I know writers hate to hear this–because I’m one of them–but I don’t usually get scared by the written word. Yet never fear. I’ve recently found that’s a good thing.
Hear me out. On those rare occasions when the page does scare, it’s not a feel-good moment. Quite the opposite. Case in point, the short story, “Perfection Through Silence” by Shaun Meeks. That tale is so horrific, I won’t even allow myself to think about it. (“Thanks, self; now I’m thinking about it!”) And the end of that horror film, Megan Is Missing? Get out of here!
So what’s the conclusion? Tell a well-crafted story with a lovable protagonist so the reader will care what happens to him or her. You might even inspire a feeling of dread, like in Frankenstein: the Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley or The Fireman by Joe Hill. That’s all you need to do–being petrified’s no fun–and you’ll be a successful author (meaning succeeding at telling a great story, not necessarily a Twilight cash-in).
Not that I’m saying I’m faint of heart. I will endure the story that scares the shit out of me, like when I was up half the night on two dark nights of the soul thanks to The Ring and The Innkeepers. But it’s like in real life–being scared isn’t fun. Whoops: you’ve got roaches and mice and you’re evicted! Good day!
I have a list of writer rules I peruse every time I write a rough draft, which I learned in critique groups, and I’m going to share them with you presently. I know what some of you are thinking: I don’t give a fuck about writer rules. Well, unless you’re as talented as Gary A. Braunbeck, who can get away with endless run-on sentences–and you probably aren’t; I know I’m not–your choice to ignore the writer rules will probably cost you some publications. Therefore, here goes:
- As far as short stories, always read the sample copy, and write something just like they publish.
- Concerning agents and publishers, be reading the books they publish or get published. Do your homework.
- Research: find out everything you can about a subject before you write (and not on Wikipedia). College libraries are the best.
- Have a brilliant first sentence (think The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum: “You think you know about pain?”).
- Have a hook at the beginning–not cheesy.
- Stories should start 1/4th of the way through your rough draft: start with action.
- Story must have a beginning, middle and end.
- Characters must be good and bad, not wooden–or all good or all bad. Everyone thinks they’re doing the right thing.
- The protagonist must grow as a person.
- You can have an anti-hero, but he or she must be interesting.
- Not too many similes and metaphors, and make them appropriate to horror.
- Don’t say “All of the sudden”; make it sudden.
- Make the reader see it; create pictures in minds.
- Show, don’t tell. Give some things away in dialogue and inner thoughts, not all description.
- Ask yourself “Is this scary”?
- Deftly use the unreliable narrator.
- Keep a dream diary and use it (nightmares).
- Keep the physical descriptions brief, unless emphasizing the antagonist, as a monster or demon.
- Read it out loud.
- Give protagonist flaws. No one want a perfect protag’.
- Don’t kill the protagonist, as if the story’s told by a ghost. Have a main character who watches the minor character die.
- Don’t say “It was all a dream.” Action must be real.
- Protagonist cannot be the antagonist.
- Take your time. Let description flow.
- Not more than two adjectives before a noun.
- Not more than three commas per sentence.
- Delete all the adverbs you can; only keep good ones (like “unsexily”).
- Active verbs, not passive voice and adjectives and adverbs, for the most part.
- Use the five senses.
- Conflict resolution at end–though horror doesn’t have to have a happy ending.
- And with happy endings: your protagonist(s) must not be completely jovial; they’ve gone through hell in this horror tale, and they’re forever traumatized.
- Don’t use parentheses like me
- Don’t overuse exclamation points.
- Don’t use all-caps or bold on any story you want published–only self-published ones.
- Know the difference between the climax and the denouement.
Now get serious and get some publications!
This is my list of the heaviest albums and groups ever:
1. Reek of Putrefaction – Carcass
2. Bloodcurdling Tool of Digestion – Exhumer
3. Deicide – Deicide
4. House by the Cemetery – Mortician
5. Mortal Massacre – Mortician
6. Gore Metal – Exhumed
7. Slaughtercult – Exhumed
8. Church of the Five Precious Wounds – Repulsive Dissection
9. Cut Open the Aberration – Repulsive Dissection
10. Panzer Division Marduk – Marduk
11. Generation of Hate – Dismembered Fetus
12. Mutilated God – Dismembered Fetus
13. Cross Species Transmutation – Malignancy
14. Feasting on Blood – Severe Torture
15. Misanthropic Carnage – Severe Torture
16. Wrath of War – Thornspawn
17. Sanctified by Satan’s Blood – Thronspawn
18. The Ultimate Incantation – Vader
19. Assembled in Blasphemy – The Ravenous
20. Through the Cracks of Death – Abscess
Enslaved (only Vikingligr Veldi, Frost, Eld, and Blodhemn)
Exhumed (only Gore Metal and Slaughtercult)
Severe Torture (nothing after Misanthropic Carnage)
Abscess (everything but Seminal Vampires and Maggot Men)
Hypocrisy (only Penetralia and Osculum Obscenum)
Withered Earth (only Of Which They Bleed)
Lust of Decay
Circle of Dead Children
Vader (only The Ultimate Incantation)
Deicide (only Deicide, Legion, and Once Upon the Cross)
Impending Doom (only Nailed. Dead. Risen.)
Crimson Thorn (only Unearthed and Dissection)
Crappy New Year (just kidding: Happy New Year)!
There seem to be mixed opinions concerning whether going to nanowrimo.org and taking part in the 50,000 words in a month challenge is helpful in writing a good novel. I think both sides have their points, and I’m going to touch on them now.
When I first started with NaNo, I expected a lot more encouragement than I got, which was nil; I was on my own. Then to listen to the constant calls for donations and how every day’s a NaNo day got old quick. The one virtue I’ve found is that, if you’ve written a lot of novels like I have–the fact that you can only purchase three doesn’t mean I don’t have a dozen more rough drafts awaiting editing–you get to the point where it’s hard to make a novel long enough. You end up with all these novellas. And while that’s not a bad thing, too many novellas and not enough novels can be a problem, as the writing guidebooks say to write books if you ever want to make money at this game, not short-story books and not novellas. The challenge of hitting 50,000 words and getting a badge–you can always write more in December and hit the 80,000-word mark agents expect–and the nagging condemnation of failure if you don’t, does motivate me to write something book-length.
Not that I’m into it for the money–I hope to live comfortably, not get rich–but a writer should be compensated for his hard work.
I tried adding friends at NaNo on their Website, tried going to meetings in person in Peoria, Illinois, then endeavored to get some author fellowship with the local NaNoers in another site online, and every attempt failed, which may be because I’m that redheaded stepchild who writes horror. So I try to write everyday. Apparently, if you’re not Stephen King and Joe Hill, that’s impossible, but the days I do tap in–most days, actually–I make time to go on Nanowrimo.org and update my word count. It does make me feel like I’ve accomplished something.
But your story may be different. If so, why don’t you leave a comment. Or, if as many people are reading this as I think (zero), then don’t.
I have a new favorite movie, so I decided to revamp my 101 list and put it up here. Killjoy of Necrophagia was totally right in my favorite metal video, Through the Eye of the Dead, that the late Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond rules. Plus, I’ve changed my mind about the second version of The Shining. It’s as good as the first. It doesn’t count as a remake because it’s truer to the book than the late Stanley Kubrick’s version. (Yes, I know he was a genius.) Danny Torrance’s vision of his dad gone crazy in the future, looking dead and holding that croquet mallet, is crazy as a bedbug, and the hedge animals are just creepy. So here goes:
- The Beyond
- The Innkeepers
- The Shining (either version)
- Megan Is Missing
- The Ring
- The Exorcist
- The Evil Dead
- The Spell
- The Lost
- The Night Flier
- Carrie (original version)
- Ginger Snaps
- The Last Horror Movie
- Night of the Living Dead
- The Last House on the Left (original version)
- The Girl Next Door (Jack Ketchum version)
- The Serpent and the Rainbow
- An American Werewolf in London
- The Exorcist III
- The Howling
- One Dark Night
- Pet Sematary
- Let the Right One In
- Dracula (Francis Ford Coppola’s version)
- The Wicker Man (original version)
- Lake Mungo
- Salem’s Lot
- The Devil’s Advocate
- Faces of Death 4
- Tales From the Hood
- The Omen (original version)
- From Dusk Till Dawn
- The Craft
- I Spit on Your Grave (original version)
- Alice Sweet Alice
- Mother’s Day (original version)
- The Descent
- Killer Party
- The Thing (John Carpenter’s version)
- The Other
- Halloween (original version)
- Jeepers Creepers
- Wrong Turn
- The Amityville Horror (original version)
- A Nightmare on Elm Street (original version)
- Grave Encounters
- House of 1000 Corpses
- The Dead Zone
- The Mist
- The Servants of Twilight
- American Mary
- Dark House
- The Rapture
- Rosemary’s Baby (original version)
- They Live
- The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
- The Birds
- Children of the Corn
- The Sentinel (1977)
- The Demonic Toys
- Piranha (original version)
- The Conjuring
- When a Stranger Calls (original version)
- Natural Born Killers
- The Haunting of Julia
- House on Haunted Hill (original version)
- Drag Me to Hell
- The Possession
- Wait Until Dark
- Trilogy of Terror
- It’s Alive
- The Unborn (original version)
- The Brood
- The Hills Have Eyes (original version)
- The Silence of the Lambs
- Ed Gein (2000)
- The Sixth Sense
- The Entity
Since my favorite types of music, death/black/thrash metal, grindcore, deathcore and hardcore have lyrics about horror, I thought it would be fun to blog about it. You see, I used to think I knew what was heavy, like Carcass and Nile–and I’m not saying they’re not killing it; other bands kill it harder, though–but I’ve come to discover what’s really heavy. Well, all right, those bands are heavy, but super-heavy. It’s just better. I mean, when’s the last time Carcass sounded like Reek of Putrefaction, and when’s the last time Nile has sounded like In Their Darkened Shrines or Black Seeds of Vengeance? So here’s my new list of favorite albums:
- Reek of Putrefaction – Carcass
- House by the Cemetery – Mortician
- Mortal Massacre – Mortician
- Chainsaw Dismemberment – Mortician
- Darkest Day of Horror – Mortician
- Domain of Death – Mortician
- Hacked up for Barbecue – Mortician
- Gore Metal – Exhumed
- Slaughtercult – Exhumed
- Panzer Division Marduk – Marduk
- Church of the Five Precious Wounds – Repulsive Dissection
- Cut Open the Aberration – Repulsive Dissection
- Assembled in Blasphemy – The Ravenous
- Through the Cracks of Death – Abscess
- Wrath of War – Thornspawn
- Sanctified by Satan’s Blood – Thornspawn
- Cross Species Transmutation – Malignancy
- Generation of Hate/Mutilation of God– Dismembered Fetus
- Season of the Dead– Necrophagia
- The Divine Art of Torture – Necrophagia
Death metal should scare you. If it bores you or puts you to sleep, you’re listening to the wrong groups.
In commemoration of the Rio Olympics, I thought I’d share a writing exercise I wrote for Warriner’s Grammar and Composition, Third Course. The paragraph is about Nadia Comaneci, who at the 1976 Montreal Olympics was perfect more than once. It doesn’t have anything to do with horror, unless you muse over how human beings can’t be perfect; then I guess it could be a sci-horror paragraph about Nadia being an alien. But she wasn’t an alien, so that doesn’t work. Anyway, if you’re a fan of the Olympics-which is a hell of a lot better than watching my baseball team, the Chicago White Sox, lose and lose and lose again–you should enjoy this. It may mean nothing to most people, but when I watched her steal the show in ’76, I was so in love with her when I was thirteen. On an interesting side note, the scoreboard manufacturers were told an athlete getting a perfect score was impossible, so they scored her 1.00 instead of 10.00, at the Olympics and the competitions before the Olympics. Here we go:
The Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci is the best female Olympic athlete ever. She garnered a perfect score at the tender age of fourteen and earned eight perfect scores in all. She had to do that, for the Russian judges were prejudiced against Romanians back then. Therefore, it was the only way Nadia could win. She won three gold medals in Montreal in 1976, then two more in the 1980 Olympics in Moscow. Over the Olympics, world championships, European championships, and summer university games, Nadia won twenty-one gold medals, seven silvers, and two bronzes. The Olympic gold medals were for the balance beam–twice–uneven bars, floor exercise, and all-around. Only Mary Lou Retton was perfect again, for that’s supposed to be impossible for humans. No one did it as much as Nadia, however–not inhuman, but insanely talented.