Sunday, 6 February 2011

How Not To Write Horror: Part 3

Part 3: Vampires, Zombies, Werewolves and the like.

Whether you’re new to writing or a seasoned author, when someone mentions horror, the vamps, undead and lycan tend to spring straight to mind. That’s good – they can be scary. But whoa there, think just a little about it.

I’m back again to what’s scary?

Okay, in part 2, I said that you needed effective characters to allow the reader to invest emotion. This is true. That said, if your character (built up to a status that you care more about than your best friend) is in a repetitive situation that you’ve seen before – well, who cares?

Confusing is it not?

Take this:

Jasper, who has a young daughter that lives alone with him since the untimely illness and departure of his wife, Cali, has problems. Financially he’s ruined. Spending so much time with his beautiful and adoring six year old girl has left him penniless, and close to losing the house. It’s all been worth it, because he loves her so much.

There is investment for the reader (I know I’ve simplified).

One day, Jasper answers the door to man shrouded in darkness, who promises untold riches to him and his daughter, and an eternity to love each other… if only they join him as a vampire…

There you go, I ruined it. It’s a bit too close to Anne Rice really. Lestat et al were outstanding characters in themselves. Why invest time and emotion in a remake – when let’s be honest, the original was probably better.

This applies to all horror genres. If you think it up, then it’s already been done so you need to move outside the box. Think different.

If you want to write vamp, and this goes for werewolf as well, if you’ve seen it in a film, read the story, or looked over the comic book, you’re failing from the start. The last story I had published about a vampire (I don’t write about them much) involved a vamp, a child, a man walking his dog and street walker. It makes the mind boggle. (exactly!)

This leads to zombies (and the like).

Zombies come in hordes. (I know that I said in part 1 that hordes are bad – but due to market forces people like to read zombie fiction)

The point that I made in part 1 is that ‘the horde’ itself doesn’t make scary. This stands. Aside from the above (you remember, originality), the horde only works if you’ve read part 2 (characterization). What can you do differently – originally – with a horde of zombies? The answer is generally nothing. So you need to be original with the characters.

So the conclusion here is: Originality wins. Every time. Trust me.

Continuing in Part 4: Three Golden Rules…. if you want to be published.

Part 1 of How Not to Write Horror can be found here.

Part 2 of How Not to Write Horror can be found here.


These are my own opinions, and should only be taken as a guideline.

1 comment:

  1. Nice again, Mark. Thank you for the advice. It is true, you need to breath new life into these legenday characters, and they too need characters in their story that people will fall in love with!!