Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Monday, June 19, 2006

Come Write With Me

by Jeffrey S Savage

Since I have no clue about what kinds of swords were used in the Book of Mormon and my sensitive posts read like bad Halmark cards (those are the Hallmark knock-offs), I guess I’ll just stick to talking about writing.

I’ve got a new book I am starting today. The novel is my second attempt at the national market. The first attempt was picked up by a well known east coast literary agency, but we were unable to get it sold (although Bantam nearly bought it and we got some positive feedback from other big six publishers.) The plan is to finish this novel by the last week of August so my agent can shop it around in the fall. For better or for worse I thought I’d take you along for the ride. Each week, I’ll let you know how things are progressing, what I’m struggling with, how many words I wrote that week, and maybe offer up a small section from the week’s work.

Assuming that there is still any interest on your part at the end of August, I’ll keep you updated as to what my agent thinks of the book, how the sales process goes, and whether or not it is picked up. If this sounds too boring, let me know and we can switch topics—or just go back to playing Solitaire. However I’d love to get your feedback if you feel so inclined, and if you've been considering writing a new novel yourself, join me on the adventure and let me know how you are doing.

The working title of the novel is A Taste for Fear. Although I imagine it will probably be marketed as a horror novel, I consider it a supernatural thriller, along the lines of Dean Koontz. The tag line is, Can an Entire Town be Scared to Death?

The basic concept is this:

A small isolated mountain town (California/Alaska?) called Desolation is home to approximately six hundred people. This is a very remote town. Most people who come here are escaping civilization for one reason or another. Most, if not all, of them have secrets. And secrets have the capacity to generate fear. This concentrated fear calls forth a creature of pure evil that feeds on human fear. The creature can take on any form, but it often appears as a threesome (man, woman, and adolescent girl.) It uses people’s greatest fears against them. Although it doesn’t physically harm them, it uses their fear to cause them to harm themselves and or others. The greater the fear generated, the more powerful the creature becomes. It will try to isolate the individuals of the town, cut them off from escape, and turn them against each other until no one is left.

Each of the four main protagonists is a study in fear.

The first is a single mother (Tasia?) in her late thirties. She hosts a late night talk show that can be heard for several hundred miles and is one of the only radio stations that can be picked up by most residents. She has no outward fears whatsoever. Her basic philosophy is that fear is counterproductive, only action helps to solve whatever problem you are facing. Does she have a deeper fear that she is not willing to admit? I think she does. I’m not sure what it is at this point, but when it breaks loose, I think it will be nasty.

The second is Tasia’s fourteen year old son (Chance?) He dreams of becoming a famous horror writer and moving to a big city. He loves anything scary—movies, stories, models, you name it. He is tempted by the power that fear holds over others and the power and money that it could give him. Will the power of the evil creature tempt him? I expect that it will, and I also expect that the girl will tempt him as well. I think it is at least possible that he may become his mother’s weakness. But he also has a braveness and innocence that may serve him well. He is not so much greedy as seducible.

The third protagonist is a teacher at the local school. Among other things he teaches a psychology class that Chance is taking. He is afraid of almost everything—heights, closed spaces, snakes, spiders, failure, success. But the thing is, he recognizes his fear and is comfortable with it. He is a scaredy cat but he freely admits it. He loves the stories that Chance writes and encourages the boy to pursue his writing. I envision him as a really fun teacher to have, laid back, lots of humor, and great with kids. I suspect that there will be some romantic tension between him and Tasia, although she is somewhat out of his league.

The last protagonist is the one I know the least about and yet the one I am most excited over. Although he has lived in Desolation nearly ten years, no one is sure who he is. Nearly a decade ago, an unknown person purchased a large track of land, fenced it off, and built a large house using outside labor. The owner moved into the house and brought with him a housekeeper who lives in a small house on the property and is the only person to come into town. The rumor is that the owner of the house is a well known ex-horror writer whose family was killed in a particularly brutal fashion taken directly from one of his books. If he really is a master horror novelist, he may well know the most about fear. But then again, you know how rumors are.

Of course the final protagonist is the town. I’m wondering if the town has a secret all its own. Maybe it is that secret that finally burst the boil from which the evil emerged. Not sure what that secret is, but it would have to be pretty nasty.

At first glance the evil creature would seem to be just a typical monster. But the best monsters have motivations of their own. (Think Frankenstein’s monster.) I believe that this creature sees itself as a necessary part of the ecosystem. It doesn’t view itself as any worse than the insects that feed on the fallen wood and dead animals of the forest. It didn’t create the fear, it only heightens it and feeds on it. It has been around as long as fear itself, which means forever. Maybe it will want the boy to join it? I don’t think it will leave until the town is empty or until it is defeated. And I don’t think it’s ever been defeated. Might not even know what defeat is.

I am anticipating that the novel will end up being around 90,000 words. Using my calculator that means that giving myself six days a week to write and eleven weeks until the end of August I will need to write 1364 words per day or just over 8,000 words per week. That seems doable. I am a little paranoid about creating a hard outline until I am further into the book, but I have the first six or seven scenes in my head, and I know the general direction of the story line. I will do basic rewrites as I go so that I can send the novel out the first week of September.

Today I wrote 2100 words. I’m trying a somewhat unusual first chapter (really more of a prologue) that shows the arrival of the creature. It is not supposed to make complete sense to the reader at first, but rather set a tone.

Here it is. Let me know if it works for you.

Do you hunger?

The question throbbed like a tainted heartbeat in the damp night air. The ground trembled. If animals lived nearby they would all have experienced quick yet painful deaths at the same instant. But living things avoided this part of the forest—where trees grew stunted and warped when they grew at all, where water flowed backward and came away foul-smelling and bitter, where even the air felt bereft of light and substance.

Do you hunger?

The ritual was older than the mist-shrouded mountains that hulked cold and intimidating beneath the pinprick stars, deeper than the granite bedrock that groaned in revulsion at what lay beneath it.

Do you hunger?

The darkness began to glow a noxious green as if the moonlight was poison gas emanating from a deathly ill orb. A frigid gale appeared from nowhere, chewing and clawing at the sparse soil with sounds like frenzied laughter. Slabs of stone that had lain untouched since glaciers carved them millenniums earlier, cracked and buckled.

Do you hunger?

At once everything stopped—the silence as shockingly loud as the chaos that preceded it.

Do you hunger?

The entire forest shuddered with dread anticipation.

I hunger.

Something slithered from the blistered earth. Evil radiated from it in waves, crushing and pitiless. For a moment it hovered motionless, sensing its prey. Finding what it was searching for, it crooned softly and began to take form.

I eat.


At 6/20/2006 7:58 AM, Blogger annegb said...

Yeah, I was just saying I wanted to be scared to death. Your book sounds really cool to me, I'm sort of fascinated by the horror genre, and repulsed and guiltified all at the same time.

I just read yesterday in Oprah's magazine that John Grisham's first book got 30 rejection letters. Keep trying.

At 6/20/2006 2:15 PM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...

Facinated, repulsed, and gultified. That's exactly what I am going for. Kind of like the first time I saw Rob in person.

At 6/20/2006 2:53 PM, Blogger RobisonWells said...


You just say that because you have a hard time expressing your true feelings (probably because you're taking a nap).


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