I took a trip to the abandoned Letchworth Village psychiatric center. So I figured, why not write an article about it?
Check it out in the latest issue of Living Paranormal Magazine!
When I say ‘writing an outstanding first line’, I don’t necessarily mean it needs to be some magical combination of words that hypnotizes anyone who sees it to keep reading. (If you figure out how to do that please let me know!). All it really needs to do is stand out. Make it interesting, exciting, terrifying, or even humorous. It could be something as simple as ‘My uncle’s head fell off last night’. As long as it makes the reader want to know more, they’ll probably keep reading.
The first line of your story, whether it be short fiction or a novel, can decide its fate, no matter how good the rest of it may be.
Most publications receive so many submissions that the process of elimination can be rather cutthroat. It’s the only way some publishers can keep up with the flood of emails they receive. Some don’t offer rejections at all. They state in their submission guidelines that if you don’t hear back within a specified amount of time, your story has been rejected. It’s disappointing to receive a rejection letter (or email to be specific; I still like to refer to them as ‘letters’) but even more disappointing to get nothing at all.
If your first line doesn’t make them want to read more, there’s a good chance it could end up in the rejection pile without ever being read.
If your first line grabs them, they’ll likely read the first few paragraphs. So those should entice the reader further, just as the first line did.
Let it reflect what emotion or theme your story intends to instill, so the reader is set to the right frame of mind to see the story as closely as you intend it to be seen. Allow it say something to the reader, imprint something that matters. Make them wonder, ask themselves a question; make them curious, afraid, or delighted. Illicit an emotion or a thought, an idea or eye-opening realization.
Here is a very basic example of how to turn an average first line into a good one:
Original: The night was still, as if being intently watched by the moon.
Better: Stillness blanketed the night, watched over by an intent moon.
Even better: Something permeated the night, forced it into stillness as the moon watched with uncertain intent.
The original isn’t terrible, but it doesn’t say anything to the reader about the story. It merely describes the setting. It doesn’t illicit feeling.
The better version adds some style to the wording, but still states the same thing.
The even better version adds words like: something, forced, and uncertain. These words make the reader wonder what that ‘something’ might be. It adds a touch of apprehension by including ‘forced’, and it adds curiosity by adding ‘uncertain’.
But this isn’t the only way to nail a great first line.
Another option is to begin your story with action. Something happening. It doesn’t have to be exciting or full of explosions (although, explosions are fun). The idea is to begin the story with action rather than description. The example I used above is more descriptive than action-based, but still includes action words: permeated, forced, watched.
If your character is in a situation early in your story, but you’ve started describing the situation rather than playing it out, just begin your story with the situation playing out. You can worry about informing the reader afterward. The curiosity of wanting to find out what’s happening is what will keep them reading. If your characters have something important to say, you could start with a conversation, just make that first line of dialogue intriguing.
This of course doesn’t work for everything. Sometimes starting a piece with description can work, if it works for the story. But any way you put it, the beginning of your story should grab the reader and draw them in.
Thanks for reading!
Follow my blog for more writing advice, submission calls, horror movie and book reviews, and all kinds of scary goodness!
If you have a chance, check out my debut novella, Zero Perspective.
My debut novella, Zero Perspective is now available!
Lost in the depths of space and time, swallowed by something unknown to humanity, a derelict ship is adrift in an alternate reality.
John and his crew board the vessel, the Esometa, on a rescue mission. The ship’s been lost for two weeks with no explanation. When they discover its occupants dead and decaying, a mind-bending journey begins.
The Esometa takes them down a path filled with horrid creatures and bizarre events from which there may be no return…
Lee Forman is a writer and editor from the Hudson Valley, NY. His fascination with the macabre began in childhood, watching old movies and reading everything he could get his hands on. He’s a third-generation horror fanatic, starting with his grandfather who was a fan of the classic Hollywood Monsters. His work has been published in numerous magazines, anthologies, websites, and podcasts. He’s an editor for Sirens Call Publications and writes, edits, and is an administrator for the horror fiction website PenoftheDamned.com. He’s also a regular contributor of non-fiction articles for Living Paranormal Magazine. Check out his debut novella, Zero Perspective on Amazon! When he’s not crafting horrifying creatures and tales of terror, he spends his time playing guitar and writing music. For more information and a list of publications go to www.leeformanauthor.com
I’ve written two articles for the latest issue of Living Paranormal Magazine! One about the infamous Bloody Mary, and another about Florida’s Bigfoot, the Skunk Ape. Living Paranormal is free to read, check it out. Filled with great paranormal goodness!
A Quiet Place is one of the best horror films I’ve seen in a theater. It’s not often to find a good one not released direct to DVD when it comes to new horror. I won’t spoil the movie for you by giving details, but rather point out what this movie did right, and why it’s more than worth your time.
They didn’t spoil the pacing or tension by explaining things. There is no backstory, no details about what, why, or how. It doesn’t need to explain itself. There are a few newspapers strewn around that show something happened, but even those have a purpose; they aren’t thrown in only to give explanation. The information is as ambiguous as it should be.
The movie isn’t full of extra garbage that’s not important to the story. No excessive gore, no unneeded sex scenes. The story is what it is, and all it needs to be.
Creatures. Too many movies show too much of the creature. And too soon. This movie only reveals glimpses and quick, mostly shadowed shots. They saved revealing the creature until the end, just as a good creature flick should do. And although I’m a fan of practical effects over digital, they were actually pretty awesome.
The ending, while quite abrupt, is well-executed. There isn’t a sunrise where everyone walks away and things are fine. They don’t go into any boring and expected solution where everything is explained and tied up neatly. It ends where it should end.
All in all, a great new horror movie that will more than likely be added to my collection.
I highly recommend seeing it!
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As a long-time fan of the Hellraiser franchise, I had to watch this one. But I was hesitant to do so after the saturation of not-so-great Hellraiser movies. I’m not saying they’re complete garbage—some of them have their own charm—but the first two resonate with me in a way none of the others can.
If you haven’t read Clive Barker’s The Hellbound Heart I strongly encourage you to!
I won’t say that Judgment was the worst of the franchise. But I think it doesn’t belong there.
First off, any Hellraiser without Doug Bradley as Pinhead just doesn’t work for me. When the same actor has played a character for so long, it’s a hell of a thing to try and get the same effect with another actor. No matter their skill, it just isn’t the same. Another actor playing Pinhead is like someone other than Hugh Jackman playing Wolverine. No matter how badass they are at the role, the original character has been the same actor for way too long for it to really work.
I will say this, Paul Taylor didn’t do a bad job as Pinhead. He had kind of a Doug Bradley look and his voice and tone weren’t a deterrent to his performance. I was less disappointed with him than I thought I’d be. But like I said, I can’t see Pinhead as anyone but Doug Bradley.
There are some great things about this movie. And some not so great things as well.
The trailer for it looked promising, though I didn’t trust it. My mistrust was justified. The entire trailer is made up of snippets from the first 15 minutes of the film, which really, was the only truly enjoyable part of the experience. It then goes into a long, slow, boring story about some detectives investigating a serial killer. That’s the first place this movie went wrong. Too much talk, not enough… anything else.
If you manage to stay awake through the dialogue that doesn’t carry any real weight to the story, you’ll get to see some scenes that are worthwhile.
The man with the cut-up face and dark glasses was a great character! He was probably the best part of the entire movie. At first I wasn’t sure if he was human or a cenobite, and to be honest I’m still not completely sure. No spoilers, but I’m leaning more towards one of those conclusions than the other.
The entire idea of that character and his role in the story was the only thing that made Hellraiser: Judgment worth watching. If the story revolved around him it probably would have been a better movie. They focused too much on the less interesting aspects of the story (as well as trying to make it a Hellraiser movie by throwing bits and pieces of its history in without any true meaning). I won’t spoil it for you, but there were some really great ideas that were wasted.
I think if they removed the cenobites, took the name Hellraiser out of the title completely, and got rid of the boring dialogue, it could have been a great film. On its own, it had potential. Hellraiser: Judgment’s biggest downfall is that they slapped the franchise onto a movie that could have done well on its own. Excuse the pun, but that brought judgment down hard on a movie that might not have been looked at so harshly otherwise.
If you’re a die-hard fan of Hellraiser, you’re probably not going to like how it ends. I certainly did not. There’s only one positive side to its ending: they can’t do it again…
But don’t let my bad review stop you from enjoying this film. I enjoyed some of it (it really did have some good scenes), but it was a watch-once and never bother with it again deal for me. My best advice, see it for yourself and pass your own judgment.
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The best advice I can give to you if you haven’t seen the show already, is to not watch Season 1, Episode 1, The National Anthem. Trust me, you probably don’t want to see that…
The strange thing I noticed about this show is that the seasons and episodes are listed backwards on Netflix. Usually when you go to a show, the first season is listed at the top, and episodes follow in a top-down format. This show lists the latest season first, and has the previous seasons below it. I think it might be an intentional way to avoid people from seeing The National Anthem first. It could definitely ruin the show for a lot of people, making them not want to watch any more episodes if they’d seen that first. A lot of the episodes are hit and miss, many not appealing to everyone.
That’s why I’ve put together this list for the horror fans out there. To filter out the stuff you might want to skip. By all means, watch the whole series; I did. But some episodes I enjoyed more than others.
Either way, here is my list of recommendations:
Season 2, Episode 2: White Bear
I have to say this is probably my favorite of all the episodes in regards to horror. Great story, atmosphere, pacing, and ending.
Season 4, Episode 5: Metalhead
This is my second favorite. Post-apocalyptic scenereo with robots? Yes please! Again, great story, atmosphere (they did this one entirely in black and white), pacing, and ending. One of the best in the series.
Season 4, Episode 6: Black Museum
If you plan to watch the entire series, you should probably save this one for last. But the way the show is constructed, it doesn’t really matter. You’ll get the story. (There are just a few easter eggs in the episode you may see if you’ve watched other episodes).
Season 3, Episode 5: Men Against Fire
This is also a great episode. Has its fair share of horror and a good ending.
Season 2, Episode 4: White Christmas
This one strikes hard on fear of time. The cruelty of what occurs made me cringe.
Season 4, Episode 1: USS Callister
This one isn’t necessarily horror (it has its moments), but as a Star Trek fan it’s something I can’t ignore. By far one of the best Star Trek inspired pieces I’ve ever seen. Even if you’ve never seen Star Trek, it’s an enjoyable episode.
Hope you enjoy the show! And fair warning: don’t watch The National Anthem.
It’s not often I write about a television series, but Channel Zero appealed to me five minutes into the first episode. I kept saying, “I’d die in this show, because I know damn well I’d be first in line to go in that house.”
Oddly enough, I’d never heard of the show at all. Of course, I don’t watch cable TV and it was on the Sci-Fi Channel (I know it’s SyFy now, but I refuse to accept that). I was introduced to it on New Year’s Eve by my date as something to watch during dinner. I’m glad we were done eating before certain parts… We ended up watching an entire season in one sitting. I started with the second season, No-End House, as she’d already seen the first, Candle Cove. It’s sort of like American Horror Story where each season is a completely different storyline so it doesn’t matter which one you watch first.
Both are great, but I felt Season 2 had a more fast-paced flow than Season 1. I’d almost recommend starting with Season 2, No-End House. Candle Cove moves a bit slow in the beginning, but keep watching. The end is worth it.
That’s one thing I’ll say about this show. They know how to make a good ending!
I’m surprised the show hasn’t gathered more attention. I feel it’s underrated, which is why I’m writing about it. Season 3 comes out soon, within a month or two from what I’ve read. I’m excited to see where they’re going to go with it!
I made this post short, as not to spoil the show for you with details. Just here to spread my love for a good horror series.
Feel free to comment and share your thoughts on the show if you’ve seen it.
Thanks for reading! And be sure to follow my blog for more horror-related stuff!
As a horror writer, naturally I have an affinity for literature, as well as movies. But what I talk little about are video games, and the underappreciated value they provide the genre.
Video games have been a significant and important part of my life. Ever since I had a Pong set, then moved to the Atari 2600, and on to the NES, I played and loved every gaming console since. I grew up on them, my kid grew up on them. And we’ve been playing them together since they could pick up a controller.
To me a good game is a work of art, much like a novel or movie. A video game combines a multiple art forms into one piece. Music, story, visuals, and voice acting. What’s compelling about horror games is they put you directly in the action. You control the character, and for first-person view games, you are the character. Suddenly, running from nightmarish monsters can be quite terrifying and if you’re really into the game, it actually gets your heart pumping. You feel the excitement and adrenaline rush of trying to stay alive.
Not all games are created equal. Just because you pick up a horror themed game doesn’t mean it’s going to scare the hell out of you. Games such as the Dead Rising series are great games, lots of fun to play, and even have nods to classic zombie movies, but they aren’t frightening.
I recently played a game called Outlast. Now that’s the kind of game I’m talking about. It’s a first-person view survival game, where you play the part of a journalist sneaking into an abandoned mental asylum for a story. There are no weapons. You can’t fight. You’re armed with only a video camera, luckily equipped with night vision when you need it. But the batteries can run out. When being chased by a psychopath with a machete or a mutated creature from beyond, all you can do is run, hide, and hope they don’t find you. Trying to navigate an enormous labyrinthian mental asylum in this manner was damn hard, and really got my blood pumping.
Alien: Isolation is another that comes to mind. Also a first-person survival game, it’s based on The Ridley Scott Alien movies. If this game, you’re on a ship with a Xenomorph. You do get a few measly weapons. But nothing worthy of actually trying to fight it. They’re mostly meant for distracting the alien so you can run the other way and hope it doesn’t kill you. The game plays a lot like Outlast, but in Alien: Isolation, the Xenomorph is highly sensitive to sound. Make too much noise, you’re dead. Also unlike Outlast the alien appears randomly rather than the specifically placed foes in the mental asylum. This game is so terrifying the virtual reality version of the game was never released as the developers were afraid it could cause a heart attack.
Although Alien Isolation never made it, Virtual Reality is the next great leap in horror gaming. If playing the game on a screen in your living room has allowed some games to incite actual anxiety, I look forward to seeing what the future of horror can do with a game where you really are in the middle of the action.
Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this post, follow my blog for more about horror fiction, writing, movies, and more!
∼Lee A. Forman
Aliens in bad rubber costumes, 1950s throwbacks in black and white, ax-wielding psychopaths, slug monsters, zombies, a detective with a dark past, and a full helping of campy 80s B-movie humor—this is the masterpiece that is Night of the Creeps. The recipe for this cult-classic sounds absurd. What the hell kind of movie has all that in it without being completely ridiculous? Somehow, Night of the Creeps managed to pull it off.
Released in 1986, starring Jason Lively, Steve Marshall, and Tom Atkins, the film starts with a scene that doesn’t fit the rest of the movie at all—aliens on a spacecraft. Yes, aliens. In cheesy rubber costumes. They even went as far as adding subtitles in both English, and for some reason, the alien’s language as well. This is an odd but lovable detail, especially for this kind of movie.
After that it jumps to old-school black and white, representative of scenes that happen in the 50s. Although it’s been done before, the style during these scenes bring a unique quality to this type of 80s horror. And they add a backstory to everything that happens later. Slasher films weren’t common in the 50s, but had their golden era in the 80s. That’s what makes ax-wielding psychopath so special. Night of the Creeps has 80s written all over it, but the killer is in the black and white 50s scenes—a nice twist to the mashup.
When the story jumps forward to 1986, it’s literally saturated with everything 80s. Frat parties, nerds, jocks, it’s all there. Jason Lively from National Lampoon’s European Vacation just tops it off. Adding to the B-movie humor, the homicide detective is given some of the worst lines of dialogue. But if you love that campy 80s style, it’s perfect. They bring that element to the movie while leaving the rest of the characters with more serious lines.
Although the ‘zombies’ in Night of the Creeps aren’t really zombies, at least not the Romero variety, they’re damn close. I won’t spoil the movie, but they have something to do with the aliens and slug monsters, and when everything comes together, all the unusual aspects of this film create a masterpiece that still shines over thirty years later.
I attended the Pine Bush UFO Fair this year, and I have to say it was a lot of fun! As a UFO writer for Living Paranormal Magazine, I wrote an article about the annual festival and dove into the town’s history with UFOs.
Check out my article, A Town’s Love Affair with UFOs in Issue #3 of Living Paranormal Magazine, which you can download and read for FREE on their website. Paperback editions will soon be available as well.