was captured and enslaved by a roving Thette Giant Clan. He is the personal slave of Korba-Tarn and bodyguard of the giant’s mate, Frest-Alae.

Where is the character from? Scars grew up in a fishing community called Maxnen Vale. The Flohki continent called Cammiana consists endless grasslands surrounding lush swamps. The Flohki are divided in a civil war with the Pesha-aar due to territory and nesting land disputes. This disorganization has made them very vulnerable to the Quietus Army and the Ebon Throne.

What kind of childhood? Through his first decade of life he was happy and worked hard alongside his older brothers on the docks and the fishing boats. When times got tough and his family had misfortunes (a typhoon destroyed their small fleet of boats and home), the parents were forced to turn there children over to the Elder Leaders of the Ledatd Nest. Conscripted as “Bre-ox-da” which means “battleborn”, he and his brothers learned and trained in military combat. The Bre-ox-da are navy warriors that protect the coast lines. They were expected to serve for life as an “honor”.  The Flohki don’t believe in allowing anyone to be homeless, however they do require some form of restitution. The parents would not be able to feed the boys and themselves so the Leaders took the boys and the parents were given shelter and food for their remaining lives.

What does the character do for a living? Scars was rising in  the ranks as a military bodyguard and escort for officers of the Ledat Nest. He was also reknown for his horse combat skills and martial arts. Between assignments he trained many of the new Bre-ox-da in hand-to-hand fighting and military strategy.

How does your character deal with conflict? He has a knack for observation, studying enemy patterns and movements and uses patience to gather information for when he does strike or make a decision. Methodical and full of purpose. Being reduced to a slave and being dishonored, he is broken and submissive to the Thettes.

Who else is in their life? He has no contact with his race or family. A pair of Duradramyn survive enslaved in the slave pens with him.

What is your character’s goal or motivation? He knows that he should escape, but he also feels so lost and without direction, he has not yet discovered any reason to leave.

Their Status: Surrendering in battle means you lose your title and name forever. On a mission to escort his assigned officer, they were ambushed by the Thettes. As the unit leader, Scars surrendered as a sacrifice to allow his unit and brothers time to escape capture or death. Scars cannot ever regain his status and knows he will be ostracized by his race.  Part of him feels that being a slave  is almost proper punishment for not dying in battle.

New Character Sketch #1… — Derek Barton – 2017

Behind-the-scenes look at a new character coming up in my new novel, The Bleeding Crown.

This is a rough draft of her background story and her status before the events unfold in the book.  (Keep in mind that I may include all or selections of this character sketch.  It falls under the option “Author’s Choice”! ha)

Ama’yen of the Yuul

(Actress – Nadine Njeim)

amayen-2

Character Profile Questions:

How old? 22 years old

What does the character look like? Ama’yen has smooth, raven hair, tan skin, large feline-type silver eyes. Her race known as the Yuul all have the feline eye features and some have small cat-like ears.  She is in prime health and young.  However, the Yuul do not live as long as other races and usually have only a lifespan of forty to fifty years.

Where is the character from? The Yuul live on the Island Nation of Fhey Ras, a chain of thick, lush jungles and mountain range islands. Their capital city, Braama thrives in the crater of a dead volcano. Giant Tarro Black Eagles live along the tops of these mountains and have been domesticated by the Yuul.

How does your character deal with conflict? Ama’yen has become a survivalist and pragmatic. She will do whatever is necessary to keep her brothers alive and to complete her missions. Rare to show emotion and rarer to anger. Strong-minded, very rational and focused.

Where does she live? After the execution of her father, the Yuul surrendered to the Quietus Armies.  She was forced to become a formidable enforcer for the Ebon Throne. Now as a powerful sorceress, she performs detailed and intricate shadow missions — espionage and capturing enemies or persons of interest.  Ama’yen’s younger twin brothers are held as captives which keeps her loyal and devout.

Does the character have any unique or special abilities?  Ama’yen can call upon red, lightning elemental spells, but her greatest gift she is born with is the ability to magically clone herself for a temporary period. This allows herself to do multiple tasks all at once — cast several spells or fight hand to hand.  She can clone up to four forms of herself that will last up to fifteen minutes or until the clone suffers too much damage. This can only happen two times a day and she suffers crippling fatigue from this endeavor.

Who else is in their life?  She leads a small coven of other female Yuul sorcerers called the Rohax. She does have a lover, a female Yuul Beast-Master, Keseli.  She trains the Tarro and Ama’yen’s hunting beasts, the Panzurs (pitbull-panthers hybreds). Ama’yen has no intention of any true, long-term romance with Keseli. They flirt and use each other for their needs, but she has no future plans for herself or with anyone.

The character’s status?  As a Quietus enforcer, she has done well for herself and is favored with rewards often for her excellent service. Due to her obsessive determination, she rarely makes mistakes or unfulfills her missions. This has earned her many enemies as well as an almost legendary fearsome reputation. She will not be overtly evil or cruel, just business-like and unmoved by any pleas or begging.  No one’s life is above her brothers’ lives.  Her worry over her brothers keeps her locked in a private mental cell.

What is your character’s goal or motivation? She hopes to one day earn her twin brother’s freedom. She will not allow herself to think past this goal or have hope for a future for herself until then. In her mind, she will always be enslaved to The Bleeding Crown and the tyranny of the Quietus.