Monthly Archives: August 2012

Deep Ones

The Deep Ones took her on a beautiful summer day.

She’d been lolling in the gentle surf, eyes half-closed against the sun and its glittering reflections. On the cusp of womanhood, her scent drew them in, just as the elders said it had happened in the time of horrors.

The Deep Ones dragged her to the bottom and drowned her, leaving a seed deep in her dead womb. It burst forth, fully tentacled, a storm of blood and bubbles.

Decades later, his stolen daughter a local legend, the fisherman spied a tentacled horror on the bottom – and wept in recognition.

_________________________________

Thanks to Emma Audsley who posted this excellent image (drawn by Victor Hugo, no less!) as a prompt for a 100-word story on her active and excellent blog, The Horrifically Horrifying Horror Blog. I responded to Emma’s prompt with the story you read above and I’m re-posting it here because I like this tiny tale.

Interestingly, I found the following text from Victor Hugo accompanying the image when I downloaded it from 50 Watts via Flickr.  Strange and fun, I think, how it meshes with the story I wrote having only seen the picture. More a testament to Hugo’s drawing than my writing, I suspect.

At night, however, and particularly in the hot season, she becomes phosphorescent. This horrible creature has her passions, she awaits her submarine nuptials. She adorns herself, setting herself alight and illuminating herself; and from the height of some rock she may be seen in the deep obscurity of the waves below, expanding with a pale aureole — a spectral sun.


Thinking About Horror…How Does it Feel?

Decided to write a horror story? Don’t think about it.

 

Use your feelings and fears instead.

Someone once said, “I write in order to discover what I think.”  Could’ve been Blaise Pascal, or Joan Didion. Maybe Susan Sontag. I can’t remember.

The quote is accurate enough, I guess. A bit intellectual for me, though. Because I am naturally suspicious of what I think. Too many filters and prejudices attach to thinking, like those suckerfish on sharks.

I’m more comfortable with the statement, “I write in order to understand what I feel.” That’s seems a little closer to the mark.

I could dial in the focus even further and say, “I write in order to know what frightens me.” Now that seems true. And maybe that’s why most of what I write (and read) is identified as “horror”. After all, horror fiction is most concerned with the evocation of dread, right?

I think, therefore I ape….

That sub-head above caused me no end of anxiety. I mean, who the hell am I to tell any writer how – or how not– to approach a story? It’s ludicrous. But, as a READER, I know in my guts if a writer was just plowing the same old horror field, or if that writer was really down there in that basement with some un-named…thing. Or trapped in ‘The Penal Colony’ with Kafka’s protagonist.

As a writer, thinking too much tends to make me wily. I’m looking for an audience, or a cheap reaction. And the stories that spring from that soil usually never make it off my hard drive. But when I’m fueling the action of a story with my own revulsion and fear? Well, then I think I’m onto something true and good and worthwhile.

So, as I write a story, I’m always asking myself, “Does this frighten you, Bob?”

Since you’re reading this, I assume you are, to some extent, a horror fan (or a much-appreciated supportive friend who checks in on this blog every now and then) and, like me, completely unfazed by werewolves and vampires. Those old world tropes just don’t cut it anymore. Oh, they can be written as sexy and angst-ridden to appeal to a YA audience. But scary? Pazuzu-scary? No way.

And that New World, post-industrial trope – the Zombie – has been so done to death in fiction and movies, it’s become a parody of itself: undying, yet devoid of life.

I’m not saying a story written to these tropes cannot be effective. I’m saying any contemporary story using these tropes, will find success only insofar as it touches on more timeless, even phobic, fears.

Like claustrophobia, for example. One of my…problems.

If a writer wants to crank up the tension in a story, the easiest way to do it is by progressively limiting the mobility and the choices of the characters. Melville did it in Moby Dick. The moment the Pequod left the dock, those sailors were doomed, with no escape but a watery death. Where, in the trackless wastes of the Pacific, could they run to escape Ahab’s obsession?

Stephen King made immobility and the lack of options famously explicit in Misery. The protagonist is successively and progressively immobilized by accidental injury, involuntary drugging at the hands of a crazed fan. He is even hobbled, for Chrissakes (just to drive the immobility point home, in a spectacularly gruesome scene). And not only that, this all takes place in a remote cabin where no one will come to help. Talk about dwindling choices! And King’s own anxiety in relation to this situation is apparent in the writing.

Exorcising demons

 

I believe all writers – not just horror writers – use their fears to create their greatest stories: fear of intimacy, fear of failure, fear of success, fear of people not just like them. It’s almost as if the act of writing itself were nothing but the exorcising of these fears.

And maybe that’s just what it is.

My strongest stories are those composed of scenes that make me flinch. The ones that make me feel I am, myself, this character undergoing this horrifying experience. I may even turn my head away from the page as I type – but my fingers know the words, and won’t stop until the story is told.

To write a story and not be moved by it is a cheat – to both the writer and the reader.

I think I’d like to write a story now.

And I feel it is dark enough to get it done.

____________________

Image by Pink Sherbert Photography


%d bloggers like this: