MANILA, PHILIPPINES — In the latest episode of adobo Talks, creative director, copywriter, and author of Tales For A Rainy Season Wincy Ong talks about his creative writing and shares 10 lessons he learned while writing his first self-published book.
Before he was able to publish his book, Wincy Ong had already directed two horror-suspense films – San Lazaro in 2011 and Overtime in 2014. With his love for horror and passion for writing, he created a collection of 12 horror stories that is set locally.
Like any other writer, writing could be draining physically and mentally. Asked about his way to get out of writer’s block, Wincy says “If you have writer’s block, experience something that is not you. That is outside the boundaries of your identity. When my friends see me reading romance novels, I’d be embarrassed, but now I read a lot of romance novels. There’s an expansion in my mind when that happens. I get to meet characters that I would have not met in real life. It’s how you get out of yourself. See the world in other’s eyes.”
Tales For A Rainy Season is the first book Wincy has ever published, and as he recognizes himself as a rookie, he shares 10 tips or lessons that worked for him along the journey.
Lesson #10: Write while having a day job. Wincy debunks what most aspiring writers do – giving their 100% time into writing up to finishing a piece of work, saying that what happened to him was quite the opposite. He shares the life experience of O. Henry, a budding writer from New York in the late 1800s and a bank teller who asked his boss to switch him to work in the bank vault for him to have time in writing short stories with plot twists, as a basis to this realization.
Lesson #9: Every story is a horror story. Wincy says that writers could see every story as a horror story in a matter of perspective, even if it’s a romance film or biopic. He then shares Finding Nemo as an example of the horror of losing a child and The Devil Wears Prada as an example of the horror of working for a sociopathic boss. He also shares Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs that he uses as a formula in creating a horror story. “Anything that can be a threat to this triangle is the stuff of horror.”
Lesson #8: Start with anything. Wincy advises that in creating a horror story, budding writers could start with anything around them. He shares the inspiration behind his stories Delubyo, which was inspired by the story of a family in Malabon where their house was flooded due to a typhoon, Angels in the Mud which was inspired by the story of Nardong Putik, a gangster in the 1980s, and The Ophthalmologist’s Case which was inspired by a conspiracy theory whether Jose Rizal was the Jack ‘The Ripper’. He added that a smartphone is a writer’s best friend and encourages writers to write names, phrases, jokes, and insults, take photos of unfamiliar places, doors of taxi cabs with the strangest names, and record voices and sounds as these elements could help in creating a horror story.
Lesson #7: Protagonist first. Monster later. This lesson is one of the favorites of Wincy wherein he admits that he “learned it the hard way.” As a horror writer, he wants to let the main characters bond and connect with each other before ending their part from the story. He says “Before putting your characters in peril, let your readers get to hang out with them first. Even if for just a while.”
Lesson #6: Magic formula acronym COORS: Characters, Objective, Obstacle, Resolution Setting. In forming a story, Wincy uses the COORS formula that involves the important elements of a story. But, if ever comes a time that a writer could not think of a character, he advises to build the objective first before anything else. He says “Giving your character an objective immediately endears him/her to the reader.We like following the story of someone who badly needs to do something.”
Lesson #5: Vary your sentences. Wincy shares that a book or a page is good to look at (and engaging to continue reading) if there are line breaks, one-line sentences, a couple of paragraphs, and a variety of punctuation marks. After all, Wincy says “Variety is the spice of the page.”
Lesson #4: Grab them from the start. Indeed, a good book should have a good starting line. Wincy shares that in his stories, he did not want to start it with lines explaining the weather. Instead, he says “Make the sentence mysterious. Make the reader curious. And start right away with the problem at hand.” Also, a good trick he learned is to introduce who your protagonist is in the first sentence.
Lesson #3: Speak to the reader’s senses. Wincy explains that a good horror story should have sensory details that would connect the reader to the story, making them feel like they are part of it.
Lesson #2: Set it in the Philippines. The uniqueness of the Philippines is what made Wincy set his story here. He says, “As a writer, you need to be obsessed with the city that you live in, know all its corners, all its secrets.” After all, every city and province in the country has a horror story to tell.
Lesson #1: Write what you know. Write what you want to read but it isn’t in existence yet. Wincy was quick to share to all aspiring writers his #1 tip and/or lesson, and that is to write what you want to read. A lot of writers are writing what they already know but for Wincy, he wants to write what is not in existence yet.
Watch the full recap here:
adoboTalks is a series of insightful and educational sessions where we take a closer look at how creativity inspires and unleashes inventive solutions.