Welcome to Day 9 of the “Ghost Radio: Countdown to Paper” event! Our celebration of the mass market paperback release of Leopoldo Gout’s hit horror novel Ghost Radio. Today Leopoldo gives you an exercise to increase the power of your horror writing. And make sure to read to the bottom of the post for a chance to win some exciting PRIZES! Take it away, Leopoldo:
It’s late at night. The room is dark. You hear something moving in the other room.
Those few words set up a standard horror scenario. And many an effective horror sequence can be garnered from such a set up. But superior horror writing looks beyond such tropes. Finding horror in unique and varied settings. And in unique and varied forms.
Here’s an excercise: Pick the least horrific setting they can think of, and then find a way to twist it to reveals hidden horrors. Isn’t Jaws effective because the shark lurks in shallow water a few yards from a crowded beach? But a beach is too easy. Because beaches harbor other lurking forces of danger. You have storms, the possibility of drowning, shipwrecks, and so on. Let’s examine a couple of other less obvious settings.
What about Christmas morning? That’s a cheerful setting. Isn’t it? Think again. Do dangers lurk inside that tree? Is something hiding beneath the brightly colored wrapping paper? Has the turkey just come alive in the oven?
What about waiting in line at the DMV? That’s not cheerful. And, though it may be horrifically boring, it’s not rife with traditional horror tropes. But can we find some? Sure we could plop some zombies in there. But the DMV is full of “zombies” already. Let’s think deeper. What if everyone there was smiling? Eyes glistening. The room quivering with an excitement you rarely see outside a revival meeting. Or on the faces of children at circus. Now this setting becomes creepy. Unnerving. Now its ready for the horrific to occur.
When you do this a few times, it will fire your horror imagination. You will find it becomes easy to see the horrific in any situation. And then you take the first steps from being someone who writes horror to becoming a horror writer.
Because horror isn’t really a genre or way of writing. It’s a way of seeing the world. Horror fiction reveals the frightening and dangerous that lurks all around us. No area of comfort is immune for its subverting force. From mothers to children. From birds to pet dogs. From Christmas morning to the DMV. Nothing remains in its original form. With just the turn of a phrase they can all become founts of evil, spewing their bile on all who venture into their domain. They can cut off all paths of escape. They can ring the bells of your doom.
But when you finish reading or writing such a story, you realize your dog isn’t a hound of hell. You mother isn’t casting spells while you’re at school. And your children don’t have “666″ emblazoned on their scalps. In fact, it often makes you realize that these things aren’t even metaphorically true.
And this is why reading and writing horror is important. It allows us to safely explore these ideas. To bring them to life. And when we’re done, you place them safely on a shelf or inside a DVD cover. And you feel better.
This is one of the reasons why horror writers are some of the calmest, sanest people you’ll ever meet. They face fear head on, and, more often than not, find it’s just a story we tell ourselves.
So fire up your word processor and tell yourself some of those stories right now.
Each day of this event we offer the chance to win prizes. Every winner will receive autographed copies of both the hardback and paperback editions of Ghost Radio. But they will also receive a special bonus surprise tied to the day’s theme. This could be additional books, DVDs, CDs, audio books, or maybe something even more exciting. So what are you waiting for? Enter today’s contest now.
Here’s all you need to do to enter today’s contest:
Just send an email to email@example.com, and put “COUNTDOWN TO PAPER – DAY 9″ in the subject line, and “Ghost Radio” in the body of the email. Or just use the contact form below:
This contest closes on March 13, 2010. Winners will be chosen at random, and notified the following week.
And don’t forget to check back to tomorrow for another day of this exciting event, and another chance to win PRIZES!
If you’ve missed any of the COUNTDOWN TO PAPER event you can catch up here.