Behind the Story: Ritual
It’s time once again to take a look at the making of my fiction. This time, I’m going to give you a peek at Ritual. This story was a lot of fun to write and, as some of you may already know, stars Anthony Burdge from over at Myth Ink Books who has done a great job of promoting the story through Twitter and Facebook. This post does contain spoilers so, if you have not already done so, I suggest you read the story before you go on to read the story behind it. It is located in Briefly Bizarre, along with two other stories (Little Red Ball and The Reading). Click here to go directly to Ritual.
Make Me Horrible
The story started with me wanting to include readers in the writing process. You see, I am a fan of the days when writers actually interacted with their readers. My Facebook profile is open for anyone to send a friend request to and I follow back almost everyone that follows me on Twitter (unless it is quite obvious that you own a spam account). Over on Twitter, I had given followers the chance to become a character in my fiction by tweeting
Make me horrible.
Author Anthony Burdge took me up on the offer and I took to coming up with ideas to make him horrible. After a couple days of thinking, the opening two sentences came to me.
For many authors, the first words that come to you in a story are the most important. They set the overall tone for piece as you are writing it, letting you know if you’re writing something funny or serious or nonsensical. They dictate what the opening scene is going to be, often introducing your main character or overall setting, and sometimes the theme of the story. But most importantly, they are the first things a reader reads after the title and (possibly, the byline). This makes them the gateway into the story that enables the reader to leave this world behind. So, they have to be interesting. There is a lot riding on those first few words.
Well, I knew I wanted to write a piece that would live up to making Anthony horrible. I was intending on making him some psychotic killer or ghoulish zombie. But the first couple sentences came to me and wouldn’t leave my mind. So I wrote down what would become:
It’s like dotting an i or crossing a t. Only forgetting to do that wouldn’t get you killed… or worse.
Through these lines, images started coming to me of a man panicking over having forgotten to do something when performing some arcane ritual. He had messed up a symbol used in the summoning of a demon… and after being so careful in performing the rite exactly as instructed. The story started taking on a humorous tone (where the hell could he buy an all black goat at two in the morning on a Saturday during the waxing moon). Furthermore, how could he have forgotten that one tiny little line in the symbol?
If you’ve ever looked at some occult books filled with symbols, some are pretty straight forward… a star inside a circle and you’re done. However, some of them can get downright intricate such as in the Jewish Cabala. And if there is a writer out there known for his demons and intricate symbols and forbidden occult books, it’s Howard Philips Lovecraft.
For the Lovecraft of God!
H.P. Lovecraft is one of those writers that you either love or hate. I will be the first to admit that his writing style was not for everyone. It was thick, verbose, long-winded, using adjectives that even people in his day probably had to look up. In other words, his writing was bizarre.
However, if you got past this and read the stories the whole way through, they were completely terrifying. Lovecraft could portray madness better than any writer. I would even go so far as to say he outdid Poe when it came to this topic (the fact that both of his parents ended up in an asylum probably aided in this). Anyone who doubts this should read The Color Out of Space.
Lovecraft’s stories are filled with ancient demons, otherworldly beings, that despise humanity and will stop at nothing to return to our world and render us to mindless slaves and maniacs, if not to rend the flesh from our bones and suck the marrow from them. Most popular amongst these is Cthulhu – a horrifying creature with the body of a man, the wings of a bat, and a tentacled squid-like head (we’ve all seen the Cthulhu for President swag). I, on the other hand, was always fascinated by another of his beings. Azathoth.
Azathoth was the blind mad god of Lovecraftian horror (yeah, the guy has his own sub-genre of horror). Of all the gods in his stories, it was this one that gave me the most chills. Not only was he completely insane, but he waited just outside of reality to spread insanity through the population of the world. Much more frightening that being swallowed whole by squid-face. I knew instantly this was the demon I wanted poor Anthony to encounter.
But what madness to inflict upon him? How would his encounter with Azathoth affect (effect?) him? Thinking it over was giving me a headache… sometimes, answers are right under our noses.
Why wouldn’t worrying over whether or not he’d released a demon into the world cause someone a headache? But what if that headache weren’t a headache? What if it were the presence of the mad god inside his head and it started whispering to him? [You ask a lot of what if’s as a writer.]
Argento of Doom
So how would you react to a demon’s whispering throbbing in your head right behind your eyes? Well, I for one am not sure how I would react in my right mind. However, if you hear a demon whispering behind your eyes, you are probably not in your right mind. Now, if I weren’t in my right mind, I might do something crazy like rip my own eyes out… which is exactly what Anthony does.
As I imagined the scene, something I do for all my scenes before I write them… imagine that, it became this horribly gory affair straight out of a Dario Argento film. It became my twist at the end, this vibrantly detailed bit of shock that I wanted to stick in readers brain and make them remember the piece.
I still offer my followers the chance to become horrible characters in my stories. All you have to do is follow me on Twitter and send a direct message reading: Make me horrible! [Your First & Last Names].
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