Horror · Movies/Television

The Slow Horror of The Orphanage.

When I was younger I used to watch a lot of horror movies, but I soon tired of the slasher films and stopped watching altogether. Recently, though, I’ve gone back to watching some more horror movies and one of those included The Orphanage.

The plot involves a couple and their adopted son, who move into the mother’s childhood home, which was once an orphanage. The mother, Laura, plans to turn it into a home for disabled children, but at a party for the opening of the home, their son goes missing.

I was pleasantly surprised with this movie and I’m glad it is an old-fashioned ghost story in that the horror is revealed by the building up of suspense. As I grew up on Hitchcock, this type of horror appeals to me more. To be perfectly honest, one thing that I did find disturbing was the young boy, Tomas. The way he followed the mother around was rather creepy; however, his story is drip-fed to the audience that one eventually feels sympathy for him.

The film is in Spanish and I didn’t have an issue with having to read sub-titles, as I’ve watched quite a few foreign films and television shows over the years. I enjoyed the cinematography, which helped create the atmosphere of isolation, darkness and abandonment. The only problem I had with the movie was self-inflicted in that I didn’t see the ending earlier that I may have done otherwise. I was clearly taken along with the ride and when the resolution was revealed it all made perfect sense. The ending was satisfying and rather poignant.

Even if you are not a fan of the horror genre, this film is still worth watching. It portrays a message of love between a mother and her child and for those less fortunate than ourselves.

Have you watched The Orphanage? Do you prefer the slow build of suspense or slasher flicks? Do you like to guess the ending or prefer to just go along for the ride? Do you have problems with watching foreign films?

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Movies/Television · Writing

Lessons in Writing from Alfred Hitchcock.

Im-a-writer-and-therefore

As a child, it was watching the film Picnic at Hanging Rock that fired my imagination, but it was Alfred Hitchcock that made me want to become a writer. This may sound strange, but I grew up heavily influenced by film. Watching images on the screen helped me to see the images within my own mind. As Alfred Hitchcock played such a huge influence on my life, here are some lessons I have learnt from him regarding both writing and suspense.

‘The only way to get rid of my fears is to make films about them’.

Replace the word ‘films’ with ‘books’ and this statement can be pretty well spot on. Our fears may not just be of monsters or murderers, but of the fears we may face in our everyday lives; betrayal, abuse, infidelity, bullying. We’ve all experienced fear at one time or another; it’s a basic human emotion. We’re writers because this is how we express ourselves best and what better way to reach our audience than through emotion.

‘The length of the film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder’.

As readers, it’s exciting to read a book that you can’t put down. We may even stay up late into the night to find out what’s going to happen next all the way to the very end. Readers have become hooked and can be eager to read more of that author’s work, and as writers, this is exactly what we want to happen – for our readers to keep reading.

‘Drama is life with the dull bits taken out’.

No-one wants to watch everything that goes on in a person’s life in order to get to the best parts – even reality television doesn’t do that. It’s the same for our stories. The reader is more interested in the plot; the action. Sure we need scenes with less action, but they need to help move the plot forward. This is when we need good editing and beta readers to help us out. An extra pair of eyes can help us weed out the dull bits to help keep our story on track.

‘Always make the audience suffer as much as possible’.

Due to the nature of traditional publishing, authors are well known to have long spells between books, especially in a series. This is one of the reasons why authors have taken to self-publishing. Yes, authors want their readers to be eager for their next book, but if they are expected to wait too long, readers may well lose interest altogether. Readers will move on to another author willing to fill that gap. This is why authors having a backlist, as well as writing short stories and novellas, has proved popular. Fulfilling this need for readers helps ensure a loyal customer base.

Have you learnt any lessons through film? What influenced you to become a writer?

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Up Close & Personal · Writing

Writing from Experience: Bringing it Home.

2011 is shaping up to be a personal year for me.  Events have taken place that I feel compelled to write about them and others throughout my childhood.  Writing personal essays has now become a part of my writing agenda.

I have been reading books on essays, including Writing from Personal Experience by Nancy Davidoff Kelton and Writing Articles from the Heart by Marjorie Homes.  I have found them both helpful and motivating and I have since compiled a list of possibilities to write about.  Reading these books have also helped with my novels.

My first novel begins with a hit and run accident.  I was left wondering if my writing sounded convincing enough when revealing the emotions of my characters.  It was not until I was going over my personal experiences that I discovered I must have had some kind of repressed memory.  I was in primary school when my grandfather was hit by a truck.  He died instantly.  Images and emotions of the days that followed flashed through my mind.  I did know about such an event; I know how that feels.  I feel I can now do my re-writes with more confidence.

It’s also funny how timing comes into our lives.  Through my husband’s work, he forwarded on a link to a Victorian Roads commercial.  This video is both graphic and confronting, yet it brings the message home.  It, too, has allowed me to focus on the emotions and the people who are left behind.  Since watching this video, I have discovered that looking outside the box is a helpful tool.

As Nancy Davidoff Kelton writes in her book:  ‘Writing isn’t about going far.  It’s about going far within’.

How far are you willing to travel?