Sunday, 13 February 2011

How Not to Write Horror: Part 4

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

There are many things that individual publishers and presses seek from their writers, each as unique as the house itself. That said, there are many different ‘rules of thumb’ that may help in the endeavour to achieve work on the printed page. Here’s just some that, in my experience, they don’t want:

Graphic and unnecessary sex: A lot – and I mean a lot – of horror movies tout sex. Especially to a new writer, this indicates that it should be there. It doesn’t. On the silver screen sex is there for a different reason – nudity.
Sometimes scenes of an erotic nature are necessary for the plot to move forward, but mostly they’re not. Think about your reasons.

Children: A vast amount of horror has the inclusion of children (sometimes intrinsically woven into the plot). There really is nothing wrong with that. However, there are some things that I would warn you away from when dealing with them.

Firstly, brutal violence towards children is generally unnecessary and gives the result of revulsion to the reader – not horror. Secondly – and more importantly – is sexualizing children. Don’t do it. It’s not creepy in a good way. No one wants to read it. Ever.

Language: We (the human race) don’t all talk like Samuel L Jackson in a Tarantino film. The delivery of lines that include ‘M……r F…..r’ can be pulled off to great dramatic effect… by the right actor, however, generally, the reader doesn’t want to read a paragraph of text laden with colourful metaphors.

Sometimes this sort of language feels in place and necessary to the scene, but don’t be surprised if the editor removes it to make it more family friendly. I’ve have swearing removed from my work that’s going into a horror collection aimed at adults.

Concluding in the final part, Part 5: Endings. Happy or Not?

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

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

Part 3 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. So true, these golden rules. Thanks, Mark for the reminders!!