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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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Genre Writing: Horror – Crafting a Character

In my writing, I’ve noticed that I spend a lot of time building worlds and using descriptive language to tell the story. The one thing that I have always lacked, and hope to improve, is my characters. I know I reference Stephen King a lot. Like a lot, but one thing I keep mentioning about his work is how well he does his characters. Long after I’ve read the book, I can still recall his characters.

Character Building

So how do you build the perfect character? That’s quite difficult to say, although there are fundamentals we can pick out. You can use these basics for any story, whether it’s horror or Sci-Fi, or Fantasy.

  • Individuality

A friend of mine (Nicky from Chasing Dreams Publishing) has some great ideas on how to craft characters readers will enjoy. The one thing I extracted from her post is making characters unique. This may seem like a given, and in your mind you may see them as individuals. It’s how you bring them across that is important. Things like how they speak (voice/tone), how they carry themselves (body language), and how they act.

  • Motivation/Conflict

Everyone around you wants something. A personal goal that keeps them ticking. It doesn’t have to be anything epic (find the special item of immeasurable power) or world domination. These goals and motivations define what is important to your characters and they will act accordingly. Then have something that conflicts with their goal whether it’s a person or a personal trait.

  • Character Flaws

Usually this tags along with some sort of cliche. The red-haired is feisty. The ex-cop is a drunk. The religious lady is a crazy zealot. Etc. Most flaws are a little less eccentric, but can be written to be the character’s downfall or lead to something believable yet out of character. For instance, in Dreamcatcher by Stephen King, the one character stopped picked up chewing on toothpicks to get over a bad habit. This later leads to a very fatal end when he’s in a strenuous situation and just needs his toothpick. NEEDS it.

My Protagonist

The innocent Jane/John Doe whose life is thrown into disarray after discovering an evil entity in their home/child/parent/school, feels over done. I’ve watched a lot of horror movie trailers (and movies) as well as read a couple of horror book blurbs with this sort of premise. While I don’t always shun cliches, this idea is boring for me.

To change it up, my protagonist won’t be an innocent, ordinary Jane/John Doe. Instead I have:

One-Who-Must-Overcome

Profile: Must appear innocent to characters in book yet reader must get a sense of a deeper darkness. A troubled past they have embraced. An uncertain future they wish to clarify and brighten. Broken and hopeful.

Conflict: What defines them is exactly what they want to change. A journey of self-discovery, with very difficult choices that contradict their goal even though it’s supposed to help.

Strengths and Flaws: Carefree attitude allows them to shrug off lots of things, while nursing a crippling fear of the “darkness” within them that forces them to shun people. Troubled past has grown and matured them mentally and emotionally to live an almost normal life, while a small part is mischievous and playful to reconnect to that lost past they wish to regain which causes issues.

Jake Chambers The Dark Tower Stephen King

Jake Chambers from Stephen King’s the Dark Tower is an interesting character, especially since he is quite young. Also, he fits this description well. Too well…

Look Around You

Last point. Be observant of the people around you. There are living, breathing characters right in your vicinity and could make wonderful additions and mixes to your story.

Genre Writing: Horror – Crafting a Story

Coming up with a story can have varying origin facets. From a single word heard during a conversation, to a writing prompt or even a random thought sparked by the world around you. Inspiration comes in many forms after all. In this particular case, for my unnamed NaNoWriMo horror novel, inspiration has been hard to come by. And trust me, I’ve been trying everything.

So what does one do when inspiration doesn’t come knocking? Easy. You go knocking on inspirations door.


From Nothing to Something

When I was creating my NaNo novel in the dashboard, there were a few things to fill out. One of these was the synopsis. I had no idea what to write in there, so I put down the most basic premise of a horror:

There was a person and a creature and lots of people died horrible gruesome deaths.

Pretty simple right. I wasn’t even thinking too much about it when I wrote it down. However, after looking at it for some time, I picked up four fundamental elements in it:

  1. The “person” is the main protagonist.
  2. The “creature” is the antagonist
  3. The “lots of people died” is the progression of the story
  4. The “horrible gruesome deaths.” completes the horror aspect.

And you know what, most horror films follow this thread. They change the “person” (mother/father/caretaker/camp counselor/detective) but they are all effectively the same. They change the “creature” (evil entity/ghost/serial killer/haunted house) but they all play the same role. Lastly, this changes how “lots of people died” and what “horrible gruesome deaths” look like, but they still happen.

Inspiration

There are various ways that one can tackle the great plague known as “Lack of Inspiration” A.K.A Writer’s Block. When it comes to crafting a story, your idea’s building blocks will either make or break your story, and moving from nothing to something while “blocked” makes it harder. I usually scourer the internet, recollect my favourite scenes in books/movies, listen to music etc. until I have a solid foundation that gets me excited about the story.

Also, just to note, I’m not talking about epiphanies or getting over the block. I’m talking about slugging through the lack of ideas by pounding against them until you get a breakthrough. That’s what I will be sharing with you.

  • The Prompt Finder

So you go to http://www.google.com right, then in search you type in “(Genre) writing prompts” and voila, an entire internet of results. Then you open about 100 tabs and read through all of them until a particular idea lights the fuse of your creativity. Sometimes it’s the 42nd tab (pun).

Letterpile – Horror Story Ideas

PS: You know it doesn’t have to follow the prompt to the T right? Just enough to put fuel into the fire.

  • The Reddit Prowler

Reddit is as close to the dark web as I will ever get. The things you find on it are just… wow/disturbing. Nonetheless, there are plenty of people like you and me, lacking inspiration, who post interesting topics, stories, and ideas to inspire. Below are my favourite horror haunts.

r/horror
r/nosleep
r/darktales

PS: There are other parts of Reddit that display the dark side of the human condition. I wouldn’t suggest visiting those places in fear you’ll be scarred for life. There are also really great fluffy places that I do not visit for the fear I’ll be scarred for life.

 

  • The Myth Buster

Okay maybe not busting myths, but there is a lot of interesting creatures and entities in mythology and folklore that creep me out. Like the Jorōgumo, who is half spider half woman. She sometimes appears as a woman holding a baby, who asks men passing by to hold it. Only for them to discover that the “baby” is made up of thousands of spider-eggs… and they burst open.

Mythological Creatures
Mythology and Folklore (Blog Posts) – By Carin Marais

  • The MusicMovieMan

So I love watching movies and TV series right. Right now I’m watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine and it’s hilarious. Andy Samberg is my favourite person in the world. Sometimes you just watch something and it sparks a feeling. An idea. A story. Use it.

The second half of it is music. Usually the music I listen to reflects my mood. When I’m writing, I try to listen to songs that fit the mood of the story, the scene or even the character. For instance, when I wrote my short story called Love Will Tear Us Apart, I was literally listening (on repeat) to the Fall Out Boy version of Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart. When I’m writing a serial killer, I’ll plug in Slayer or Slipknot or something heavy. The music creates scenes in my head. It’s beautifully disturbing.

My Story Idea

So I perused every prompt, listened to many songs, watched series, went out for walks, and pet other peoples dogs. The story that I dreamed up was uninspired and boring. And then I read this really deep blog post about regret. That’s an emotion I resonate to a little too strongly. Then I read about a creature that possess people, and me, I love this kind of stuff right. Then the two ideas merged into my next NaNo Novel…

Emotionally Charged Horror Novel

There was a person (who lived with some sort of very deep regret) and a creature (who fed on it and took over this character) and lots of people died horrible gruesome deaths (trying to protect themselves from the regret-filled human-creature trying to fix his mistakes or trying to get rid of the creature by fixing their mistakes).

So expect lots of emotive language, broken characters, gruesome deaths, and plenty of crying. It also sort of fits how I’m feeling right now.


How’s your NaNo planning going? Are you experiencing any writer’s block? How do you overcome “The Block” and what sites/music/blogs do you use to help you in your writing?

Genre Writing: Horror – Writing Styles

So this past weekend we celebrated a public holiday known as Heritage Day. It fell on a Sunday which made Monday automatically a public holiday. I was so disorientated I messed up my blog scheduling for this week (too many free days in a row). So this was supposed to be on Tuesday. My book review (condensed version is up on Goodreads) didn’t make it for Wednesday and I completely missed last week’s Friday Fiction (the story I wanted to tell has escaped me too.)

In short, I apologise profusely for my inconsistency. Right on to writing styles…


Writing horror can be quite an interesting experience. In my long history of reading horrors, I have come across varying styles that sway between simple easy horror (Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine) to truly macabre filth (Books of Blood by Clive Barker) and all the in-betweens on that sharpened swinging pendulum. When it comes to my own writing, my style switches with my mood, and my emotions as I stated in my Genre Writing: Fundamentals post.

Before we dig into that, let me give a quick overview of what Writing Styles entail:

Word Choice

Pretty self explanatory but basically it is the selection of words that guide the story. Each word should convey a particular mood, intention or perspective, either towards the character, their disposition, or the world around them.

Sentence Structure

Similar to word choice, sentence structure is how you use your words to build sentences that push the story forward. Things like sentence length, flow, whether it is active or passive voice (uhhh active always please), the type of sentence it is (simple, complex, compound), syntax, punctuation etc. all contribute to the overall perception of the story. These will vary with perspective, character, and voice.

“Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.”
― Rudyard Kipling

Voice

The voice is the style by which the story is told. A YA novel might have a  more colloquial/informal voice that is light to read, while an adult novel may use a harsher, stark voice that carries stronger undertones. The voice carries the personality/disposition of the character or narrator. You wouldn’t want your nefarious, evil entity to have the voice of a juvenile thirteen year old (unless that’s what you’re going for of course). Voice is very important and can make or break your novel.

Expository/Descriptive/Persuasive/Narrative Styles

Each of these writing styles define the perspective, and the kind of writing you’re doing. Most novels will follow a descriptive (explain a picture through words) or narrative (share a story) style, while how-to’s and academic papers will be expository (explain concepts) and persuasive (convince reader of author’s opinion), respectively. Remember: You still have the option of writing your novel in either of these styles.

In short, a writing style defines how you tell your story. You can have the same scene, in the same genre, written in multiple ways, and each one will be different and unique.

“When you are trying to find your writing voice don’t try to emulate any writer, not even your favorite. Sit quietly, listen, listen again, then listen some more and write out everything the voice says with no censoring – none – not one word.”
― Jan Marquart, The Basket Weaver

My Horror Writing Style

As for me, my writing style varies so much it’s hard to pin-point one particular voice, and my sentence construction flows from the story itself which means it differs per idea. I do know my word choice tends to be quite similar and I always have to have a thesaurus/dictionary open to vary that up. My style is also quite descriptive because I want the reader to see what I’m seeing in my head. (and suffer with me!)

Here is an analysis of my writing styles, each affected by mood.

The “Have a Nice Day” Horror

My writing style when I’m in an uplifted mood, tends to sway towards bright cheery days where evil lurks just around the corner. These will have the everyday Jane and John in a regular situation which ends up going very badly, usually very quickly.

Word Choices: Bright colours. Sunlit environs. Happy general public. Hints at something off-colour or dark.

Sentence Structure: Long, flowing sentences with too much punctuation. Dialogue.

Voice: Optimistic. Innocent. Unoffending. Light.

In these cases, I barely show the horror as visceral (no gore) but rather hint at it. It’s not about experiencing the physical horror, but the psychological horror. Varies between first and third person depending on idea or character.

Example: Friday Fiction: The Playground

The sunlit jungle gyms and slides were half obscured by uniformed, screaming children. They scampered about like mice, eyes alive, front teeth missing, dirt and dust over their shorts and skirts and shirts and knee length socks. One of them, on his way down the scorching, silver pole leading to the graveled floor, looked across the playground. Three of the fourth graders were leading a second grader towards Big School. They weren’t allowed there during school hours. Not at all.

 

 

The “I’m Depressed – Hate the World” Horror

My writing style when I’m in a dejected, not-feeling-this-sunlight mood, drifts towards heavy introspection and characters in a dreary state. These will have a particular Jane and John at a low point in their life and things just get worse.

Word Choices: Dull colours. Sunlit but shaded or just grey skies. Non-existent populace or very closed off. Horror disguised as hope.

Sentence Structure: Longer, flowing sentences of descriptions to create an atmosphere of despondency.

Voice: Morose but hopeful. On the line between innocent and guilt. Heavy. Moody.

In these cases, it is about the character themselves and how the mind can bend even the best of things into afflictions. Psychological horror manifesting into physical. Usually third person to detach myself from the character while being true to the character.

Example: Friday Fiction: Fear and Fervor

He sleeps deeply and soundly. The dark tendrils of oily curled hair tumbled down to his chin like a frayed curtain. Near his bare feet lies a canvas still heavy with wet paint. Each corner holds a random item that keeps the canvas from rolling in. An iron stands in one corner, the severed cord wrapped in dark tape. In another corner is the other half of Eduardo’s wearable Jordan’s, the bottom half yawning with yellow strands of loosening superglue. The foot of an aged table, and one of the three metal stools keep the remaining corners down.

 

The – Excited Let’s Terrify Them Horror

This one is rare, and is usually in that phase between the first two styles. Usually the Jane and John see themselves justified in some way but the horror is there to humble them. Or they’ve walked into an unexpected situation that shifts from normal to horror very quickly.

Word Choices: Bright colours mixed in with disgusting variations. Use senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch) Sunlit but shaded or almost greying skies. Varied populace and mood to show a more realistic perspective. Blatant horror with gore.

Sentence Structure: Varied, descriptive sentences to break the thin film of normalcy and horror. Fear is key.

Voice: Varied and focused on the psychological turmoil that will be augmented by physical horror. Blurred line between innocence and guilt. Varying mood and atmosphere.

When I’m in this mood, there’s no telling how far I’ll fall to the dark side, and whether I am the abyss you stare into… and I stare back. It’s about the characters and their reaction to the horror they are about to face. Usually first person in order to write what the character experiences.

Example: Friday Fiction: Frank

“Bella? It’s me, William.”

I stepped closer, avoiding the spillage. Iced pins prickled my chest. I fought the thrum rattling my bones – smoothed the aroused hairs along my nape with trembling hand.

“William?”

She began a slow swivel, golden rays refining her locks to dazzling white tresses. The first thing the glare revealed was the braided tongue-like cord, and the dangling pulped egg that was her eye.  My gut lurched with the stench wafting from the gaping abyss that was the rest of her cragged, hollowed face.

“He’s coming Will.” a greyed tongue languidly dripped yolk rivulets to the floor. The muck broiled, a single eye floating to the surface. Frank.


Sorry about the long post, there’s a lot to cover and I didn’t even get through it all. Have you found any distinctions in your writing style between stories? Do you consider voice, word choice, sentence structure etc when you’re writing? Does it change with genre? I would love to know.

Genre Writing: Horror – What is your fear?

We all have fears. They can be legitimate fears like losing a parent or child, losing a job, a ligament and more. Some fears appear in the form of phobias – fear of spiders, clowns, germs, heights etc. Common fears that are almost universal are the fears of anticipated pain, approach of death, of not being in control, and next to them, the fear of the unknown.

Movies like Scream/Friday the 13th, Halloween etc are scary because you don’t know who the killer is, you don’t know where they are or where they will come from. All you can expect is a knife plunging down.

Movies like Nightmare on Elm Street, Candyman, The Grudge, etc are scary because there’s a supernatural element to the “killer.” You can’t necessarily escape them once they have their sights on you.

Final Destination means you’re definitely going to die soon, unexpectedly and quite possibly, in a horrifying manner. You don’t know where and how death will approach and you can’t beat it.

They are combinations of the unknown, trying to gain control and failing, and the anticipated pain/death. And that’s scary.

The Role of the Author

As much as we all have fears, we do not all have the same fears. Someone could watch the new IT movie and scream the entire time and someone else could watch it unfazed. This is what makes horror such a fickle genre. It is mostly subjective.

When I’m ink-deep in my horror story, there are a number of thoughts that swing through. The main thought is: am I portraying a true reflection of the horror. Here are some factors to consider.

Realism:

How close to real is the story and characters. Are they believable. What are the possibilities that the story could happen, supernatural or not. Do the fantastical elements make the story ridiculous or a little too close to home.

With that I try and add as many facts as possible. Perhaps reference real things that the reader might come across or may have heard about in real life. Things like:

  • It is more effective to sew a human mouth or eyes shut than to use superglue.
  • A medical practitioner has the tools/knowledge/skills required to be a proficient serial killer. (Charles Cullen – a former nurse who is the most prolific serial killer in New Jersey history and is suspected to be the most prolific serial killer in American history.) ~ Charles Cullen
  • Nurses and paramedics have more paranormal “experiences” than most due to being present when someone is about to die. (Apparently the ghost has even been seen down in the ER, ducking in and out of patient rooms and peeking around curtains.) ~ 49 Real Nurses Share The Terrifying Hospital Ghost Stories
  • Most people don’t have foresight before someone close to them dies. Not even twins. (They may be very close, very similar in manner, habits and health, but this doesn’t mean they share some otherworldly connection that the rest of us don’t have.) ~ Can Twins Sense Each Other
  • Sleep apnoea may cause people to have waking nightmares where their bodies are paralysed and they feel a presence in the room, or someone sitting on them. Usually an unidentifiable face or shadow is present. Most attribute it to a supernatural presence. It’s not. ~ Is Sleep Paralysis Linked To Sleep Apnoea?

Sleep Paralysis gif

Logic:

How logical is the story. Do the characters react in a realistic way. Are the events in the story making sense and as close to real as possible. Sure some supernatural elements do not have complete scientific evidence, or anything we can truly attribute them to beyond an unknown force. However, there are physical manifestations that may occur preceding the supernatural, and those can be used to add the “logic” to the story.

13 Famous Curses

As Thomas Busby was being led to his execution, he reportedly shouted that anyone who sat on his favorite chair would die.

Tony Earnshaw was not a superstitious man; he initially dismissed the Busby curse as nonsense and the previous deaths associated with it as coincidences. But then people started dying on his watch. Earnshaw overheard two RAF airmen daring each other to sit on the chair. Both did, and both died in a car crash later that day…

ThinnerCurseStephenKing

Pain (Emotional/Physical):

Pain may be in a physical or emotional level. The actual knife plunging into the victim, or the emotional trauma of waiting for the inevitable knife to plunge into the victim. The emotional side of horror is just as effective as the physical. Perhaps more so. Horror is about the terror than it is about the death after all.

Stephen King’s horror focuses on the characters. Invests the reader in their lives, habits, thoughts and feelings until we are almost seeing the world through their eyes. So when the horror hits, our emotions become entangled with the character and we feel it with them.

Clive Barker on the other hand focuses on the sheer physical manifestation of that horror, both in its visual representation (description) and the brutality of it.He takes great pains in cataloging the look of his creations and the horrors they have to endure.

For me it is a combination of the two. There must be some investment into the character. Enough to make you relate to them in some way. Let you feel empathetic to their situation. The emotional trauma they experience combined with the physical torture they must endure.

“Mommy?” Evie turned from the couch, a questioning look spreading across her face and disheveled hair. Her eyes fell on the axe flashing distorted images of the TV screen.

“Mommy!” Fear laced into the voice as her body attempted to crawl into the safety of the leather. Squeaking with her movement.

Rebecca grimaced,

“I’m not your mommy.” And with all the force she could muster, swung the handle hard and fast towards the girl’s face

~ Faux – A Wattpad Horror

Horror is not Gore – It’s… Paranoia

Many people think horror equals gore. For me it’s not about gore all the time. It is about the characters and the situation leading towards the gore. By the time you as the reader get to that part, where the axe meets the face, you’ve understood the situation.

The horror of relating to the killer.

The horror of being in the victim’s shoes.

Where the dark no longer feels safe and the light can only ease your fears so much. Where every sound makes you shiver. Where fiction crosses over the thin line into reality.


Have you read a book or watched a movie that really scared you enough to be paranoid? What was it? Why do you think it caused those feelings in you? Let’s chat!

 

Friday Fiction: The Faithful in Fairland

Cliche #1:

A priest who has lost his faith and now must face a supernatural evil that will lead him back to his faith.


He walks with a slight lilt. His black vestments usually hide the limp but today he wears a plain black shirt and jeans. The clerical collar makes its usual appearance and so does his dazzling white teeth smile. The congregation has gathered outside his house as a silent mob. They hold no torches or pitchforks, but their eyes are daggers and their pursed lips contain venom waiting to be unleashed.

Nonetheless he spreads his arms out in a welcome gesture, a token to his past life as pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Church.

“Well this is a warm welcome.” He says to the sea of faces. The community of Fairland were always a close-knit family, and today the family is more united than ever.

“Have you truly abandoned your faith, father?” A woman says, stepping forward from the parting crowd like a biblical figure. In her hands she clutches a bible to her flowery dress.

“I have no idea what you mean?”

“Oh you know exactly what you mean.” Her knuckles turn white as she clutches the book tighter. “We know about Claire. Father.”

If the priest shows any concern it does not break on his lined face. Not even a twitch of his white-whiskered mouth.

“Claire? Claire is dead my good people. Did you come disturb me over my dead wife?”

“Oh she’s most definitely not dead.” Emily says. The crowd murmurs in agreement but keep their voices to themselves. Only the appointed speaks now.

“Emily, you were at her funeral as many of you were too.” His eyes flit to familiar faces. They do not look away but keep a steady, silent watch over him. They do not notice the tremble in his hands as he moves them behind him.

“We buried her body, you’re right pastor, but not her spirit.”

The priest’s smile widens before he barks a loud laugh. The crowd stirs uneasily.

“My, that is unexpected. As the Word of God states, absent from the body present with the Lord.” he says. Emily raises the bible like a weapon, the leather bending between her fingers.

“You dare mock the word of God!” She takes a step forward. The crowd simultaneously follow.

“You who once did the work of the Lord until drink took over your soul and tainted your words!” Emily takes a step. The crowd takes a step. The priest steps back twice until he’s in the gloom of the house.

“You who baptised our children in the holy water while you yourself baptised your soul with the blood of Satan!” By now Emily is on the porch step. The crowd funnels in behind her. As she takes a step forward, the priest shuts the door quickly. But it is too late as Emily’s foot works to jam the door. Only the door does shut with a resounding bang. He looks down at the severed foot as blood begins to gush onto his shoes.

“Oh dear Lord.” He mutters, shuffling back with his hand clutching his heart. As he whirls about he finds Emily standing before him, a stump of a foot dragging blood with it as she steps forward.

“Where has your faith gone!” She screeches. The priests quickly widening eyes now shut completely. He shuffles back, almost slipping on the blood before the door holds him up.

“Where is your faith!”

Behind him, through the door he hears the crowd chant.

“Faith. Faith. Faith.” It is monotonous. Buzzing against his ears. “Faith. Faith. Faith.”

He opens his eyes and sees Emily in her true form. The same one he buried so many years ago. Scalp caved in at the left temple where blood oozes with the wriggling form of thick white maggots. Her skin bloats against her bones, garish green over portions of porcelain white skin. She shuffles forward, the bible still clutched between the bones of her decayed hands.

When she throws the book at him, he realises it is not a bible at all. It bangs against the door beside his head and flops onto the floor open. A picture slides from the pages and lands at the man’s feet. He looks up and Emily nods her head to it. Her face no longer pulls taught but slacks downward as though forlorn. The priest bends down and lifts the image,

“Oh lord no.” He says, the image shaking between his fingers. In it is the community of Fairland, familiar faces he’d nodded to outside. He stands in front of an altar before their bodies, all of them lying haphazardly across the pews of the church. A dark shadow stands behind him, hands on his shoulder like a proud father.

“How… when…” he falls to the ground.

“After Claire died, you changed. You let it in.” Emily says. He looks to her to find her jaw hanging agape. Black liquid pours down her chin.

“Restore us before we are taken into the bowels of Sheol.” Emily whispers. Then her rotting body falls to the floor face first. As it hits with a wet smack, a rosary rolls across the floor to his feet.

“Where is my faith…” he whispers to the now empty house.


Okay it sure could use a little more work, first draft after all, but you get the gist of it yeah? And what about that silent mob? Reminds me of a scene in R.L. Stine where the kids move in to a new neighbourhood only to find all their neighbours are ghosts. *Shivers

Did I do the cliché justice? Have you read/watched anything familiar? I would love to know.

 

The Hellbound Heart – Recommendation

Clive Barker is widely acknowledged as the master of nerve-shattering horror. The Hellbound Heart is one of his best, one of the most dead-frightening stories you are likely to ever read, a story of the human heart and all the great terrors and ecstasies within. It was also the book behind the cult horror film, Hellraiser.

In a quiet house on a quiet street Frank and Julia are having an affair. Not your ordinary affair. For Frank it began with his own insatiable sexual appetite, a mysterious lacquered box- and then an unhinged voyage through a netherworld of imaginable pleasures and unimaginable horror… Now Frank- or what is left of Frank -waits in an empty room. All he wants is to live as he was before. All Julia can do is bring him her unfulfilled passions…and a little flesh and blood…


First of all, not for the faint-hearted. Second of all, not for the squeamish, easily disgusted, or those with an overactive imagination. Lastly, it’s definitely not Stephen King so don’t even use that as a gauge for your own propensity for horror fiction. This is other level horror.

Also, I took the time to finally watch the (in)famous Hellraiser movie and man is Clive Barker sick. Like wow haha. It’s a completely different kind of horror compared to Scream (I’ve watched all of them, and I just finished the Netflix series), Wrong Turn (meh), Silent Hill or a number of other’s that I watched. I’m planning on watching every “Hellraiser” movie and also Books of Blood. Can’t be a Barker fanatic if I haven’t even seen/read all his works right?

 

Friday Fiction: The Playground


The four fundamental elements I spoke about in Genre Writing: Horror Fundamentals are: Atmosphere. Fear Factor. Character Flaw. Plot Twist.

The sunlit jungle gyms and slides were half obscured by uniformed, screaming children. They scampered about like mice, eyes alive, front teeth missing, dirt and dust over their shorts and skirts and shirts and knee length socks. One of them, on his way down the scorching, silver pole leading to the graveled floor, looked across the playground. Three of the fourth graders were leading a second grader towards Big School. They weren’t allowed there during school hours. Not at all.

He slid down quickly and started to follow,

“Where you going Ted?” Leena asked. Ted shot her a dark look, index finger rising to his lips,

“I’m coming now.” Ted whispered, turning to see the other kids slip through the side gate.

Ted ran as quickly and quietly as he could. Were they trying to get the second grader in trouble, his mind asked. Was the kid in trouble? Why was he following them at all?

As he peeked around the corner, he felt the hairs on the nape of his neck rise. They weren’t going to the Big School after all. They were heading to the disused toilets in the back corner of the old classrooms. A bricked wall separated the two halves of the school, which had cut off the toilets from being seen. Since no one used it, there were no lights inside, and to enter you had to walk through a small corridor. All in total darkness.

Ted shivered.

Sometimes, he and his friends would dare each other to run past. Once he’d dared his friend Johnny to knock on the door. Johnny did. A moment later he’d ran out crying, claiming he’d seen massive red eyes staring at him. They never did go back.

Ted wouldn’t have followed these kids today. Not since that day with Johnny. In fact, not ever. But what if the kid was going to get fed to that red-eyed thing Johnny saw. What if the fourth graders didn’t know? What if they did know?

He thought about calling a teacher but it was already too late. They were approaching the corridor and he could hear the older boy’s snicker. The other kid was crying. But what could he really do? He didn’t know but when all the kids stepped into the corridor, Ted hurried after them.

The entrance was dark. Just a rectangular wall of black. Ted had never seen the sun shine on this side of the building. From inside he could hear whispers, and the younger boy’s sobbing. Someone told him to shut up or they’d leave him inside. Then it went eerily quiet. As though all sound had been cut off from inside.

Ted waited at edge of the corridor, leaning in to hear better. He thought he could hear shuffling. Or maybe mumbling. He wasn’t sure.

Then someone screamed and all the blood drained from his veins and filled up with liquid ice. He stood frozen. Another scream jerked him backwards against the wall. He couldn’t see or feel the shivers that took over his body. He stared at the darkness and he felt it stare back at him.

Then two red eyes blinked open. Ted screamed. His body came back to life and he pushed away from the wall to run. A warm hand gripped his calf. He screamed again.

“Ted! Ted!” He turned around and it was the second grader. He was okay. Ted fought to calm down but then he saw the streaks of red on the kid’s arm.

“What… what happened?”

The kid smiled, revealing more of the red on his teeth.

“Well… we won’t be having a bullying problem anymore.”

Did you pick up the four elements inside the story? What basics do you use to craft your story?

Genre Writing: Horror Fundamentals

It was a dark and stormy night. The monster under the bed reached for my dangling arm. Little did it know, I was waiting for it instead.

And that’s how you write a horror story. Well not really, but the little piece of micro fiction above uses basic elements I include into all my horror stories. In today’s segment, I will be breaking down the story to show you how I write horror.

Remember, this isn’t the only way or the best way to write horror, it’s my method for building the foundation of a horror. Right, let’s get into it.

It’s All About Atmosphere – It was a dark and stormy night.

Atmosphere is such an important aspect of horror. It creates the mood of the story and helps put the reader’s frame of mind into the right state. Subconsciously, the reader knows the story is going to be dark. You see it on TV and in movies. The Blacklist is my favourite TV series. It has a dark grungy tinge to it compared to NCIS Los Angeles where everything looks hued in gold (ugh). If you watch horror films, you’ll notice that there’s a dark tinge to everything, even during the day.

Which is why the phrase “It was a dark and stormy night.” became so popular in writing. People knew immediately that what was to follow wouldn’t be good. Because good things never happen during stormy nights.

Vocabulary Is Important: I am a descriptive writer. I want you to have a strong image of the world, characters, mood, and world as you read. Each word I use must convey something. Whether it is unease, foreboding, anxiety, apprehension, or tension. From describing the world to describing the character. Atmosphere is my scary soundtrack playing in the background, building you up for the scare.

At night however, the park was a void surrounded by dark, silent husks, watching over the emptiness.

~Current WIP

Fear Factor: The monster under the bed.

Everyone has a fear. It could be spiders, heights, enclosed spaces, clowns, snakes and various other things. There are movies and books for each of those fears I’ve listed. The greatest fear however, is the fear of the unknown. You may not be afraid of spiders because you’ve had a pet spider and you think they are adorable. But what if the spider started acting in a way you’re not used to. Uncharacteristically. Malicious. Vicious. Dangerous. Would you be afraid then?

Then of course you have the occult and that’s a whole different set of unknown variables.

 

Create the Fear: When I write horror, I do not know what everyone’s fear is. In that case, I will either use my own fears, or find a situation that could induce fear with the right elements. Things like:

  • I’m home alone… but there’s a noise in the house.
  • I find an old journal… but it starts filling itself out.
  • I wake up… it’s the middle of the night and there’s a shadow at the foot of my bed.

Occasionally I will use real-life experiences (sleep apnea – sleep paralysis) or really creepy facts, for the basis of my horror.

Did you know that when you wake up at around 2-3AM without reason, there’s an 80% chance that someone is staring at you?

The Characters Are Flawed – …reached for my dangling arm.

Some horror writers use subtle descriptions to show a character flaw, something as mundane as hair, nails, a smile, eyes etc. These specific details become the medium to show how characters digress during the course of the story. We are shown that they are “real” people. At the same time they begin to fall into a character type. Things like artificial features create a character trope. The flawless cheerleader equals killer fodder. The grungy outcast equals the hero. The religious zealot equals crazy misunderstood sub-antagonist.

Also, when someone is in a stressful situation they may lose their sense of self, letting themselves go, lack sleep etc which may cause them to make bad decisions. Actions may also show a break in their character, like leaving an arm dangling over the edge of a bed (bad mistake) when they would have snuggled into their blankets. When someone is put into an unknown situation, they may react differently to their usual self. Fear does that. The teen getting chased who goes upstairs. The kid who tries to get over their fear by going to the basement. The character who stands to fight instead of running.

Describe Their Digression: Characters barely start off insane (unless you’re writing from the “killer’s” perspective.) I’ll start off with the character being “normal”, doing the right things and being a productive member of society. Then slowly I let the paranoia sink in. Something as routine as opening the wardrobe becomes an anxiety inducing experience. The sense of “safety” vanishes and the characters have nervous breakdowns during regular everyday occurrences. The fear becomes irrationally real. When done right, you too as the reader will feel their apprehension.

It was a door. Just a door. Wood. Golden handle. Keyhole. A door. Nothing seemed to exist past the door; not the voices from the television set in the lounge, not the incessant banging from the brat in the adjacent apartment, and not the beep of the microwave stating its completed cycle. Only the door.

~ Current WIP

The Twist – Little did it know, I was waiting for it instead.

Horror is a delve into the darker, perhaps more realistic side of humanity. The side where bad things happen to good people. Adding a twist to the story can create strong tension between the reader and the unfolding story.

Foreshadowing works wonders when creating clever, unexpected twists. For instance, there might be a monster that appears under a bed. You show a new character buying a new bed and bringing it home. At night they go to bed and they hear scratching below. The reader anticipates the monster but when the character checks under the bed, there’s nothing. As they rise back to get into bed… BOOM monster is under the sheets.

Make or Break The Cliche: Cliche’s are great because they work. The monster under/in the bed/wardrobe/basement/attic is a common component in horror. Much like the dilapidated haunted house. They work because there are a lot of unknown variables attached to them. And its dark in there.

I use cliche’s often. What I do, however, is add a twist to them just to mix things up. I direct the reader through the usual expected path, then throw in hints that imply one thing, only to reveal it to be something else. For instance, writing about a haunted house, but making the monsters inside be the victims instead. Here’s one story playing on this idea: Friday Fiction – Random Prompt

Stephen King is an example of an author who varies the stories he writes. For instance, he writes the cliched haunted house story in The Shining. On the other hand, he takes a mundane object like a car, and turns it into Christine, the car with a mind of its own.

The Beauty of Horror

While horror freaks me out, it is that very fact that makes it such a beautiful thing. That words on paper could induce as much fear and paranoia as a movie. How words can impact the mind and emotions. It’s just great.


In my next segment I’ll talk about my research. It’s quite interesting if I do say so myself and the first rule of research is… don’t get freaked out haha.

Have these points helped you out in anyway? Are there any fundamentals that you use in your writing, horror or otherwise? You got any tips of your own? I would love to know.

Friday Fiction: Regrets

 

“There is no black and white when it comes to stalking. You’re either doing it or not doing it.” Haley said. She leaned over my shoulder. Her scent filled the air.

“It’s Instagram though.”

“Right. Legalized stalking but it’s still stalking.”

I swiped through the images then stopped. The image was of my stalkee – Jordan Washington. She’d tilted her head just enough to let the black braids hang down one side of her face onto the picnic table. Sunlight dulled against her face enough that it made her skin almost golden brown. And she had a pretty face.

“You see that don’t you?” I asked Haley. I could hear the grin in her voice,

“She’s definitely pretty.”

I pinched my fingers together against the screen and slowly pulled them apart. Zooming in past her shoulder to the tree in the distance. I kept my fingers from shaking and ignored the hairs on my nape rising.

“You see that though?”

“No I… oh…” Haley’s hand gripped my shoulder tight. “Dude!”

“I know. Hold on check.” I swiped through a couple more images, zooming into key areas just beyond Jordan’s smiling face. One of these was in her bedroom and the mirror behind her reflected the open window.

“Tyrone.”

“Yeah?”

“That’s you isn’t it?”

“Yes and no. Either I have an evil twin brother, an evil clone… or someone out there is pretending to be me.”

Haley’s hand gripped tighter.

“Or some-thing.”

*

Jordan Washington. That’s where it begins. That’s. Where. It. Begins. Begins. Ends. There is no… there is no time and there is all the time. All. The. Time.

I am. I am not ready to lose her. Not again. Not when I must. I must…  Must find. Must find Jordan. Must. Save. Her.

*

Jordan lay under the covers with her phone shaking between her hands. She hadn’t logged in to Instagram in months yet new photos kept posting themselves on her feed. Each of them with his figure in the back. The wooden floorboards creaked. An invisible weight pushing against her chest, squeezing her lungs together. Her breath came out short and shallow and she fought to keep it quiet. From beyond the blanket she sensed a shadow. Like cold hands pressing down her shoulders, grazing her spine from neck to lower back. A single harried breath echoed across her room, freezing her on the spot. Her hands were shaking so bad the phone fell out and hit the bed.

“GET OUT TYRONE!” She screamed, throwing the blankets off and sitting up quickly. The room was empty. Silent. She swiveled her head around thinking she might see him and hoping she wouldn’t. Nothing.

“I need to get out of here.” She whispered into the air, hands running through her hair. She’d already bought her train ticket and couldn’t wait for morning. Whatever game Tyrone was playing she couldn’t take it anymore. She slipped under the cover and picked up the phone to see the time.

Her breath caught in her throat for a second before a scream escaped her lips. The screen was filled with Tyrone’s face, haggard and drooping. Two words were emblazoned across the image.

“I’m. Coming.”

*

Fog sat across the horizon like a blanket, cloaking the street enough that we could barely see what was ahead of us.

“Put on the fog lights.” Haley said.

“I did. It’s not working.”

“Well then drive faster! Or… do something!” She sat forward on the passenger seat. Her hand angled away from her lips as teeth chewed through fingernails. She’d been like this since I picked her up five minutes ago. Outside, the morning fog continued its endless descent.

“If we get into an accident then it will all be for naught.”

Haley shook her head,

“If we don’t get there quickly it may be too late.”

I sat closer to the steering wheel and peered through the fog. I knew the road well enough but even in that fog it was difficult to anticipate anything. Eventually we saw the off-ramp we had to take, and the green sign above us.

Lincoln Station

It was still early enough that we had ample parking space, but there was still some life. A woman hauling out a large travel bag. Business men in suits chatting on phones. Children clinging to parents. All of them swaddled in heavy clothing. It was unceremoniously cold.

“Dude just park anywhere.”

“Chill!”

“I can’t chill! You saw that last post this morning right? That Tyrone-Clone keeps getting closer with each pic and this time it was literally standing over her. By her bed!”

“Why can’t she see it though? Or feel him? Or something!”

Haley shrugged, then chewed another nail, gazing off towards the train tracks in the distance.

“Maybe she does.”

I found a space and we jumped out of the car, racing towards the open platform where a small group had already formed. I could see the faces of those around us watching with raised brows, upturned lips or rolling eyes.

“I can’t see her.” Haley called from the other side of the crowd. I walked to the edge of the platform to see better. I would have thought in such a small group she would be easy to see. The sound of the train approaching rumbled the tracks. I turned towards it, squinting through the fog.

I saw her. On the platform ahead of us. Just a dark silhouette walking slowly away but it was her alright.

“Found her!” I shouted but Haley didn’t respond. Maybe she’d gone into the building to find her. It didn’t matter. I rushed towards her, past the little white barriers that looked like tombstones. The fog was dissipating enough that I could make out the roofs of houses from across the tracks.

“Jordan!” I screamed. The figure didn’t turn around. I ran towards it quickly, feelings my fingers and toes growing numb in the cold. My breath puffed out in clouds.

“Jordan!” She whirled about quickly to face me, her eyes wide and mouth agape.

“No!” She ran. I chased.

“He’s coming!” I screamed at her, following.

“Get away!”

The tracks grumbled louder. A horn blared. A headlight cut through the fog.

“Jordan!”

She tripped. The world seemed to slow down as I watched her arms waving in an effort to balance herself. Her foot twisted. She leaned a little too close to the edge. Then she was falling. Onto the tracks. A screeching sound resounded as the train attempted to brake.

“JORDAN!”

*

The fog swirled around me like a cold hand. A silhouette appeared from it. Tall. Dark. Eyes like egg-yolks and yellowing teeth as sharp as knives.

“You messed up again Tyron. Man. How many times do you gotta do this?”

“Jordan.” The words escaped in a sigh. Everything turned blurry as tears filled my eyes.

“Yeah, yeah. Jordan this. Jordan that. You wanna save her? Again?”

My head shot up and I gazed at this…person.

“Yes.” I said.

“Good. This is going to hurt… again.”

*

“There is no black and white when it comes to stalking. You’re either doing it or not doing it.” Haley said. She leaned over my shoulder. Her scent filled the air.

“It’s Instagram though.”

“Right. Legalized stalking but it’s still stalking.”

 

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