Monday, December 7, 2015

Experiments in Writing - Killer Critters!

I mentioned a story type I've been experimenting with this past Wednesday during the IWSG. The story is experimental in that I've long enjoyed the genre, but I've never written in it. It's a play on the goofy critter horror films, like Tremors and Lake Placid. The idea is fun. The opening scene amuses me. But I realized I'd gotten so focused on figuring out where the story was going that I wrote myself into a corner. I started limping along, struggling with where to go next. And something was missing. What?

So I started thinking about what I like about those movies. And it really boils down to the characters, doesn't it? Those movies are often enjoyable because of a combination of things, but the characters bring it home. Tremors wouldn't exist without Val and Earl. Nobody would have cared enough to stick it out. Though the rest of the characters are quirky, and add quite a bit to the story. Still, Val and Earl make it. And not just one or the other--it's the relationship between them that carries the film. 


Would anyone have stuck it out in Lake Placid without the quick, snarky dialogue between the four main characters? The shocking profanity from Betty White? At least, it was shocking when the movie came out. These days I think we all know she's spunky and not afraid to have fun, but back then she was just Rose (?) to me. Pretty sure I bark-laughed quite a few times during this one.


I've set my story up with two characters that share some snappy dialogue in the beginning, but then I lost that relationship. I buried it while I was trying to get to the next place in the story. Now that I've figured this out, I think I can get somewhere, but it means going back to the second scene in the story and writing fresh from the point where all hell breaks loose. 

In addition, I want to inject more unexpected humor into it. That's something else that's enjoyable in both Tremors and Lake Placid: unexpected humor. Often, inappropriate humor, where the horrific is mixed with something ridiculous. I've put a few details in that are a kick, but I need more. More! Despite the fact that I'm a major smartass in real life, I don't often write that way. Weird, right?

One problem I'm running into is that I haven't actually read any stories like this (specifically, goofy critter horror). I'm taking something I've only experienced in a visual medium, and trying to convert it to a short story. Which is not a horrible roadblock, but I suspect it's at least a sawhorse taking part in the roadblock. An orange cone of doom?

For those of you who enjoy this sort of film, what elements do you think you enjoy the most? Is it the characters? The humor? The pure absurdity? Or something else entirely? What do you seek out when you view one of these? What missing element makes you sad? Have you experimented with your writing lately? How'd it go?

May you find your Muse.

28 comments:

  1. I wonder if any of those movies were based on short stories or books? Just thinking about that Betty White scene makes me laugh. :)

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    1. Betty White was phenomenal in that movie. We still toss around some of the things she said.

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  2. Yes, it's definitely the characters and the humor. Tremors is a classic because of it! I tried writing a short story about giant voles before, but it flopped because I wasn't being ridiculous enough.

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    1. Yes, it's hard to be ridiculous enough, which is a weird thing to say.

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  3. The sad truth: I've never seen a horror critter movie. Not a single one. But hey, you can never have characters that are too strong. That'll drive pretty much any genre.

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    1. Gasp! I bet you'd like the movies I mentioned. Valid point on characters, though.

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  4. I liked Tremors, it was so unexpected the first time I saw it, and I couldn't help but remember DUNE and the big sandworms. I liked the dialogue and interaction between the characters, too, and although it may be a bit cheesy, sometimes we remember those types of films. I also liked Mars Attacks and Starship Troopers, more of the same horror mixed with a liberal dollop of humor. Good luck with the writing!

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    1. Oh yes, I frequently forget those two when mentioning these types of movies, but you're right. I've been wanting to watch Mars Attacks again.

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  5. Both of those are quirky fun and yes, the four main characters in Lake Placid tried to out-snark each other.
    Maybe it is the humor and the fact that while the films aren't played for laughs, the characters never take the film or themselves too seriously.

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    1. That could be, too. They aren't taking it seriously. I think part of my problem is that I sit down and start out having fun, but then it turns back to serious writing.

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  6. I have started a superhero story with the MC being a former sex slave who has to use both his special powers and his sexual prowess to save the day. Sounds like a corny sex romp but I am writing this as a serious story. So yeah, the going has been slow as I write what might be the weirdest superhero story meets lifetime movie idea of all time.

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  7. I watched the clip of Lake Placid with your question in mind. The juxtaposition of the characters, the blend of comedy and horror, the off-beat nature of the entire cast is what kept me there until the clip ended. Now just write something like that and I'll read from beginning to end.

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    1. I love that you watched it to answer the question! I imagine, too, that the clips chosen would reflect what really caught the maker's eye, too.

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  8. I agree, the characters really do make such stories fun. I think you can definitely pull it off. I know I would enjoy reading stories like that. Sometimes you need a bit of snarky back and forth bickering and humor to make life fun.

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    1. I do love snarky bickering in a book or movie when well written. It looks easy, but it sure isn't.

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  9. The humor is always the trickiest part.

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    1. Agreed. I feel like I need to get into a goofy mood and then run to my desk and start writing.

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  10. If we see that either of those two is on, we will drop the DVR recordings and watch it. Even if we can avoid the commercials on the recordings, we enjoy them.

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    1. Yes! We love the movies here. I've introduced my son to each of them, and he liked them, as well. Can't wait to watch them again when my daughter is old enough.

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  11. If anyone does come up with a novel that fits the bill that these movies do, please let me know! You know me, I'm all about the snarky humor.
    mb

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    1. I'll let you know if I discover one. I know it's got to be out there.

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  12. The characters are the most important part in my thinking with good dialog and interaction needed to make the characters work. I've never read anything of this nature, but I've seen plenty of films in the genre. It would be difficult to bank on the monsters to win over the reader.

    Arlee Bird
    Wrote By Rote

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    1. It makes me wonder if there ARE novels and stories like this, or if they just don't work on paper?

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  13. I LOVE the characters!! I think they carry the film. And to hear Kevin Bacon is reprising his role as Val just makes me want to watch the series though I have little time now!! Lol.

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    1. Yes! I was so excited to hear. I'm just hoping it ends up being both Val and Earl.

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