horror-writers

Eleanor Jones

Never a man will my heart so keep,
As with young Eleanor, whom I loved so deep.
And for no man or brute will my broken soul weep;
‘Twas the folly of man that hath caused my grief.

Eleanor Jones was a girl so young.

She took on a lover with a passion for drink,
She could not see the harm, she did not even think.
He was double her age, and triple her size,
And he walked with a murderous look in his eyes.

Eleanor Jones was a girl in love.

But his hands were quite handsome, in a rugged respect,
And their strength was apparent as
they wrapped 'round her neck.
So another white rabbit runs off with the fox;
When Death stands at your doorway, he so seldomly knocks.

Eleanor’s corpse hides with mud and with bones.

I am haggard and old, and oh so mistrusting,
And Eleanor’s flowers are wilting and crusting.
The iron-clad hinges on her casket are rusting,
And all that remains are the bones I am dusting;

Dusting what’s left of Eleanor Jones.

Rainy Day

I was seriously going to start a revolution against the weather if we had another day of storms. First day, it was fine, I got a lot of housework done. Second day, it was still pretty cool, I finished up that article and sent it off to the magazine. Third day it was starting to get old, but we had some good thunder that shook the windows. That was cool.

Fourth day though. That’s what’s breaking me.

I groaned as I leaned back on my chair, trying to glean some inspiration from the ceiling. Like always, it had none. I looked out on the street, watching the water rush down the sides of the road, flooding the sidewalks and my front lawn. It was going to be a bitch to mow that later.

Still confirmed my fears- going outside was not going to happen, unless I started bleeding from my eyeballs and needed to go to the hospital.

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Adding Horror Elements to Your Writing

Truly terrifying your readers takes skill. Not only do you have to focus on getting the pacing absolutely right, you also need to understand what makes something scary. When you’re writing, you can’t rely on cheap thrills like in most horror films.

Here are a few tips on adding horror to your story:

Let us know the stakes

We need to know what’s at risk for your character if you want to scare us. We need to know the immediate consequences for your character. We don’t want to be guessing what your character is afraid of happening. Let us know what will happen if they fail.

Develop your characters

No one will care about your horror novel OR any of your novels if you don’t develop your characters. This is often a mistake with beginning horror writers (and well-established ones)—they don’t make us care about their characters. We need to know who they are first before we care about what they might lose.

Write with emotion

Horror truly requires writing with emotion. As a writer, you need to be able to put yourself in the place of your character. You need to be able to describe their fear because that will make your writing more terrifying for your readers. They need to feel what your character is feeling emotionally.

Use all your senses

Focus on using all your senses when writing horror. Smells, sounds, and tastes will all add to the creepiness of your novel. Saying something smells like rotting flesh really adds to your story. Explaining that footsteps sound like heartbeats will build tension. Always consider everything that’s happening in the room and use it to improve your novel.

Have your character make mistakes

Sometimes fear in horror novels comes from characters doing something we know they shouldn’t. What if they accidently killed someone and tried to hide it? What if they got up in the middle of the night to investigate a noise? Build the tension by letting your characters make poor choices.  

Give your readers hope

If your readers have no faith in your character from the beginning, your novel won’t be very exciting. Simply putting a character through awful situations does not make a good horror story. We need to believe they can survive. That’s what keeps us reading.

Create new monsters

Don’t be afraid to experiment with new ideas. Turn a vampire into something else by reconstructing our ideas of what a vampire should be. Create a new monster entirely. If there’s something from a nightmare that frightened you, develop it.

Don’t tell us when to be scared

This is when show, don’t tell really comes in handy. You can’t tell your readers, “Amy was really scared.” You need to show us why she’s scared. Simply stating that a character is frightened does nothing to scare your readers. Show us what’s happening and we will know why your character is terrified.

-Kris Noel

Guilty Secrets

You couldn’t lie to my sister. Not about the big stuff, anyway, the stuff that ate away at you and kept you awake at night. I don’t know if I’d call it a gift or anything, but she had an ability. She could see guilt.

I don’t mean she was good at reading expressions or picking up on body language; she could literally see manifestations of people’s guilt following them around. It started with Whiskey, our childhood cat. Mom said he’d decided to move out to the country to enjoy his old age, but Cassidy kept seeing him lying at Mom’s feet, completely still and stiff.

She asked Mom over and over why Whiskey wasn’t moving until Mom started to sob and admitted she’d had to put our kitty to sleep. She’d felt so guilty about lying and about her “betrayal” to Whiskey, her beloved companion of seventeen years, but she’d wanted to protect us from death for a little while longer.

In her grief, Mom didn’t think to ask Cassidy how she’d known the truth.

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theguardian.com
Ten things I learned about writing from Stephen King
The novelist James Smythe, who has been analysing the work of Stephen King for the Guardian since 2012, on the lessons he has drawn from the master of horror fiction
By James Smythe

Stephen King is an All-Time Great, arguably one of the most popular novelists the world has ever seen. And there’s a good chance that he’s inspired more people to start writing than any other living writer. So, as the Guardian and King’s UK publisher Hodder launch a short story competition – to be judged by the master himself – here are the ten most important lessons to learn from his work.

1. Write whatever the hell you like

King might be best known – or, rather, best regarded – as a writer of horror novels, but really, his back catalogue is crammed with every genre you can think of. There are thrillers (Misery, Gerald’s Game), literary novels (Bag Of Bones, Different Seasons), crime procedurals (Mr Mercedes), apocalypse narratives (The Stand), fantasy (Eyes Of The Dragon, The Dark Tower series) … He’s even written what I think of as being one of the greatest Young Adult novels of all time: The Long Walk. Perhaps the only genre or audience he hasn’t really touched so far is comedy, but most of his work features moments that show his deft touch with humour. It’s clear that King does what he wants, when he wants, and his constant readers – the term he calls his, well, constant readers – will follow him wherever he goes.

2. The scariest thing isn’t necessarily what’s underneath the bed

Horror is a curious thing. What scares one person won’t necessarily scare another. And while there might be moments in his horror novels that tread towards the more conventional ideas of what some find terrifying, for the most part, the truly scary aspects are those that deal with humanity itself. Ghosts drive people to madness, telekinetic girls destroy whole towns with their powers, clowns … well, clowns are just bloody terrifying full stop. But the true crux of King’s ability to scare is finding the thing that his readers are actually worried about, and bringing that to the fore. If you’re writing horror, don’t just think about what goes bump in the night; think about what that bump might drive people to do afterwards.

3. Don’t be scared of transparency

One of my favourite things about King’s short story collections are the little notes about each tale that he puts into the text. The history of them, the context for the idea, how the writing process actually worked. They’re not only invaluable material for aspiring writers – because exactly how many drafts does it take to reach a decent story? King knows! – but they’re also brilliant nuggets of insight into King himself. Some people might think that it’s better off knowing nothing about authors when they read their work, but for King, his heart is on his sleeve. In his latest collection, The Bazaar of Broken Dreams, King gets more in-depth than ever, talking about what inspired the stories in such an honest way that it couldn’t have come from another writer’s pen. Which brings us to …

4. Write what you know. Sort of. Sometimes

Write what you know is the most common writing tip you’ll find anywhere. It’s nonsense, really, because if we all did that we’d end up with terribly boring novels about writers staring out of windows waiting for inspiration to hit. (If you like those, incidentally, head straight for the literary fiction section of your nearest bookshop.) But King understands that experience is something which can be channelled into your work, and should be at every opportunity. Aspects of his life – addiction, teaching, his near-fatal car accident, rock and roll, ageing – have cropped up in his work over and over, in ways that aren’t always obvious, but often help to drive the story. That’s something every writer can use, because it’s through these truths that real emotions can be writ large on the page.

5. Aim big. Or small

King’s written some mammoth books, and they’re often about mammoth things. The Stand takes readers into an apocalypse, with every stage of it laid out on the page until the final fantastical showdown. It deals with a horror that hits a group of characters twice in their lives, showing us how years and years of experience can change people. And The Dark Tower is a seven (or eight, or more, if you count the short stories set in its world) part series that takes in so many different genres of writing it’s dizzying. When he needs to, King aims really big, and sometimes that’s what you have to do to tell a story. At the other end of the spectrum, some of King’s most enduring stories – Rita Hayworth & Shawshank Redemption, The Mist – have come from his shorter works. He traps small groups of characters in single locations and lets the story play out how it will. The length of the story you’re telling should dictate the size of the book. Doesn’t matter if it’s forty thousand words or two hundred, King doesn’t waste a word.

6. Write all the time. And write a lot

King’s published – wait for it – 55 novels, 11 collections of stories, 5 non-fiction works, 7 novellas and 9 assorted other pieces (including illustrated works and comic books). That’s over a period of 41 years. That’s an average of two books a year. Which is, I must admit, a pretty giddying amount. That’s years of reading (or rereading, if you’re as foolishly in awe of him as I am). But he’s barely stopped for breath. This year has seen three books published by him, which makes me feel a little ashamed. Still, at my current rate of writing, I might catch up with him sometime next century. And while not every book has found the same critical and commercial success, they’ve all got their fans.

7. Voice is just as important as content

King’s a writer who understands that a story needs to begin before it’s actually told. It begins in the voice of the novel: is it first person, or third? Is it past or present tense? Is it told through multiple narrators, or just the one? He’s a master at understanding exactly why each story is told the way it’s told. Sure, he might dress it up as something simple – the story finding the voice it needs, or vice versa – but through his books you can see that he’s tried pretty much everything, and can see why each voice worked with the story he was telling.

8. And Form is just as important as voice

King isn’t really thought of as an experimental novelist, which is grossly unfair. Some of King’s more daring novels have taken on really interesting forms. Be it The Green Mile’s fragmented, serialised narrative; or the dual publication of The Regulators and Desperation – novels which featured the same characters in very different situations, with unsettling parallels between the stories that unfolded for them; or even Carrie’s mixed-media narrative, with sections of the story told as interview or newspaper extract. All of these novels have played with the way they’re presented on the page to find the perfect medium for telling those stories. Really, the lesson here from King is to not be afraid to play.

9. You don’t have to be yourself

Some of King’s greatest works in the early years of his career weren’t published by King himself. They were in the name of Richard Bachman, his slightly grislier pseudonym. The Long Walk, Thinner, The Running Man – these are books that dealt with a nastier side of things than King did in his properly attributed work. Because, maybe it’s good to have a voice that allows us to let the real darkness out, with no judgments. (And then maybe, as King eventually did in The Dark Half, it’s good to kill that voice on the page … )

10. Read On Writing. Now

This is the most important tip in the list. In 2000, King published On Writing, a book that sits in the halfway space between autobiography and writing manual. It’s full of details about his process, about how he wrote his books, channelled his demons and overcame his challenges. It’s one of the few books about writing that are actually worth their salt, mainly because it understands that it’s about a personal experience, and readers might find that useful. There’s no universal truths when it comes to writing. One person’s process would be a nightmare for somebody else. Some people spend years labouring on nearly perfect first drafts; some people get a first draft written in six weeks, and then spend the next year destroying it and rebuilding it. On Writing tells you how King does it, to help you to find your own. Even if you’re not a fan of his books, it’s invaluable to the in-development writer. Heck, it’s invaluable to all writers.

Kill Me In The Fall Time

Kill me in the Fall time;
A murder most divine.
Hang me from an acorn tree
Upon a pumpkin vine.

Hide me in the Autumn leaves,
For they are dead as well;
Crisp leaves became a masterpiece
Only when they fell.

Mask the smell with cider spice,
And harvest apple pie;
For in this way we celebrate
The season when things die.

Sometimes I’ll Just Type A Single Letter ‘H’ And Get Too Scared To Finish The Word: 5 Questions With Stephen King

With dozens of best-selling novels, many of which have been turned into acclaimed film adaptations, Stephen King is unequivocally one of the most beloved and well-known storytellers in America. We recently sat down with this legendary horror writer to ask him five pressing questions about his fascinating life and incredible career.

1. What is your personal favorite film adaptation of your books?

Without a doubt Oh Great, A Boat Came Alive. They really nailed the part where the boat comes alive and everyone is bummed out about it.

2. How did your interest in writing horror begin?

A friend of mine in high school severed both of his legs in a car crash and put them back on using only his mind. Unfortunately, he hadn’t mastered telepathy and he switched left with right, plus they were backward. I immediately started writing about it, and my novel Erik The Scary-Legged Teen was published less than a year later.

3. You famously struggled early on in your career. Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to your younger self?

What really set me back, initially, was that I kept pitching these stories about terrible things happening to an editor of a publishing house. The actual editor who I sent my novels to said that he hated that all of my stories included him being disemboweled by a dog or murdered by a car. I would tell my younger self that the main characters in my novels don’t always have to be the editor that I send my manuscript to.

4. How do you feel about Stanley Kubrik’s legendary adaptation of your novel The Shining?

I have come around to the film in recent years, but originally, I felt a little betrayed. During filming, I would ask Stanley over and over, “You will add in some things where viewers can turn pages like in the book, right?” And each time, Stanley would look right at me and say, “Yeah, yeah, Stephen. Definitely.” So imagine my surprise when the film comes out and there are no pages at all.

5. Do you ever get scared by your own writing?

Oh, big time. Sometimes I’ll just type a single letter “H” and get too freaked out about what’s coming next to be able to finish the word.

y'all are dramatizing joseph’s cultist ending far too much. i understand that it throws off the lighthearted atmosphere of the game, it’s unexpected and all of that shit - but really, y'all need to relax.

i highly doubt there’s literal malicious intention or screwed up symbolism telling gay people to go fuck themselves. y'all were submitting yourselves to some sketchy content when it came to an affair being the centerpiece of joseph’s route anyway. to be fair, the entire hidden cultist lifestyle is nearly impossible to achieve. consider it out of sight, out of mind.

tl;dr you have the opportunity to be ignorant about this ending. if you were attentive, there were somewhat inconspicuous warnings directing you to joseph’s true identity. there is SO much shittier content out there (remember DMMD???), stop being nit-picky about this.

it was also brought to my attention that a queer horror writer, jared rosen, wrote joseph. keep that in mind as well.

additionally: cult end is scrapped. so simplistically: it doesn’t even exist. shut the fuck up about it now.

The Disappearing Pets

No one noticed when the strays started to go missing. It was just a cat here, another there, nothing too unusual for feral animals. Even as a kid, I was used to them coming and going of their own accord and sometimes wouldn’t see them for months. It was just how things worked in a small country town.

But then Sassafrass disappeared. She was the Binders’ beloved Siamese cat, an elderly girl with only one good eye and less teeth. She would sunbathe in a basket filled with blankets from dawn until dusk and then go in to sleep between them on the couch while they watched their evening programs. She rarely left her basket and never left her yard.

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2.20.17 in horror fiction birthdays: Richard Matheson (1926-2013), legendary author of I AM LEGEND, THE SHRINKING MAN, HELL HOUSE, STIR OF ECHOES, and countless classic short stories including “Born of Man and Woman,” “Prey,” and “Duel.”

She Never Stopped Smiling

Fly was an odd kid, even by odd kid standards. I met her in sixth grade, when our alphabetically ordered last names landed us in adjacent seats, and she turned to look at me with a cheerful, gap toothed smile.

“Hi!” She said.

“Hi.” I replied quietly.

I was shy and intimidated by my first day in middle school, but she wasn’t the least bit nervous.

“I’m Eden, but nobody calls me that. They call me Fly, so you can too!”

“Um, thanks. I’m Stephanie.”

“We should be friends!”

“Ok.”

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What Is The Shape Of Your Monster? – Get Out and Thought-out Horror

Get out.

No, I’m dead serious. If you haven’t already seen Jordan Peele’s Get Out yet, I need you to do me a massive favor. I need you to bookmark this page, close this page, and absolutely do not read this page— or any other essay or article on Get Out— until you’ve finished watching it.

I’m not just saying this because this essay will contain major spoilers for a movie that is best enjoyed going in knowing as little as possible— I mean, yes, it will— but most of all I just want as many people to see this movie as possible. It is by far the most socially relevant American movie to come out this year, at time of writing, if not one of the most socially relevant pieces of American art of the past decade.

It’s also just a very good movie.

(SPOILERS START NOW)

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Hurt/Comfort is such an interesting thing. It’s basically an entire genre of fanfiction. I’d argue it satisfies a very basic, vital need–the same way that horror satisfies the basic need to be scared in a safe, controllable space. 

And yet it doesn’t really have an equivalent outside of fan culture. "Tearjerkers” can sometimes come close, they’re probably the closest thing to a mainstream hurt/comfort genre that there is. But those types of books and movies don’t usually focus on the “comfort” aspect in the same way, and don’t make use of tension and release.

I think every good hurt/comfort fic makes use of tension and release just as horror does, whether the writer is consciously aware of it or not. Though of course the tension and release in h/c comes from different sources than in horror. Instead of anticipating something frightening, you anticipate the intimacy and/or validation that comes from the “comfort” part you know is eventually coming. That’s what provides release of the tension built up during the “hurt” scenes.

I could write a goddamned essay about this it’s so fascinating.