Hey guys! I know I’ve been talking about my MA project/untitled memoir a lot lately, but today I want to talk about something completely different. For those of you who may not know, I took a genre writing course this semester. I’ll be honest and admit that I initially only took it for the credits. I was going to take an American Sign Language course as an independent study originally, but because the course was an undergraduate level course and I’m a graduate student I’d have to conduct some kind of research study around it which calls for IRB approval and a whole complicated string of events. Between teaching two classes, working full time, and taking two graduate courses, it was just way too much so I backed out. There were not any non-fiction writing courses being offered this semester, so that’s where writing genre fiction came into play.
It’s been quite an interesting experience. Not only do I have little to no experience in genre writing, but I also never read any kind of genre fiction. I love classic literature, young adult/literary fiction, and non-fiction. Throughout the semester I have had to read and write mystery, horror, and most recently, fantasy/sci-fi. Although I did not like writing a mystery and reading House of Leaves or Mama Day, I found my overall experience in genre writing to be pretty enjoyable. Professor Atwood is a sweetheart and one of the most fun and kind-hearted professors I have ever had. I really wish I could take her publishing course next semester! If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend taking any of her courses. It is guaranteed to be a good time with many cat videos and references. 😉
The last project I completed for this course was an extension/revision of my fantasy short story, now titled “Moore Magical Garden”. This story was inspired by the very few fantasy novels I don’t hate like Sarah Addison Allen’s Garden Spells and Jodi Lynn Anderson’s Tiger Lily.
I also drew some inspiration from my own personal life. Lenny the Leprechaun and all of his sarcasm was largely inspired by my dad who is the most sarcastic person I’ve ever met. He also gave me the idea to have Lenny show up to the well with a beer bottle and to make him drunk.
As a Christian, I don’t believe in magic. The bible warns in multiple places against following magic, witchcraft, and any kind of sorcery, which also had some influence on this story.
This story is not by any means perfect, but coming from someone who’s main writing focus is non-fiction, I was pretty proud of how this revision came out and I wanted to share it. Feel free to read below and leave a comment on what you think!
Moore Magical Garden
Magnolia was born in her family’s famous magical garden, known as the Moore Magical Garden. She was tall and tender with strong, light pink wings and a full head of silky blonde hair. According to her parents, she was born right under a bed of freshly blossomed magnolia buds. “She’ll be beautiful and strong, just like the flowers are,” he father said. Her parents both agreed that there was no better name for her than that of the flower, so they decided to call her Magnolia, or Maggie for short.
As a child, Maggie loved growing up in the Moore Magical Garden. Her family was extremely wealthy as they made a living off of their magical flowers. No one knew for sure how the magic worked, but Maggie’s mother, Gloria, would use unique blends of all different kinds of flowers and plants within the garden to cure all of the villagers of their ailments or to bring them whatever their hearts desired whether it be love, wisdom, strength, confidence, healing, happiness, or even just some good old sex. The Moore Magical Garden operated under one motto, “Flower power in one hour.” Meaning they could choose the right flower for any condition and after baking it in just 1 hour or less, have the perfect recipe for whatever you needed.
The Moore Magical Garden was located in the far end of the village away from the ocean where the mermaids resided and the woods where Sasquatch was rumored to roam. Sometimes they received visits from other tribes who liked to roam the forest like the dwarfs, elves, and goblins. Maggie loved it when the unicorns visited. She’d often spend time brushing their long, rainbow manes and riding them through the rows of flowers, being careful as to not crush any of the budding plants. She was often frightened by the goblins, and horrified by how hideously ugly the elves were with their long, pointy ears, big noses, and short statues. However, her parents told her that all of those tribes were harmless and worthy of her honor, respect, and attention. It was the foreigners she had to fear, they warned.
The gnomes, her parents said, were the most trustworthy of all of the tribes, other than the fairies of course. They weren’t always the prettiest creatures in the world, or even the strongest, but her parents said they were the most loyal. “Find yourself a good gnome and you’ve got a friend for life,” her father would say. They were generally always agreeable and extremely hard workers, especially when placed in their natural habitat – the garden.
Maggie’s parents decided to hire a gnome to help them to tend the garden. His name was Gunter and he was 34 years old, meaning he was only a few years away from ripening to the age of 40, which everyone knows means “time to settle down” in gnome world. He worked hard and vowed to always protect the Moore Magical Garden and to ensure that the secrets of the magic always remained secrets. For these reasons Mr. and Mrs. Moore promised Gunter that on his 40th birthday they would reward him with their prized possession – their daughter Maggie’s hand in marriage. This would ensure that the garden always remained within the family, that their daughter was well taken care of, and that the garden remained in pristine condition with the magic not only intact, but a mystery throughout all of the village for many years to come. Mr. and Mrs. Moore and Gunter the garden gnome kept this their secret for many years to come.
As a child, Maggie came to grow to appreciate the freedom she had to roam around the magical garden and smell the sweet aroma of all of the budding flowers and plants. Her mother, Gloria, named after the famous morning glories, would often take her through each of the aisles of the garden to teach her about the different magical powers each flower or plant brought.
“Roses.” Gloria said, “Just a sprinkle of petals and you’ll be well on your way to a beautiful new beginning.”
“What kind of new beginning?” Maggie asked.
“It depends on the color,” Gloria explained as she pointed to each of the varieties. “Red will bring you love. Pink will help you to feel more appreciated. White is for marriage – not to be confused with love. Orange will bring you passion, which you’ll need after marriage. Yellow will give you new friends, for those not quite ready for marriage. In your case, stick to the yellow ones for now, please,” she smiled.
Maggie looked up a Gloria and smiled. “Yellow it is then,” she said.
“Give me your hand, Maggie. I want to show you something else.”
Maggie held out her hand and Gloria pricked it with the thorn of a rose.
“Ouch! What did you do that for?” Maggie said as she clenched her finger in an attempt to stop the bleeding.
“You’ll see. Follow me.”
Maggie followed Gloria back to a row of aloe plants. Even though she’s walked by them dozens of times she never quite understood what they were for. They looked strange and kind of ugly after seeing the beauty in the roses.
“Put your hand out again,” Gloria said as she broke off a piece of the aloe plant.
Maggie put her hand with her bloody finger out in front of her. Gloria took it and squeezed the aloe plant over top of it until a gel-like substance poured over it. She rubbed it into the wound until it stopped bleeding.
“Aloe. For when you get a little too close to the roses. Roses while beautiful, still have their thorns and dangers about them. Much like the love and relationships many of them promise,” she explained. Maggie nodded. She understood now that aloe brought healing, but she wasn’t sure if she understood anything about the love part. At only 11 years old, love was still a mystery to her.
As Maggie grew older, she became more and more beautiful over time. By the time she was 16 and only 1 year away from her secret marriage to Gunter, her platinum blonde locks began to darken and change to a reddish tone and her wings grew larger and an even deeper shade of pink. Sometimes, Mr. and Mrs. Moore could swear they saw a twinkle in her eye, too. She was becoming even more beautiful than all of the roses within the garden, and when the other tribes from the village came to pick up their magical baked goods, they took noticed.
“My, oh my, that Maggie girl of yours sure is a beauty,” a lonely dwarf commented one day. “I only ordered a special helping of your slumber loaf bread to help me to fall asleep at night, but now I’m wishing I would’ve ordered a slice of lustful loving pie. Maybe I’d get lucky and end up falling asleep with her tonight,” he said. Dwarves were never very good with social skills, it’s why they had so much trouble making friends.
“Take a bottle of water lily juice on your way out.” Gloria said, “It’s on the house.”
“Sweet! Thanks, ma’am!” the lonely dwarf replied.
“Water lily juice?” Mr. Moore asked.
“Yes, to cool his passions and purify his heart to ensure he keeps it in his pants and away from our daughter,” she said.
“I can fix this problem tonight,” Mr. Moore said. He knew that as Maggie grew older and more beautiful, she’d have more than just lonely dwarves to worry about, especially if Mr. and Mrs. Moore were to keep their promise of marriage of their daughter to Gunter.
That night Mr. Moore went deep into his garden making sure to pick up as many garden stones as he could along the way. He carried them all into the garden shed located at the end of the garden and pulled out some supplies from the shed like his trusty hammer, a bucket of concrete, a trowel for smoothing over the concrete, and some wood. From there he set to work.
Mr. Moore spent hours in the garden shed. When his wife, Gloria tried to call him for dinner he responded in a muffled voice, “Can’t. Sorry. Busy,” and continued working straight through supper. An empty stomach was no big deal to him, he knew how important his work was. Finally after hours of tedious labor, his work was finally complete: it was a well made out of garden stones and concrete with a little wooden roof over top and a bucket hanging over it. The well was ten feet deep and only three feet wide. Mr. Moore stood back and admired his work. “Ah, she’s a beauty. A beautiful well to protect my beautiful daughter,” he said before calling Maggie out to further admire his work.
“What do you think?” he asked her.
“It’s beautiful, but I don’t understand what we need a well for. The pond is only a few minutes away,” she said. She had grown accustomed to fetching water from the pond outside of the garden. She loved visiting the pond because her beloved unicorns were known to frolic there at all hours of the day.
Mr. Moore let out a sigh. “This well isn’t for water…” he began.
“Really? Then what is it for?” she asked.
Mr. Moore hesitated before explaining, “Maggie, this is your new home. You must live deep inside this well and you must not come out for any reason within the next year.”
“What? A WHOLE YEAR? INSIDE THIS DEEP WELL? WHY? WON’T I DROWN?” She asked. The idea of being trapped in such a tiny space unable to view the beauty of the garden or mingle with the other tribes horrified her.
“No. There well will be completely hallowed with no water inside. You’re getting older now, Mags, and you are too beautiful. The dwarves tried to pick you up the other day,” he said.
“Well…was he a nice dwarf?” she asked, hopefully.
“Mags, you know what the dwarves are like…” he said.
Maggie sighed. “Okay, but what happens after a year?” she asked, afraid of what the answer must be.
“After one year you will be married to Gunter the garden gnome. Then you will be free to roam the garden again, unless he tells you not to. You will belong to him and you must obey everything he tells you to do.”
“But I don’t love him!” Maggie contested.
“Tough luck, sweet heart. He will be good for you and better yet for our garden. Now, climb in this well. For the next year, you can think about all of the ways in which you may grow to love Gunter. We’ll send you your food and water through the bucket twice a day, once in the morning and once at night.
Maggie sighed. She knew it was no use arguing it, her parents had the final word. Always. After all, they were the owners of the Moore Magic Garden. Without the garden, Maggie might as well be a fly, rather than the radiant, beautiful fairy she’s blossomed into over the years.
Mr. and Mrs. Moore’s plans to protect Maggie from other tribes and potential suitors through the village sounded great in theory. The well was far too deep for most of the village tribes to even consider climbing down, and no one would ever guess that Maggie would be hiding down below the bottom of the well. Since the fairies were the only tribes with wings, they didn’t have to worry much about anyone flying down in the well, either. Even the fairies weren’t a threat; everyone knew that all fairies, except for Maggie who was known for her unconventional ways and overall fearlessness, were afraid of the dark and what could possibly be darker than the inside of a deep and narrow well? However, there was one tribe they failed to consider; a foreign tribe residing outside of their village but beginning to make their pilgrimage throughout Germany in hopes of finding buried treasure, or gold, more specifically: the leprechauns.
Maggie was sitting deep against the side of the well braiding her hair to past the time as she waited for her mother and father to send down her daily food rations in the well’s bucket when she heard a loud noise.
Maggie moved towards the front of the well and looked up at the opening. Could this be her daily food rations? Maybe her mother was sending down her famous rose petal jam spread across a French baguette or Maggie’s favorite lilac blossom almond scones. She imagined they must’ve fallen out of the bucket causing the loud noise.
However, when Maggie looked up she didn’t see any of her mother’s magical food creations. Instead, she saw an ugly leprechaun. He stood approximately 3 feet tall; very short compared to Maggie’s height of 5’7”. His skin was dry and wrinkly and had a pale green tint to it. Maggie couldn’t get a good glimpse of what his hair looked like since it was hidden underneath of an over-sized top hat with a four leaf clover in the middle, but she did notice he had strands of bright red hair poking from the sides that matched his red neatly trimmed beard. He was wearing a tiny green tuxedo with pants that were a little too short and that revealed knee-high green and white socks. He carried a bottle of Guinness in his hand.
“Greetings from Ireland! My name is Lennnnnn……” he began to say before Maggie started screaming.
“WHAT ON THE EARTH ARE YOU??????” She screamed.
“That’s no way to greet a foreigner,” he said.
“Sorry.” Maggie said, “But really, who ARE you?”
“It is I, Lenny the Leprechaun,” the leprechaun replied.
“What are you doing here?” Maggie asked.
“What do you think kid? I’m a leprechaun…” he said.
“I don’t know…don’t you have a rainbow with a pot of gold to look for?” Maggie replied.
“Have you seen any rain lately?” he asked.
“Come to think of it, no I can’t remember the last time it rained,” she said.
“Bingo. But that don’t mean that a leprechaun can’t still search for gold,” he said.
“Oh okay. Sorry but there isn’t any in the well.” Maggie replied, “There isn’t much of anything down here,” she said sadly.
“Maybe not, but I bet I could make a few bucks off this here garden of yours,” he said. “I heard it was worth a fortune,” he said.
“You want to sell my family’s garden?” Maggie asked.
“No. No. Not at all. I mean profit off of it. Aren’t the flowers magical or something?” Lenny asked.
“I can’t tell you that,” Maggie replied.
“Hmmm. Okay. How about this…you tell me which flowers are magical and I’ll grant you three wishes,” he said.
“You got yourself a deal…if I can get the wishes first,” she said.
“No, then I’ll give you the wishes and still won’t know a damn thing about these magical flowers.” Lenny said, “How about a compromise? For every wish I give you you’ll show me a magical flower,” he suggested.
“You got yourself a deal!” Maggie exclaimed.
“Okay pretty lady, what’s your first wish?” Lenny asked.
“I wish I could get out of this well!” Maggie said without hesitation.
“Works for me. I imagine you’ll need to be out of this well to show me the magical flowers.” Lenny said, “Now close your eyes.”
Maggie closed her eyes while Lenny threw a handful of green glitter over her face and chanted, “Glitter green, nice and mean, come heaven or hell, allow Maggie to escape from this well.”
When Maggie opened her eyes, she was outside of the well and free to roam around the garden.
“Okay, now you owe me a magical flower,” Lenny said.
Maggie took her time walking around the garden. She knew that Lenny and the other outsiders didn’t know this, but the truth was EVERY flower and growing thing in the garden was magical. The question for her now was, which forms of magic did she want Lenny to know about?
Maggie stopped in front of a long row of tall, fully blossomed sunflowers. Perfect, she thought.
“We’re here,” Maggie said.
“The sunflowers are magical?” Lenny asked.
“Yes,” Maggie said.
“How so?” he asked.
Maggie bent down one of the tall stems and ripped off a fully blossomed sunflower. She pulled off each of the golden yellow petals and crumbled them in her hands. After all of petals were crumbled together she rubbed them on Lenny’s cheek.
“Hey! What in the hell are you doing?” Lenny screamed as he backed away and swatted Maggie’s hand away.
“Showing you your first magical flower,” Maggie replied.
“How is rubbing crushed sunflowers on my face magic?” Lenny asked.
“Sunflowers contain a special oil that when applied to the skin can act as a moisturizer, reduce wrinkles, and also serve as an anti-aging formula,” Maggie stated matter-of-factly. Her skin was perfectly flawless and had a natural glow to it that made it look like the sun was constantly shinning down on her and kissing her face. It was obvious that she had used the magical sunflowers on her own skin.
“Are you trying to say that I’m ugly?” Lenny asked.
“No, no, no. Not at all!” Maggie lied, “I’m just uhhh suggesting it because it will help to highlight your uhhh wonderful cheekbones.”
“I always did have some pretty bitchin’ cheek bones,” Lenny said as he took another swig of his Guinness. Maggie thought about correcting his language; she never liked cursing, but she decided it would be best to just let it go. After all, Lenny had been drinking ever since he arrived. She wondered if he might be drunk and if so, what type of drunk he would turn out to be. So far, he didn’t seem like an angry drunk. Sarcastic? Yes, but she could handle sarcasm. Violence is what scared her.
“Time for my next wish?” Maggie asked.
“Sure,” Lenny said.
“I wish for you to get rid of Gunter,” Maggie said.
“Who the heck is Gunter?” Lenny asked.
“A garden gnome who works for us. My family hired him many years ago,” Maggie explained.
“What did he ever do to you?” Lenny asked.
“See, that’s just it: nothing. My family arranged for us to be married though.” She said.
“You don’t sound too happy about that,” he said.
“I don’t want to marry someone I don’t love,” she said.
“Then why don’t you just tell your parents ‘no’?” Lenny asked.
“It’s not that simple. They want me to marry Gunter to ensure that the garden stays safe and that all of our secrets with the magic stay secret,” she explained.
Lenny let out a laugh. “Don’t you realize you’re already broken all of those golden rules?” he asked.
“What do you mean?” Maggie asked.
“Hellllooooo. Beauty sunflowers? You already let me in on one secret and you owe me two more,” Lenny said.
“Oh. Yeah. Right…” Maggie said unapologetically.
“Yeah so, I mean if you’re trying to respect your parents wishes, there’s no use you already messed that one up,” Lenny said.
“But can you make Gunter go away, anyway?” Maggie asked.
“Sure. I’ll see what I can do, close your eyes.”
Maggie closed her eyes and this time Lenny grabbed for the black glitter and threw it over her face while reciting, “Gunter works day and night, but now it’s time for him to take flight. I wish I may, I wish I might, give Maggie the strength she needs to fight.”
“Now what?” Maggie asked as she opened her eyes, “Is he gone?”
“Not yet, but he will be,” Lenny admitted. “I need a favor from you first.”
“Hey no fair! You still owe me a wish!” Maggie said.
“I need your help for this one. Are there any flowers in your garden that aren’t used for good? Anything that you give people that maybe you don’t particularly like or aren’t particularly happy with?”
“I think mama gave a dwarf some lilies the other day to purify his heart. She thought he was trying to pick me up or something,” Maggie said.
“Okay, I need you to do better than that,” Lenny said. Are any of the flowers dare I say…toxic?” he asked.
Maggie thought long and hard. It was as if she was manually searching each and every flower encyclopedia stored away in her mind, looking for the perfect flower. Finally, she said “follow me” before taking Lenny to the far left of the garden where there was a field of pale purple bell-shaped flowers surrounded by green leaves and black, perfectly rounded berries. The flowers were locked away behind a gated fence, away from all other plants.
“Black berries? This is your poison?” Lenny criticized.
“No. Belladonnas.” Maggie explained, “One of the deadliest plants in the entire world. That’s why we keep them locked away from everything else.”
“Okay. I can work with this. Let me think,” Lenny said. “How about we pick some of these berries and tell Gunter here we’ve got him some nice blackberries for lunch?”
Maggie shook her head. “Nope, won’t work. He’ll know as soon as he sees it it’s not a blackberry.”
“Okay. How about we crush it and make some tea then? Don’t you have some chamomile around here we can mix it with?” Lenny asked.
“Excellent idea!” Maggie said, “I’ll pull the chamomile plants and I can make up the tea mixture. Dad keeps hot water in the shed for when he’s working late at night and wants coffee or tea, so I can just borrow some. He won’t even notice it’s gone.”
“Sounds good, but how about you hand me the supplies to make the tea and then you can go off and find Gunter. I don’t want to scare the guy.”
“Sounds good” Maggie said as she picked off the flowers and berries and handed them to Lenny.
Lenny entered into the garden shed and found the water right away and began the process of making the tea mixture. He rubbed the chamomile plant in his hand until the petals began to crumble. Next, he crushed up the berries as much as he could until they were nearly liquified. He mixed it all together and poured the hot water over it into a teacup he found sitting on a table in the corner of the shed.
“That shall do,” Lenny said as he admired his work. He left the shed and found Maggie standing with Gunter just a few rows back. He walked over towards them.
“Lenny! Meet Gunter. Gunter is our family’s garden gnome that was hired to help out with our garden. Gunter, meet Lenny.”
“Hi, nice to meet you. Which tribe are you from?” Gunter asked.
“Uhm. I’m a uhhh…Elf,” Lenny lied. He knew if he said he was a leprechaun he would risk being thrown out of the garden. Gnomes and leprechauns have always been mortal enemies, especially when it came between the Irish leprechauns like Lenny and German gnomes like Gunter.
“Oh cool. Where are you from?” Gunter asked.
“Where all of the elves are from, the North Pole, silly!” Lenny said.
“Actually we have some elves that are local to our forest here in Germany, but they sure look a lot different from you,” Gunter said. The North Pole sounds pretty far from Germany. What brings you here?” Gunter asked.
“I uh invited him over for tea,” Maggie said.
“Young lady you shouldn’t be inviting anyone over without your parents’ permission. And hey, what are you doing outside of your well?” Gunter asked.
Maggie rolled her eyes and began to answer before Lenny interrupted her. “Enough of the chit-chat. Do you want some of my famous Christmas tea fresh from the North Pole or not?” Lenny asked.
“Imported Christmas tea? Count me in!” Gunter said as he took a big gulp.
Within seconds, Gunter dropped dead to the ground.
“GUNTER? ARE YOU OKAY?” Maggie screamed.
“What do you think? He just drank belladonna tea,” Lenny said.
“You killed him!” she said.
“Well, yeah. You said you wanted him gone,” Lenny said.
“Yeah GONE. Not dead!”
“Sweetheart, we all have to die someday. Pick your poison. Would you rather die alone in a tower, with Gunter, a man you don’t love, or another method of your own choosing?
“Another method of my own choosing,” Maggie answered with hesitation.
“Okay, glad we got that taken care of. Now honey, can I grant you another wish?” Lenny asked.
“Can we get rid of this body first? It stinks and I don’t think my parents would be happy to find it like this,” Maggie said.
“Is that your wish?” he asked.
“Yes,” Maggie replied.
“Sure thing.” Lenny said. “You know the drill.”
Maggie closed her eyes as Lenny poured black glitter over her before chanting, “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Get rid of Gunter’s smelly dead body is a MUST!”
Maggie began to open her eyes before Lenny screamed out, “Keep them closed! Wish in progress!”
“Okay I will!” Maggie said, “But is something burning?”
Lenny was rubbing two sticks together that he pulled off from the nearby apple tree. It was beginning to spark and form a fire. Just as the flames began to rise and inch closer to his hands he threw the burning sticks over to where Gunter’s dead body laid.
“Okay you can open them now. And yes, it’s burning baby. Burn, baby, burn.”
“You lite Gunter on fire???” Maggie exclaimed.
“Sweetheart, he’s already dead. You wanted me to get rid of the body. I figured cremation was the easiest method.”
“You are cruel and unbelievable!” Maggie said.
“You say that, and yet here I am making all of your wishes come true,” Lenny smirked.
“Why do you have to be so evil? Can’t you just use some of your leprechaun magic instead? Kind of like how my family and I use our fairy magic?” Maggie asked.
“Sweetheart, I hate to break it to you like this, but someone’s got to tell you someday. Magic ain’t real,” Lenny explained.
“What do you mean magic isn’t real?” Maggie asked. “My parents having been using it in their recipes and making a fortune off of it for ages. And what about you? You got me out of this well and you got rid of Gunter and you still owe me one more wish,” she said.
“Honey, your parents are better con artists than even I am, and I never thought that could even be possible,” Lenny admitted. “They use ingredients in their recipes that have healing benefits or are good for you in some way, shape, or form. But that ain’t magic. It’s all in everyone’s head. For example, if I want to fall in love I’m going to buy one of those love pies or whatever it is your mother makes and then I’m going go out and claim to be in love because it’s what I think will happen, what I want to happen. But I don’t need no damn pie to make me fall in love. I just need to have that idea planted in my head. And I didn’t get you out of the well, you flew out. You were just so focused on the magic you didn’t even realize it was you all along. And I poisoned and killed Gunter. What’s so magical about poison, Maggie? Poison is poison as murder is murder. I’m not too proud to admit now that I’m a murderer.”
“So, if none of this magic is real, then my entire life, this entire Moore Magical garden -it’s all a lie?” she asked.
“Yes,” Lenny said.
“What happens now?” Maggie asked.
“You’re free. When’s the last time you were free?” Lenny asked.
Maggie thought long and hard. “I have never been free,” she replied.
“The gate is open. Write your own story,” he said.
“What about you?” Maggie asked.
“I can take care of myself,” Lenny said.
I’ve always loved horror movies, but they very rarely scare me. I don’t know if it’s because I have a sick sense of humor or because I was raised to be tough or because so many horror movies are not well done (probably a combination of all three of these factors), but I usually find horror movies to be hilarious. Whenever I see a monster come out to attack their next victim or a character gets their head chopped off or something along those lines, I can’t help but laugh. I find most horror movies to be on the same level as comedies as far as humor is concerned…
With that being said, there is one movie series that stands out as being the only series to ever actually completely freak me out and scare me: the Saw series. I never once laughed while watching the movies in this series. I was completely freaked out, and yet I could not stop watching them. I watched the entire series on Netflix within about two days’ time. Since these movies left such a strong impact on me, it made sense for me to re-watch the original Saw film and analyze it in light of what I’ve learned in class about the horror genre so I could see just what it is that makes these movies so appealing and how I might choose to apply these principles to my own writing.
The first element that works well in this film is the fact that it’s extremely fast-paced. The movie opens with two men, Dr. Lawrence Gordon and a man that simply goes by “Adam” as being locked into a very dirty, almost archaic bathroom together. There is also a dead, bloodied body lying on the floor. Adam and Dr. Gordon have no memory of how they got there and they are also chained to the wall unable to escape. At first they also do not know how the man was killed or what happened to him. The last thing that Dr. Gordon remembers is going to work the night before and the last thing that Adam remembers was going to sleep the night before. This is scary because the characters were just living ordinary, regular lives and now they are in a very unordinary environment. It makes us think it could happen to us, too. There is also a bit of the fear of the unknown because Dr. Gordon and Adam don’t know how they got there or what’s going to happen next. Right away we as viewers know that something is drastically wrong and we are drawn in to the story because we want to know how they got there and how they might escape.
The entire story line and plot for the movie is also so expertly done. Many people would argue that Saw falls under the category of body horror, which I agree with since Dr. Gordon saws his foot off in an attempt to escape from his chains, Adam’s blood is poisoned, and Amanda has to solve a puzzle or risk having her jaw explode, but I’d also argue that this movie can also fall under the categories of police procedural and psychological horror. It’s police procedural because there is a mystery that must be solved throughout this movie. Detectives/police have been working on a case for a while now where a man known as “Jig Saw” has murdered and tortured several different individuals. His motive is that he wants to teach people to be appreciative of their lives. Jig Saw was recently diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor that is slowly killing him. He is very angry and bitter by this news and doesn’t think that others deserve to live unless they can appreciate the beauty of life. For those who manage to survive Jig Saw’s cruel games of torture, their views on life are forever changed, which some could argue is for the better. Since they were so close to death, they realize how easily life can be taken from them so they gain a stronger appreciation of it.
Even though Jig Saw is a horrible person who brutally kills and/or tortures people, I find myself almost sympathizing with him and liking his games at times. The idea that people should be appreciative and grateful to be alive is something that few people would argue against; Jig Saw just goes about it in the wrong way. The film also falls under the category of psychological horror for this reason. It messes with our minds as viewers. Are we really sympathizing and feeling sorry for a mass murderer? Furthermore, the story messes with the minds of the main characters, Dr. Gordon and Adam by putting them up against each other. In order to live, someone must die. In Dr. Gordon’s case, he must kill Adam if he wishes to allow his wife and his daughter to live. In Adam’s case, he must murder Dr. Gordon’s wife and child if he wishes to live since he now has poison in his blood that will kill him at a designated time if he does not complete this task. The characters often have to consider morality and ethics and what’s more important or valuable – their own lives or the lives of others around them. They have to do extremely immoral things if they want to live, and sometimes they also have to do those things just so the people closest to them may live. These are difficult decisions for anyone to make, and they also don’t have time to think through their decisions. Time is of the essence; wasting just 1 minute could be the difference between life or death.
The main takeaways I got from this film that I could apply to my own writing is to get to the action quickly, and have a strong/unique story line that keeps the reader’s attention. The puzzles are disturbing but entertaining to watch because you want to see if the characters will be able to solve them in time and be sparred their lives. They also set the scene for each film after, allowing all of the films in the series to fit together nicely. In writing this would be a great strategy to use if you were planning to write a book series rather than just one stand-alone novel. The film also has several highly graphic scenes such as the opening scene where the characters are in complete isolation with the exception of each other’s’ company in a filthy bathroom, all of the blood from the dead/dying characters, and the scene where Amanda must violently mutilate a dead man’s body and remove his intestines in order to get the key to remove the device from her jaws before she is killed. In order to achieve the same or similar effects in writing I would need to include very strong details for the setting and use very strong descriptions so that my reader could “see” the horror in each scene.
Hey guys! For those of you who don’t already know I am currently enrolled in a Writing Genre Fiction course at Rowan University as I work towards completing my MA in Writing. I took this class because I had to take something. I’ve never really been into genre fiction (although I do like horror) and I am actually more of a non-fiction writer which is completely different from genre fiction. This class has definitely taken me out of my comfort zone as a writer on more than one occasion.
I actually really enjoyed writing my horror story though. Initially I had planned to write about something related to trypophobia, the fear of holes, because I think the whole concept is so strange but fascinating. However, I quickly changed my idea once I read about one of my Facebook friend’s nightmares. Here’s how they described it in their Facebook post:
And with that, the beginning of my story was born. I was going to write a story about a creepy doll that wanted to suck the breath out of people. But first I had to answer, why would she do that?
I pulled a lot from my Christian beliefs about life and death and good and evil and somehow came up with a story in which everything starts off dark, gloomy, and depressing. The horror is portrayed as being normal or even good, whereas normalcy and goodness is portrayed as being evil. I will allow you as a reader to draw your own conclusions about why I took this path.
The story is below. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. 🙂
A Breath Of Life
When Lillian was born, her parents had every intention to call her Lily.
“She’s beautiful, just like a field of fresh lilies,” her father said.
However, Lillian wanted no parts in lilies, or any flowers for that matter. From the time Lillian was three, she demanded to be called “Lilith”.
Lillian, or shall we say “Lilith’s stubborn, eccentric side showed in ways far beyond her name. When her mother, Rose, wanted to dress her up in frilly dresses with bows in her hair, Lilith refused.
“But you’ll look so pretty!” Rose said.
“I don’t want to look pretty!” Lilith said. “Black. I want to wear black,” she said as she pointed to her beloved black sweater with her black pants and black shoes. Rose never knew of another five year with half as many black clothes as Lilith had, but she also knew it wasn’t worth arguing with Lilith; Lilith never lost an argument.
Lilith’s dark side took some getting used to. Sure, adults expected some edginess and darkness from a moody teenager, but no one ever expected it from a “sweet” seven-year-old girl. Still, as everyone got to know Lilith, they became more and more familiar with her unusual sense of style and life perspective.
When Lilith requested to have her eighth birthday part on Friday, October 13th, no one was surprised, even if it was three weeks before her actual birthday.
Lilith’s birthday party was different from those of most eight year olds (or seven year olds, if you want to be technical). All of the balloons were black. There were no pony rides or petting zoos or even a walk around character. Instead, Lilith surrounded herself with her beloved black cat, Bones. She replaced the cliched piñata with a series of sugar skulls and for entertainment she played the saddest songs she could find while guests had the opportunity to build their own personal graveyards.
Lilith didn’t have any friends. Her parents enrolled her in a local public school, but all of the other kids thought she was weird. The parents didn’t help; they couldn’t understand why a child of Lilith’s age would choose to be so dark. They most certainly didn’t want their normal children hanging around someone of Lilith’s kind.
Still, Lilith’s party wasn’t a total bust. She had her parents, her brother, Ryan, and several aunts, uncles, and cousins in attendance, mainly because they all either felt obligated to come or they were sorry for her. Her parents guessed it was a combination of the two emotions.
Other than her parents, Lilith’s family never quite got her. Her parents tried endlessly to tell her other relatives that Lilith liked dark things. Still, year after year after year Lilith would end up with frilly pink and purple dresses, my little pony figures, and cute “girly” things that she’d promptly throw in the trash immediately after all of her guests have left. When Lilith’s Aunt Violet gifted her with a new, custom-made American Girl doll, she realized that this year was no different. However, her mother was determined to put a stop to it.
“Look Lilith! She looks just like you!” Rose exclaimed.
“I DO NOT LOOK LIKE THIS!” Lilith corrected her mother.
“Sure you do. See, she had beautiful black hair just like you. And isn’t her dress gorgeous?”
“My hair covers my face and I don’t wear dresses,” Lilith corrected.
“I tried to get one that looked like you…this is the closest they could do…I even brought your picture in with me to the American Girl store…” Aunt Violet said, apologetically.
“It’s fine. Lilith loves it. It will do her good to have a new friend.” Rose said, you can even give her a nice new name. How about Eve? She suggested.
“Sure, whatever,” Lilith said.
The guests were invited to stay until dinner to enjoy Lilith’s favorite meal, spaghetti tacos. Many of the guests asked why they couldn’t have tacos OR spaghetti. Apparently, Lilith’s family didn’t understand the art of combining the two favorites into one, but Lilith didn’t mind.
When the last guest left shortly after 8, Lilith’s mother had a firm discussion with her daughter.
“I don’t understand why you found it necessary to be so rude to your guests today,” she said.
“I wasn’t rude!” Lilith said.
“Yes you were! You didn’t thank anyone for coming or for bringing your gifts. Your dear Aunt Violet went out of her way to visit NYC to get a custom American Girl doll made to look like you and your way of thanking her is by complaining!” Rose said.
“IT. DOES. NOT. LOOK. LIKE. ME,” Lilith argued.
“Whatever. Here’s what you’re going to do. You are going to learn to appreciate when people give you a gift. Remember, there are plenty of people on this planet that don’t even know what it is to be given a gift. Now I want you to take your doll up to bed with you to sleep with tonight. When you wake up in the morning I’ll help you to write a thank you letter to Aunt Violet explaining how much you love your new doll.”
“Yes, mama,” Lilith said. She knew it was no use arguing anymore, she had been clearly defeated this time around.
Lilith had no trouble falling asleep that night. A terrible thunderstorm has come in off the coast and threatened the area. Lilith was able to fall asleep to the sounds of heavy rain, and thunder with what she thought sounded like the occasional pang of hail. The surges of lightening gave way to just the right amount of light in her otherwise pitch-dark room to allow her to sleep comfortably and dream of all of her favorite monsters.
Shortly after Lilith entered a deep stage of REM sleep, the dreaming began. She saw the image of her favorite monster and only friend, Mr. Olga. Mr. Olga was tall, fat, and full of hair. He had a snaggle tooth, big mean claws, horns, and often wore a spike collar. In her art class at school, Lilith often drew pictures of Mr. Olga. Her classmates and her teacher, Miss Lana often said that Mr. Olga looked like a darker version of Sully from the Monsters, Inc. films, but Lilith knew he was far more unique than that.
Lilith’s dreams were always the same. She’d enter in to Mr. Olga’s home in the world of Sorrowville, a town of only two: her and Mr. Olga. This was the only place where they could truly be themselves and live freely among each other. They would plant cemeteries together (even though they never had any people to bury) and play with Mr. Olga’s black cats, Mischief and Despair. When they grew tired of that they’d put the radio on and play all of their favorite songs from My Chemical Romance, Black Veil Brides, and the occasional piece from Sleeping With Sirens. Then they would depart and count down the hours until the next day when they could do it all over again.
But tonight was different. Lilith knew that from the minute she stepped foot in Mr. Olga’s small cave in Sorrowville. The temperature wasn’t its breezy temperature of 66.6 degrees Fahrenheit the way her and Mr. Olga always set it. It was 34.14 degrees and set on Celsius. She felt warm and clammy and was even beginning to sweat a little, something she never thought was even possible in Sorrowville. What’s more, the town wasn’t its usual shades of black and grey with clouds and thunderstorms. The sky was bright blue without a single cloud in the atmosphere. The sun was bright and blazing hot, which explained why she was so warm. Her family would say it looked nice and she worried that if they ever seen this version of Sorrowville, they’d even want to join her and Mr. Olga. The very idea of that happening horrified Lilith.
Lilith and Mr. Olga weren’t the only ones in Sorrowville tonight. Instead, they were surrounded by the presence of a doll who looked like a prettier version of Lilith; it was her brand new custom-made American Girl doll from her Aunt Violet, Eve.
“What on earth do you think you’re doing?!?” Lilith said.
“I came here to play, Lillian. Don’t you want to be friends?” Eve said.
“My name is LILITH, NOT LILLIAN. AND NO! NO ONE IS ALLOWED HERE BUT ME AND MR. OLGA!” she screamed.
“Silly Lillian. Don’t you know that I am you?” she said.
Mr. Olga glanced at Lilith. “She does have your hair,” he admitted.
“YOU ARE NOTHING LIKE ME!” Lilith screamed, “I NEVER WEAR MY HAIR LIKE THAT AND I HATE DRESSES!”
“We can fix that, Lillian,” she said.
“I am perfectly fine the way I am. I don’t need to be fixed.”
“That’s too bad. You see, your Aunt Violet sent me here to fix you. She said it’s not normal for a girl your age to be so… dark. And depressing.
“Psh. What does she know. She can’t change me,” Lilith said.
“No she can’t. That’s what I’m here for,” Eve said. I came to suck the breath right from you.”
Mr. Olga started to laugh.
“Stop it!” Lilith said. “Why would you laugh at that?”
“Because she thinks she can suck the breath out of you. Did she forget that I’m a monster?” he said.
“Good point,” Lilith said.
Mr. Olga inched closer to the Eve’s face and placed his hands up high above his head to show off his freshly sharpened claws. He then let out a huge growl. “RAWRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!” he said.
Eve flew over top of Mr. Olga and made her way through to Lilith.
“Just one little bite. A little something soft, trying to be polite. Nothing too hard, it wouldn’t be nice,” the doll chanted as it took a bite out of Lilith’s neck.
“WHAT THE HECK IS WRONG WITH YOU? ARE YOU A FRIGGEN VAMPIRE?!? Lilith screamed as Mr. Olga rushed over to her pry the doll off of her neck.
Mr. Olga clenched the doll tightly in his claws. He walked outside of his cave, towards the lake of misery and cast the doll threw the doll deep into the lake.
“Well done!” Lilith exclaimed, “Thank you for always taking such good care of me.” She gave Mr. Olga a big hug.
“You’re welcome,” he grunted.
Mr. Olga and Lilith began their walk back to Mr. Olga’s cave to resume their daily adventures. When Mr. Olga went to turn the knob on the cave door, the entire door knob fell off and the door flung open on its own.
Eve was standing there, glaring at both Lilith and Mr. Olga.
“You can’t get rid of me that easily, but it was cute for you to try,” she said.
“Not again! What do you want?” Lilith said.
“I already told you, Lillian. I want to suck the breath right out of you.”
“Okay, but why?”
“You need to change Lillian. It is not good to be so dark. Dark is a form of evil, and there is no place for evil in our world.
“Which is why Lilith comes with me to Sorrowville,” Mr. Olga explained.
“Yeah…about that. Sorrowville’s got to go, too.” Eve said.
“Go? Where?” Lilith asked.
“Bye bye. Sorrowville go bye bye,” the doll said as she struck a match and tossed it towards Mr. Olga. “Lilith, run! REMEMBER: 1 Peter 3:11!”
Lilith woke up covered in sweat and out of breath. Nightmares usually excited Lilith. She found them to be fascinating and entertaining, never scary the way her family and classmates described them. But even Lilith had to admit that the nightmare she just had was absolutely horrifying.
Lilith climbed out of bed and walked towards her window, hoping to find solace. She didn’t think it was still raining, but she always felt at peace with the passing of a storm. She pushed back her black curtains and opened the window by an inch and looked outside.
The sun was beginning to rise. The sky was bright and by society’s definition (though never Lilith’s), it was a beautiful shade of pinks, purples, and a hint of blue. There was no sign of the storm.
Lilith looked down towards the ground and then she saw it. Eve. Her custom-made American Girl Doll. It was holding a sign that read:
“Hi Lillian. I didn’t forget last night. Don’t forget 1 Peter 3:11. Also, remember Proverbs 16:17. Allow me to suck the breath right out of you. Or else. Love, your favorite doll.”
Lilith shut the window and pulled the curtains tight again. She ran into her bed and pulled the covers overhead, hoping to fall back asleep again. Her dreams were bad but reality was somehow even worse. She needed to get back to Sorrowville, back to Mr. Olga. She hoped he had survived the fire, that this dream would bring forth a new adventure, one without that stupid evil doll.
- 2. 1. And she was back into her deep REM Sleep, back in the darkness of Sorrowville.
Only there was no Mr. Olga this time. There was no darkness. The cave was even gone. She was greeted by the doll and a beautiful mansion on a bright and sunny day.
“Are you ready to follow Proverbs 16:17 yet?” she asked. “Will you allow me to suck the breath right out of you? Do you want to live?” she asked.
Lilith could not speak, she had no answers.
Hey guys! Happy Wednesday! It’s a happy Wednesday because I’m finally on the last day of the 30 day writing challenge! It took me long enough!
The final challenge is to write about something I’m looking forward to. There are many exciting things I’m looking forward to in my life, but one of the biggest ones is becoming a college adjunct professor and teaching my first class this fall.
I know a lot of people were surprised when I announced that I’d be teaching this fall. Some were a bit surprised and a lot of people have expressed their concerns and almost doubt me and my ability to teach. I know some people, whether they actually come out and say it or not, are thinking that this is kind of “random”. Surprising? Yes. Crazy? A bit.But random? No…not at all.
Teaching is actually something I’ve wanted to do for a really long time. I’ve always valued education. I’ve always loved to learn and have been a bit of a nerd my whole life. Many people thought I would become a teacher. My parents always encouraged it, that’s for sure. When I was in high school I was an AVID tutor that worked with at-risk students to help to prepare them for college. My teachers all loved the work I did as a tutor and they thought I’d make a great teacher, too.
I’ve always enjoyed working with kids as well. I first realized how much I enjoyed working with children when I was about 12 years old and worked my first job as a summer camp counselor. I made less than $70 for the entire summer, but I didn’t care at all because I loved what I was doing so much. I didn’t just play with kids, but I learned from them and they learned to me. I built relationships with these kids and I got to see them grow so much in the 2 months that we spent together. I talked about them all all the time as if they were my own kids. I felt good about the work I did as a camp counselor and it made me realize that if I enjoyed this work so much, I’d certainly love to be a teacher where I could make an even bigger impact on children.
I dreamed of becoming a pre-school or kindergarten teacher. Then I realized I had a passion for English and becoming an English teacher started to gain appeal.
There was just one major problem:
I was born with profound hearing loss. I never learned sign language. I couldn’t hear the kids I was a camp counselor for (fortunately it never mattered much. I had the support of the other counselors to fall back on and the kids just wanted to play anyway). How would I ever hear my students?
Not being able to hear the kids I supervised at camp was one thing. Not being able to hear students was quite another thing. I wouldn’t be able to ask them questions, because I’d never hear the answers. I wouldn’t be able to answer their questions, either because I wouldn’t be able to hear them.
Suddenly, I found myself completely giving up on dream and chalking it up on the list of things that just weren’t meant to be for my life. I still decided to study English and writing in college, but this time it was for my own personal use to become a writer instead. Becoming a teacher just didn’t seem like a possibility for me.
At least, not at that moment…
I didn’t realize back then that I’d later go on to receive cochlear implants that would allow me to gain above average hearing. I never could’ve imagined that I’d be given this incredible gift that would allow me to hear almost perfectly…a gift that would make it so I’d never have to worry about hearing my students.
But even after receiving my cochlear implants I didn’t think it would ever open the door to teaching for me. I thought that was a missed opportunity I would never get back again. How could I be a teacher now? I was working full time for an agency receiving below-average pay. While my checks weren’t for much, I depended very heavily on them. I also worked a typical day schedule…which would be the exact schedule I’d need to follow in order to do student teaching which is a requirement in order to be certified to teach at a grade school level. Teaching at a college level also wasn’t an option since I didn’t have my MA yet and wasn’t sure if I ever would. I have wanted to enroll in Rowan’s MA in Writing Program for years, but always backed out fearing the cost. I was already thousands of dollars in debt and unable to afford my student loan repayments from my undergrad. I heard financial aid didn’t exist as a grad student. Grad school sounded like a great idea, but completely impractical. There was no way I’d ever be able to afford it.
That was, until I received an e-mail from Professor Rob Block in March explaining that Rowan has developed a new Teaching Experience Program (TEP). The program sounded like the answer to all of my problems. It would allow me to follow my dream of becoming a teacher without having to give up my full time job and it would also help me to pay the cost of my tuition and allow me to work towards earning my MA degree.
To make things even better, a few months after receiving that initial email I left my job at the agency I was working for and started working for Penn Medicine instead. After my first semester, Penn will pay up to $8,000 a year towards my tuition which should cover the full cost each semester I’d imagine. They are also more than willing to help to work around my school and teaching schedule.
This is the beginning of the next chapter in my life. It may have taken me awhile, but I am finally going to have the opportunity to fulfill my dream of becoming a teacher, and not just a teacher – but a college professor! I am so beyond excited to take on this new role in September. It’s about so much more than just teaching first year writing to students. It’s about creating strong relationships with these students and working to motivate, encourage, and inspire them and to help them to grow not just as writers, but as students. I hope to improve their writing skills, but more than that, I hope to make a difference in their lives and their college experience. If I manage to do those things, then I’ll consider my job as a professor to have been a success.