Frank Fiore – Novelist & Screenwriter

June 12, 2014

Body blows — the force of metaphors

Filed under: Uncategorized — Frank Fiore @ 1:37 PM

Interestingly, sometimes just reading a tactile word is enough to provoke the corresponding bodily reaction. Writers often use metaphors to animate text and help readers understand abstract concepts.

In an interesting recent study conducted by Simon Lacey of Emory University and his colleagues they chose sentences that contained tactile metaphors–such as “She had a rough day”–and paired them with sentences with the same meaning but without the metaphors, such as “She had a bad day.” Participants lay in an fMRI scanner and listened to the various sentences. The researchers found that the brain regions that were activated when the participants heard sentences with texture metaphors were the same brain regions that are activated when people sense texture through touch.

However those same brain regions were not activated when participants heard comparable sentences that lacked metaphors. Thus the use of metaphors packs visceral power that can enhance the reading experience. For example the sentence, “He was terribly scared upon encountering the loud bear” is less powerful than a sentence like “His skin prickled and his hair went electric at the ear-splitting roar of the bear.”


Sensory Fiction

Filed under: Uncategorized — Frank Fiore @ 1:36 PM

A trio of researchers at the MIT Media Lab have taken sensory reading a step further. Felix Heibeck, Alexis Hope, and Julie Legault have developed “Sensory Fiction.” Sensory Fiction is a vest that hooks up to an e-book and enhances our reading experiences by actually adjusting the light we see, the sounds we hear, the temperature we feel, and even our heart rate while we are reading the story. It’s just a prototype but it’s a great example of how our sensory perception plays a huge role in our reading experience.

Factors such as font size, word location, print color and page texture are all factors in how we process information that we read. They can influence our perception of characters and events, the readability of the book, our own test performance, and the speed with which we read. For instance, studies conducted by Thomas Schubert of University of Jena have shown that we automatically and unconsciously associate power with vertical positioning, where ‘up’ means powerful and ‘down’ means powerless. We hear this association expressed in numerous metaphors such as “She looks up to him” or “He thinks very highly of her” but researchers are now discovering that the mere position of the word on the page reinforces the idea in our brains.

In one study, participants were shown word pairs representing power-imbalanced relationships on a computer screen–like employer vs. employee, army officer vs. private, master vs. slave. The pairings were presented vertically, with one word appearing at the top of the screen and the other at the bottom. The researchers asked the participants to identify as fast as possible both the word with the powerful meaning and the word powerless meaning. It took longer to identify powerful individuals when they appeared at the bottom of the screen. Likewise, it took longer to identify powerless individuals when they were positioned at the top of the screen.

Another experiment conducted by Thomas Schubert together with Kiki Zanolie and Steffen Giessner of Erasmus University Rotterdam and her colleagues found that when subjects saw words that represented powerful groups, their attention shifted to the top of a computer screen they were watching. When viewing words representing powerless groups, their attention shifted to the bottom. Therefore, when we read about a powerful person or event that is described at the bottom of the page (or screen), or about a person or event that lacks power but is described at the top of the page, it might take longer to process and understand the information. It might also influence how powerful or powerless we perceive a person to be.

Unfinished Business?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Frank Fiore @ 1:33 PM

When Mark Twain lied dying on his deathbed, too weak to speak, he pointed an unfinished manuscript lying on his writing table. To his assistant he mouthed, “Burn!”

Many years ago, in my late 20s, I wrote my first complete novel. It was a SyFy take on some of the Golden Age of Science Fiction writers. It wasn’t very good as written but had an interesting plot.

I hope soon to be a noted author with the publication of MURRAN this summer. That completed SyFy manuscript is in my file cabinet upstairs. Should I get rid of it or leave it as an example of an amateur attempt at writing fiction. Perhaps, at the very least,  it could be useful as a case study in a writing class.

Scariest Loglines Ever?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Frank Fiore @ 1:33 PM

In the movie industry, the logline for a screenplay is a short, brief description of what the story is about. It is similar to the ‘elevator pitch’ that entrepreneurs use to pitch their idea in less that minute – the time of a short elevator ride with a possible investor. It’s meant to grab an investor’s attention and want to hear more – presumably when you leave the elevator with him.

The logline is supposed to grab a producers’ attention and make him want to hear more. Here are some of the scariest loglines ever!

“A girl heard her mom call her name from downstairs, so she got up and started to head down. As she got to the stairs, her mother pulled her into her room and said, ‘I heard that too.'”

“The last thing I saw was my alarm clock flashing 12:07 before she pushed her long rotting nails through my chest, her other hand muffling my screams. I sat bolt upright, relieved it was only a dream, but as I saw my alarm clock read 12:06, I heard my closet door creak open.”

“I begin tucking him into bed and he tells me, ‘Daddy check for monsters under my bed.’ I look underneath for his amusement and see him, another him, under the bed, staring back at me quivering and whispering, ‘Daddy there’s somebody on my bed.'”

Creepy, huh?

Reality Imitates Fiction – or Visa Versa?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Frank Fiore @ 1:32 PM

So where do creative minds get their inspiration – or, commonly known – their muse? You’d be surprised.

Lots of crime novels and movies are vaguely based on real-life events — a writer reads about some psychopath with a burned face murdering teenagers and thinks, “What if that guy had knife hands?” But the story of how Thomas Harris, the author of the Hannibal Lecter novels, came up with his most famous character is much creepier … and totally random.

In the 1960s, Harris was writing for a magazine and was sent to a Mexican prison to interview Dykes Askew Simmons, an American inmate on death row for triple murder. Simmons was not the model for Hannibal Lecter — he was nothing like him.

During the interview, Simmons told Harris a story about how he got shot by a prison guard, but a doctor saved his life. Wanting to get more details for his article, Harris asked to be taken to the doctor (“Dr. Salazar”), whom he naturally assumed was the prison’s resident physician. If you’re familiar with any of the Hannibal movies, you have some idea of what happened next.

Rather than talk about the shooting, Salazar seemed more interested in manipulating Harris into psychoanalyzing Simmons, questioning the writer about Simmons’ physical disfigurements, his victims, and “the nature of torment,” a topic that rarely comes up outside of chats with murderers and truly disastrous first dates. Despite that, Harris admitted that the man had a “certain elegance” about him. After the meeting, Harris asked the prison warden how long Salazar had been working there, only to be told that the man was in fact an inmate — one deemed too insane to ever leave. Salazar had been a surgeon who had used his skills to “package his victim in a surprisingly small box.”

As often happens in real life, Salazar’s actual story doesn’t involve a spectacular escape that includes flaying guards alive. Yes, Salazar actually did end up getting out of jail, but he dedicated himself to providing medical assistance to the elderly until he died in 2009.


May 8, 2014

Grabbing the Reader

Filed under: On Writing — Frank Fiore @ 8:50 AM

I’ve written several times about conflict in movies and novels. Conflict in movie scenes and book chapters make the story interesting and holds the readers or viewers attention.

So, I’ve dedicated this entire issue of ‘Frank Remarks’ to grabbing the reader.

David Farland talks about this quite a bit in his newsletters. He states that a story must have significant conflict within the first few pages to instantly grab the reader or else it is reduced to tedium.

Farland states these elements that a storyteller needs to deliver in the opening pages or minutes of a movie.

1) a character-preferably one that is likeable or interesting
2) a setting-hopefully one that is intriguing
3) a substantial conflict-one that instantly pulls the reader into the story.

To quote another rule of storytelling – ‘showing is better than telling’. So let’s look at the opening scenes from two of my novels (and an unashamed plug for them) to see if they fit Farland’ three rules.

This is the opening chapter of my techno-thriller CYBERKILL.

   The airplane was leaving in a few hours, but Travis Cole still had some unfinished business in his MIT office – one of which was to get his in-law off his back.
     “Please, John. We’ve been over this a hundred times,” Cole murmured, leaning forward on his desk to stare down at the computer monitor in front of him. He rested his fingers lightly on the keyboard, his hazel eyes focused on the command prompt on the screen:
     Could he really do it?
     Though Cole had made up his mind, it was now formal decision time. Pressing ‘N’ would continue his life as a well-known researcher in eco-biology at the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. Pressing ‘Y’ would end three years of cutting-edge work and move him and his daughter to a new home in Washington, D.C. and a lucrative research job with the U.S. Army.
     Cole’s finger hovered over the keyboard – he felt sick.
     John François was, as usual, sucking on the end of an ornately-carved wood and leather pipe. It went along with his academic look: elbow-patched sports coat, baggy brown pants, and loafers.
     “It’s not right, Travis,” François implored. “It’s not right to take Shannon away from the environment she knows just weeks after her mother’s death. It’s just not right.”
     Cole kept his focus on the task at hand. They had been over this a thousand times. Shannon, Cole’s young daughter, was already in the car, waiting. In fact, all his luggage and many of his important worldly belongings waited there as well. He would return later for the rest of his stuff.
For now …
     For now, he had to just get away.
     Cole’s finger still hovered. He blinked hard. Could he really do this?
     Yes, I can do this.
     “And what about this?” François said as he opened the cover of a three-ring binder with the title TERRAN PROJECT written in blue across the front. François gently thumbed through the pages and pointed at the different artificial intelligence programs that Cole had cataloged and tracked while at MIT. “You’re just going to throw away years of work?”
     Cole ignored François and turned back to the computer terminal with its blinking white cursor awaiting a reply.
     He took in some air – and pressed the ‘Y’ key on the keyboard.
     Cole turned to François while the computer executed his command unable to watch. Instead, he looked at his aging in-law with compassion for the man. Since his wife died of leukemia ten years before, François had lived alone. Cole and Shannon were the closest thing he had to family.
     “John …” said Cole gently, but François cut him off.
     “Shannon’s only five years old, Travis. Taking her away from the surroundings she knows isn’t the answer,” he pleaded. The older man had tears in his eyes.
     Damn. Cole gently placed his hand on François’s arm. “John, I don’t know what I would have done without your help after Kathy’s death. But I know what’s best for Shannon. I have to give her a change.” Cole squeezed François’s arm, then looked back to the computer screen. He watched as file name after file name appeared on the screen, all tagged with the same statement:
     Cole looked at his watch. “Jeez. We have to go. You’ll see us off?”
     François nodded in resignation.
     “Thanks. Shannon will like that.” Cole glanced once more at the scrolling text on the computer screen, turned, and hurried out the office with François close behind.
     In the darkness of the vacated room, the program reached the end of its routine, and then stopped on the last file. The text that glowed from the LCD screen turned from white to red and blinked repeatedly insisting on an answer.

So – how did I do? Did it meet Farland’s criteria?
How about this one? Here’s the opening pages of A Taste of the Apocalypse from the Chronicles of Jeremy Nash.

    The old aeronautical engineer felt the hairs rise on the back of his neck. He wondered if it was a change of airflow in his room – or trepidation.
     It was both.
He turned around in his moonlit 5th floor hospital room at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center to see a slouched silhouette in his open doorway. A cold shiver coursed down his spine, as if it had been dipped in ice.
Henderson squinted, his eyesight failing with age. But before recognition dawned on him, he knew something was going to happen.
     And it’s not going to be good.
     Particularly for him.
The silhouette slivered towards him. Henderson backed away with fearful recognition.
“Vajda!” he whispered nervously under his breath.
Now fully immersed in a pool of silver light, the tall alarming figure nodded imperceptibly. He continued gliding forward in an unusual, stooped manner, like a jungle cat hunting its prey.
     And I’m the prey.
     Standing near the wide window, Henderson was suddenly having difficulty breathing. He was acutely aware that he was trapped in a small hospital room with nowhere to run. To make matters worse, Vajda was between him and the nurse call button.
The threatening figure said nothing as he closed the gap between them. Now fully in the moonlight, Henderson saw a tall muscular man with a shock of white hair growing out of a head of dark brown, dressed in a Romanian style silk brocade coat that reminded Henderson of a certain vampire count
“What do you want from me?”
He knew he had little hope he would survive the night. Hell, survive the next five minutes, but he gave it his best shot. “I didn’t tell them anything,” he cried out almost inaudibly.
     With stunning speed, Vajda pounced on him, gripping his throat with two strong hands. Henderson’s air supply was immediately cut-off, and with it, any hope of calling out for help.
Vajda calmly watched Henderson with two different colored eyes — one an extremely pale blue and the other an almost colorless brown. A deep, brutal scar ran from under his left ear to his chin.
Henderson thought he was the ugliest son-of-a-bitch he’d ever seen. But then Vajda’s hideous face started to blur before him. Like an encroaching oil spill, darkness crept along the edges of Henderson’s vision. In an amazing feat of strength, Vajda pulled the obese man straight up off the floor, holding him suspended in the air.
     “Where is he?” Vajda demanded with a slight lisp from his cleft lip. “Where is Nash?”
     Henderson couldn’t speak — hell, he could barely see. Vajda held him up a moment longer, and then slowly lowered the old man to the floor, grudgingly releasing his grip.
     Gasping, Henderson would have fallen to his knees if the stooped man hadn’t held him up. He painfully sucked in air through what he believed was a very damaged throat.
     “I-I don’t know,” he gasped, stumbling over the poorly formed words.
     “So you do not know where to find Nash?”
     “I don’t! I swear to you! I think he’s dead.”
     “Then you are of no further use to us.”
     With that, Vajda grabbed Henderson by the collar and dragged the old man to the window. In one fluid motion, the brutal assassin kicked the barred window open, splintering the window frame and releasing whatever locking device it had. Glass and metal rained down to the parking lot below as a soaring wind rushed up into the room blowing up through Henderson’s hospital robe.
     This isn’t happening.
     Henderson could hear the sound of traffic below, horns honking, cars rushing by.
     “I’ll see you in hell,” spurted Henderson.
     And with that, Vajda shoved the old man through the deadly opening. Henderson flipped once, hit his head hard on the outside ledge, mercifully blacked out, and dropped five floors to the pavement below.

Did these meet Farland’s criteria? Drop me a line and let me know what you think.

An Interview with Tina Howe

Filed under: On Writing — Frank Fiore @ 8:45 AM

Every so often I like to post an interview from a radio host I work with for interest of my readers. This one is from Tina Howe, a fellow Sci-Fi writer.

Tina Howe is the author of the first two sci-fi books in a series and a children’s picture book.  The audio version of Alysa of the Fields, the first book in The Tellings of Xunar-kun Series, won Mom’s Choice and Reader Views awards (2011) and a Readers Favorite award (2010). The second book, The TrailFolk of Xunar-kun, won The Written Art (2009) and Readers Favorite (2010) awards. The children’s book which she also illustrated, Snailsworth, a slow little story won Readers Favorite awards in 2013 for both the book and audio book.

Q – How often do you write? Articles? Essays? Or Books?

I’m an extremely visual writer. I’ve been working more on scriptwriting these days and work on a script every day which includes various aspects of story creation – concept, character development, outlining, dialog, rewriting, and rewriting.

Q – What inspires you?

The need to tell a story that both I and others will relate to inspires me. It’s often things in the news that bother me that are a springboard. My stories can be based in fantasy, dramatic, or comedic situations. Mostly I like the “what if” of a story, creating characters and situations that will play that out. “Snailsworth,” a story about believing in yourself, was inspired one evening as I sat on my back steps. The scene in my book is nearly identical.

Q – What do you do first? The writing or the illustrations?

When I’m working on a story, I work on several versions of an outline first. It’s in this stage that I get ideas for illustrations and create a storyboard that offers more than the literal depiction of the story and goes beyond the words.

Q – Which is harder?

When I was creating the picture book, I worked back and forth between writing and illustrating. I don’t think that one is more difficult than the other. Switching off does the other side of my brain a rest and also brings story enhancements to mind. Writing and illustrating are never “easy” but then I don’t gravitate toward easy.

Q – Do you have a vision of what the characters will look like?

Yes. When I’m writing either a novel or a screenplay I try to place either A-list actors or people I know in the character roles. If I need a character that nobody, including myself, has seen before, I make them seem as realistic as possible to fit the role and work at them until they’re clear. In Alysa of the Fields, I created a type of monster I’ve never seen before.

Q – Your first sci-fi book won first place in an art award contest. Did it propel you to greater heights?

Yes, but I think the cover for the second book turned out better than the first. Doing the covers for both books helped me see the world more clearly.

Q – Possibly working for other writers who need artists, marketing your book differently?

I don’t have time to offer illustration work to other authors but I wouldn’t rule it out. I did learn from the first cover that had only Alysa on it that people thought it was a girl’s book; although a girl’s in the lead role, there are many important men, including her love interest. So I put both him and Alysa on the second book’s cover.

Tina was interviewed by Francine Silverman, editor of Book Promotion Newsletter,
an on-line publicist, compiler of 16 ebooks of talk radio shows and host of a weekly
radio show, Fraternizing with Fran – where interesting people come to chat. and


April 30, 2014

How Dickens’ Scrooge Got His Name

Filed under: Frank Remarks — Frank Fiore @ 11:11 AM

In his diaries, Dickens states that Scrooge stems from a grave marker which he saw in 1841, while taking an evening walk in the Canongate Kirkyard in Edinburgh.

The headstone was for the vintner Ebenezer Lennox Scroggie, a relative of Adam Smith, who had won the catering contract for the visit of George IV to Edinburgh and the first contract to supply whisky to the Royal Navy. The marker identified Scroggie as a “meal man” (corn merchant), but Dickens misread this as “mean man”, due to the fading light and his mild dyslexia. Dickens wrote that it must have “shrivelled” Scroggie’s soul to carry “such a terrible thing to eternity”.

If Dickens had not been dyslectic or had better visibility, Mr. Scrooge might never have seen the light of day!

Writing Without Reading

Filed under: Frank Remarks,On Writing — Frank Fiore @ 11:10 AM

As I have said before, reading other author’s works is a cardinal rule of writing. But I don’t read. I watch lots and lots of movies for my writing style, plotting and character development.

I broke that rule.

Or did I?

Before I wrote my first completed novel many years ago – too many to admit – I inhaled – yes inhaled – every 1950s Golden Age of Science and Speculative Fiction I could get my hands on.

Did reading all those books influence my writing style? And what about the classical education I received in a Jesuit high school? I think it did. Layer over that writing style and story construction, my love of watching and dissecting movies and that becomes the foundation of how I write today.

Now given, that many of the movies I watch are based on books, I receive both the benefit of the writing and the dramatization of the stories.

True Stories That Would Make Amazing Movies

Filed under: Frank Remarks,On Writing — Frank Fiore @ 11:09 AM

You’ve seen it in the intro of movies – “This film is based on a true story”. Well, here are two that should be made into a film.

H.H. Holmes and the 1893 World’s Fair

Holmes is notorious for being one of the first confirmed serial killers in the history of the United States. He was already considered a murderer when his home town of Chicago became the center of the then biggest event on the planet. Offering his strangely surreal house (consisting of commercial space and several windowless, maze-like rooms) as potential accommodations, Holmes lured tourists into his trap. He eventually confessed to killing 27 people, though police at the time put the count closer to 200.

The Winchester Mansion

In 1862, Sarah Lockwood Pardee married William Wirt Winchester, treasurer of the famed gun makers. When he died of tuberculosis, the newly widowed woman was convinced that the spirits of those her husband’s weapons killed were coming to claim her family (she had lost a baby boy sometime before). So she set about building a structure to confuse the potential ghosts, a mansion outfitted with doors that opened into walls, stairs that went nowhere, and numerous confusing construction designs. In the middle was a séance room where Mrs. Winchester would seek psychic guidance for the next day’s building.

Now. What producers out there want to create a surefire hit.

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