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Genre Writing: Horror – World Building

Oh man I really enjoyed doing this Genre Writing series. But alas it has come to an end as I turn my focus towards NaNoWriMo. Will it return? I think I said it would in a previous blog post which means technically I am held accountable by a past me with too much optimism in his head. Nonetheless, hopefully you’ll be staying with me on the blog right? Why? Well… I still have great content to share with you as we embark on this writing/reading/blogging journey.

I have written so much content on world building on this blog. Don’t believe me? Just scroll through: WORLD BUILDING POSTS!. Oh and this doesn’t even include the four-part Guest Post I did with Rachel Poli. So what I am doing different this time? Well for starters my focus will be world building for horror and the second is that it’s world building for my NaNo novel.

So let’s dive in. *Cue creepy Halloween music


Fundamentals of Horror

If you’ve been following along with my Genre Writing: Horror series then you’ll know we’ve covered quite a lot of things. We’ve spoken about the fundamentals of horror, namely:

Atmosphere:  The mood and setting of the story, intended to guide the reader’s mind towards understanding that bad things are going to happen.

Fear Factor: The reason the story is a horror. Anything from spiders and clowns, to Lovecraftian entities, and demons, to serial killers.

Character Flaws: No one acts rationally when placed into an irrational situation. You’ve probably done it too, checked the wardrobe to make sure there’s no monster in there. Luckily there wasn’t. Not in horror. There’s a monster in there.

The Twist: Not all horrors have a twist, but a lot do. The creature the hero defeated is not dead and in the last scene the decapitated head winks.

Putting the Fear into the Story

I also spoke about creating the sense of fear into the reader and how I go about doing that.

Role of the Author: As the author, you must understand that we won’t all have the same fears. What you must do is put that fear into the reader. Look at Stephen King’s early novels, Cujo, Christine, Pet Semetary, IT, The Mist etc. He took mundane things and made us, the readers, fear them.

Realism/Logic: A lot of people get put off by some horror books because the scenes are beyond believable. Using realism and logic to craft a believable horror puts readers into a position where they think “This could happen.” Once that thought enters their mind, you’ve done your job.

Pain vs Paranoia – Emotional vs Physical: Invest into your characters. They are the driving force of horror. Your reader must suddenly find themselves in the shoes of the characters, their paranoia and fear growing with each turning page.

Defining Your Writing Style

I did a comprehensive look at writing styles, talking word choice, voice, sentence structure, and writing style (expository/descriptive/narrative). This, combined with my own ideas/emotions defined the kind of horror I would write. While horror is a general term, there are different variations of it. From Gothic horror to contemporary to Weird fiction to your serial killer stories.

To Gore or not to Gore: Horror is not defined by blood splatter, although it is a nice to have. Figure out if the story you’re writing needs to be gory to be a good horror or if you can get away with less.

Psychological Horror: Sometimes humans are monsters. Psychological horror shows us the depth of human depravity. We are exposed to our vulnerabilities in light of mental and emotional fears revealing the darker side of the human psyche.

Through the Eyes of One: A worldview is how someone sees the world. Whether its through rose-tinted glasses or through filth stained glasses. Telling from the killer’s eyes will mean your writing reflects his thoughts. He won’t mind kicking a puppy. As opposed to telling the story through the eyes of a child with an innocent mindset. Varying perspectives can give the story a new edge that pushes it from mediocre to brilliant.

The Hero vs the Monster

This is usually the defining factor of your horror which is why I left it for last. The question is, what kind of monster do you want to write about? The haunted house? The possessed child? The monster under the bed? The supernatural? Or human monsters. Or the Old Ones?

Character/Monster Building: There’s a whole post on this so read it when you get a chance. Important things to note are individuality, motivation, strengths, weaknesses and conflict to name a few. Make them multi-dimensional in their interests, in their goals, in their emotions, and in their thinking. Give them a past that explains who and why they are who they are.

Cliches Everywhere: I’ve spoken about this before, that cliches aren’t necessarily bad. It’s about how you write them. There are plenty of novels about possessions, and haunted houses, and vampires and it seems every week a new Cthulu novella is announced. At the same time we are all individuals with differing upbringing, inspirations, etc and can be unique even in our cliches. Just don’t copy your favourite author. You’re not them.

 

World Building for Horror

If you were confused about how everything I wrote fits into world building, well let me tell you. That was the world building.

The fundamentals defined what kind of world your story will be in, mostly displayed by the atmosphere you’re going for. So in your mind you have a place – a location – where everything will take place. That’s the first part of your world.

Fear introduced a monster into your environment. They skulk about in this created world. They possibly have a place they call their own or somewhere where they came from. Everything that makes the monster defines its “home” as a spider has a web.  You’ve added another location to your world.

Writing style and character/monster building, gives you the worldview of the story and its characters. Are we seeing it from the perspective of a regular human? Adult or child? Killer? Family man? Student? These will define the environments they go to which gives you more locations such as home, office, school, local park etc. It also defines how they see things around them. A cemetery may be scary for a child, but the perfect location to hide dead bodies for a killer.

My NaNo Novel:
Some Horror Thing (Working title)

Tomorrow I begin to write my novel. I have my characters, I have an idea of a story, and I have an idea of where its all going to take place. It will be set in our current world and time, with “flashes” to the past as we (yes both of us) watch how the monster became the monster. The whole Genre Writing segment has been world building.

Now I’m ready


*Gifs from Silent Hill because it’s just beautiful!

Have these tips helped you? Are you ready for NaNo?

 

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About Nthato Morakabi

Nthato Morakabi is a South African born, published author working as a Technical Writer for Everlytic and a writer for Gamecca Magazine. He has published short stories both internationally and locally, and is hoping to publish a novel in the near future. He is an avid reader, inspired blogger, and an aspiring digital artist.

14 responses »

  1. I love how you’ve defined the essence of world-building as being all the elements that make up the overall story! It makes so much sense and I think looks at an aspect that many people assume is more a part of fantasy fiction, rather than other genres. World-building is essential to every form of writing, to truly draw a reader into the tale.

    Reply
  2. Such a great post! I can tell you had a lot of fun with it. Great advice, you certainly know your stuff. Good luck with NaNo, happy writing!

    Reply
  3. Awesome stuff man! And good luck for Nano 🙂

    Reply
  4. Best to you on NaNo! I’m still re-working the one I wrote when we were cabin mates! Getting there.

    Reply
  5. Pingback: Genre Writing: Story Crafting in Horror Movies | A-Scribe To Describe

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