Tag: Horror

How NOT to Write a Horror Story –

How NOT to Write a Horror Story –

What I’ve Learned So Far –

For more than seven years I’ve been working on this one horror story, off and on. It’s a story that shows great promise. Truly remarkable and unforgettable characters, one of which scares me witless, but for the life of me, I cannot get this story right.

This morning, I decided that there are a few things I’ve learned from trying to write this story, especially after publishing three others during the time I’ve been working on this one:

  1. Every story is different –

    What works for one story, does not necessarily work for another and as a writer, I must be honest enough with myself to recognize that.

  2. As a writer, I must face my fears –

    Especially while writing horror and, in this case, my fear is my antagonist. While interviewing him before writing this story, he truly unnerved me and unfortunately, I believe at some point, I chickened out.

  3. Don’t listen to other people’s well meaning advice –

    Wait, before you go off the deep end, allow me to clarify. Yes, some writing advice is good and noteworthy. But in the case of your story, no one knows your story better than you do, even if it’s still inside your head and in this particular case, part of it was research.

    In the original story, the focus was on Native Americans, Apaches to be exact, and during a research trip I interviewed a so-called Apache expert on the reservation near Flagstaff. The result of this bound me up creatively so bad that I scrapped the story.

    The other problem I had was taking the story to two different writers’ groups over the years, both of which were helpful in one fashion, but totally confusing in another. So, I put the story on the back burner to “cook” some more.

    In the meantime, I tried changing the layout of the story, adding a prologue, taking away the prologue, because prologues are “bad” right? I’m laughing now, but not then. Then to make the story fit I added two more scenes completely changing the dynamics to fit the new story. Sheesh! Crazy stuff…

  4. When all else fails, rewrite –

    Which is what I am now preparing to do. The first seventeen pages are great and then I get off track. So, that’s where I hope to pick up this afternoon. Sound be interesting as I’m working on the Esme Bohlin series this morning.

  5. Relax. Meditate. But, whatever you do, stay true –

    To your characters and your story. Maybe that’s how Stephen King does it?

    I don’t know. Yeah, I’ve read On Writing, maybe I need to reread it.

    Bottom line, in the process of writing the first version of my story, I knew I’d lost my antagonist somewhere along the way, but had no idea where. Then, to make matters worse, I made him into a love-obsessed “clown.” Maybe he really is a clown…

    Nah, he’s a seven-foot effin’ bone-obsessed, angry, red-eyed dude that can scare people into sticking knifes in their bodies… He’s definitely no clown!

    (Disclaimer – this is in absolutely NO reference to Pennywise in Stephen King’s IT, even though he really was more than just a clown.)

    Venting Over –

    Okay, thanks for listening. Now onto writing and rewriting and hopefully I’ll finally get this horror story done…hopefully, this year. Of course, if you find me with a long, sharp knife sticking out of my chest, you’ll know why.

    As for the picture above, yeah, there’s definitely a cave involved…

 

Stephen King’s IT

Stephen King’s IT

An old blog post revisited… IT by Stephen King –

Living an Adventure –

A few days back, I finally overcame my fear and reservations and once again started reading Stephen King’s IT. Truly one of the most well-crafted books I’ve ever read, I’m 454 pages in and though it’s scary and unnerving in parts, the characters are so well written, so well developed, that I feel as though I know them personally. As a reader, I am no longer reading a book, but living an adventure.

IT, the Movie –

 If you’ve ever seen the the movie, IT, and like most Stephen King movies, thought, it’s just a horror flick intended to scare the beejeebies out of me, you’re right. Hollywood tends to distort King’s masterful stories, eliminating major and amazing parts to give their audience what they believe they want.

Never Judge a Book by the Movie –

So, please never judge the book, IT, based on the movie, because the book is an amazing story, one I always find hard to put down…and I have no doubt that it’s one I will cherish and forever applaud as being a masterful example of story telling.

Update –

I loved the book so much, I cried for the characters at the end. But, not for the reasons you may guess.
And, to be noted, as this is a revisit to an old blog post, I haven’t seen the most current movie.
Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House

Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House

As my study of the horror genre continues, next stop, THE HAUNTING OF HELL HOUSE…

When I was in Junior High, like most eighth graders, I read Shirley Jackson’s short story, “The Lottery.” To this day, Ms. Jackson’s visuals are permanent etchings upon the haunted corridors of my mind. The fear upon Tessie Hutchinson’s face, previously so cocky, so full of bravado now shattered beneath the grim realization that it is her life that is in jeopardy. Honestly, I need to go back and read that story again.

But no true fan or determined writer of scary stories, should leave The Haunting of Hill House off their syllabus of must reads. After not being able to find a copy of Ms. Jackson’s, dare I say, “haunting” masterpiece for so long, I was finally able to locate and read the story of Hill House.

Like my memories of The Lottery, The Haunting of Hill House, is a very clever and suspenseful tale. I won’t go into details or elaborate, no doubt that’s been done, re-done and over done.

 

No, what struck me about the story, more than anything was how the two young woman, Theodora and Eleanor bonded that first day, two complete strangers forming an alliance against the unknown.

Then through the course of the story, how their relationship slowly and purposefully unraveled. But who was the cause of this unraveling? Was it one of the women? Perhaps. Maybe Theodora in her flighty shallowness or Eleanor in her insecurity. But, better yet, maybe the house itself caused the unraveling of their friendship or as the Doctor so eloquently stated, “Divide and conquer.”

From the beginning, you know something terrible is going to happen. The author has set the stage perfectly, pulling you in gradually page by page. And then there’s the pounding, the knocking on doors and walls, but is the noise real or just the imagination or imaginations of the four visitors. There is even a point where Eleanor seems to be the only one hearing “things.”

What was so amazing to me about The Haunting of Hill House was how one minute I, as the reader, wanted to slam the book shut (can you do that with a paperback) and run for the proverbial hills and the next, because Ms. Jackson’s characters are so enticing, I had to read more. She orchestrated her highs of intense anxiety and lulls of engaging verbal frolic between the house guests perfectly. And then, as the suspense rose to its climax, two more characters, outsiders, were thrown in, and I felt compelled to defend the actions of the original four. Well done!

Oh, and I must ad, as Eleanor is pushed into the vehicle at the end, I actually felt her fear of the future, her sense of abandonment and betrayal. I didn’t want her to leave.

Was The Haunting of Hill House the most brilliant book I’ve ever read? No, but it was certainly one of the most clever.

 

Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin

Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin

Originally posted January 17, 2010

One of the requirements of my horror-writing education is to read every story listed on pages 18 – 22 of ON WRITING HORROR by the Horror Writers Association

ROSEMARY’S BABY by Ira Levin is on this list.

As a child sitting on the sofa between my two older sisters and often through the cracks between my fingers, I watched the movie ROSEMARY’S BABY. To this day I still have a vivid recollection of semi-naked old people and the black bassinet that gave me nightmares for weeks to come. But, in spite of those memories, I was determined to fulfill my horror-education requirements. So, yes, not only did I read the book, but I loved it.

Ira Levin is truly one of the greatest writers I have ever read. He has the rare gift of horrifying you one minute and making you laugh hysterically the next. In truth, as I sit here, six years later, revising this blog post, Rosemary’s Baby is still on of my favorite books of any genre and one I am sure I will read again and again.

Mr. Levin’s main character, Rosemary Woodhouse, is a naive mid-western Catholic girl transplanted into the big city with her actor husband. As in all good suspense stories, there were subtle clues dropped here and there as the story unfolded. Rosemary was everything a woman in her situation should have been. The rape scene midway through the book was intense, the result of ultimate betrayal by her devious husband.

Ira Levin wrote his story at a time when everything was in question, including religion. Mr. Levin accurately portrayed society’s mindset during the 1960s with a conclusion grounded in the most basic of human relationships, the bond between a mother and her child.

On a personal note, I think reading Stephen King’s Introduction, though profoundly well-written, may have been too in-depth a read prior to the story itself.  Because the information given was so complete I do not believe I enjoyed the story as much as I may have if I had read the story first before the Introduction.

Other books on the list from ON WRITING HORROR:

FRANKENSTEIN by Mary Shelley

DRACULA by Bram Stoker

I AM LEGEND and HELL HOUSE by Richard Matheson

….and many others

A HOME FOR ROSE – A Dark Desert Tale

A HOME FOR ROSE – A Dark Desert Tale

One of the things that attracted us to moving to the desert, was the lack of grass to mow. But, likewise, we also quickly noted that with no grass or ground cover, everything living or buried within the sandy earth was hard to hide.

So, as we began our gardening adventures, we found things that the desert had long ago claimed. In my office, I have a lion and a small dragon. Both are made of brass and both were found buried in the crusted dirt around our home.

But when my husband presented me with the dragon, it occurred to me, “What if he found something that was actually best left buried?” What if the object he unearthed only appeared to be treasure, but was actually so much worse?

And so, in the tradition of creepy stories everywhere, I wrote my second dark desert tale, “A HOME FOR ROSE.”

FRESH MEAT – A Dark Desert Tale

FRESH MEAT – A Dark Desert Tale

While living in a small town in southern Arizona a few years back, I was out walking my dog around our apartment complex when I spotted, high in the sky, a flock of large black birds. They were circling a grove of cottonwood trees.

My imagination, being a sometimes strange and dark place, began to wander, to form the “what ifs.”

What if someone lived in that grove of cottonwood trees? And what if that someone were to feed those large black birds much like one might feed the wrens and cardinals? 

…and so, Fresh Meat came into being…

“Do you want to feed my birds?” A soft voice broke through Timmy’s thoughts as the old woman turned toward him. – Copyright – Ingrid Foster 2015

 

Confessions of a Dark Fantasy Writer

Confessions of a Dark Fantasy Writer

In 1994, I had a horrific car accident almost ending my life, since that fifteen-day stint in the hospital I have vowed to live my life fully which includes facing my fears. My first confession, I am afraid of things that don’t go bump in the night.

Seriously, I can handle the occasional “bump.” Like when you hear a click in the night that wakes you up only to hear the next sound being the heater starting up. Or the loud thud that scared me so bad I caught my breathe and wanted to wake my sleeping husband. No, he was not in bed beside me and yes, he was the originator of the thud as he moved around the house in the dark.

These things have explanations and I can handle them. What I can’t handle are the noiseless things that move in the night or the unseen things that a part of you senses, but you cannot physically see or hear them. These are the things that totally freak me out. Sure, they may be part of my overactive imagination, but what if they’re not?

My husband has spoken a few times about going to California for a week on business. I would be left home alone to write to my heart’s content. My second confession, I really don’t want to be alone at night in this big house. Because of the design of this room I call my office; I must sit with my back to the doorway. Last night when I couldn’t sleep and sat here diligently working at my desk, every once and while I would look up at the open door leading to the rest of the house. Just in case. You never know what lurks silently in old houses.

My third confession is that when I was a child and yes sometimes still, I would fear cars and trucks Car Grillescoming up the road by my home.  Don’t ask me the origin of this phobia; it really makes no sense. All I can think is that the grill on the cars from the 1950s and 60s left a deep, tortured impression upon my psyche. Anyway, to this day I sometimes fear a vehicle “sneaking up” on me.

So why do I love scary stories enough to write them, am I in some subconscious way a masochist desiring to scare myself into insanity? No, probably not.

I think it’s for the same reason that as a child I use to love reading ghost stories or as a teenager babysitting my niece I read the THE AMITYVILLE HORROR in one setting. Reading horror does for me what other books don’t. It entertains me and at the same time forces me to face my fears.

And so I continue writing my own dark fiction, The Gathering, based on a place I once lived. My last confession, I am so glad we moved because in a certain point in the story my heroine, who is roughly based on me, has a near fatal fall… Yes, my own writing really does scare me!

Interviewing Your Characters

Interviewing Your Characters

Upon inspiration of the essay by Tina Jens in ON WRITING HORROR, I have created a character sketch I am using much like an interview sheet. In my mind’s eye I invite my fictional characters into my office for an interview. So far it has worked like a charm. My questions are pretty much standard but the difference is it is not me who is answering the questions. They are.  My approach is that this is their story and I want to know them as I would an old friend from high school (per suggestion by Tina Jens.)

I had created a list of characters using my previous method of simply coming up with them as I wrote my new novel but the process was tedious and boring. Following Tina’s suggestions, I created a new character sketch to get to know my characters for who they are, separate from me. My protagonist, who I had previously named Sandy, was a middle aged woman and I had given her blond hair with gray streaks and gray eyes much like my own, was all wrong.

The woman who walked in my office was entirely different, even her name. She was younger, tougher with dark hair and eyes. Her entire persona is one of a lonely but self-assured widow on her own and looking for a change. While Sandy was also looking for a change she was married and more dependent upon her husband.

My second “interview” was with my evil, sadistic antagonist. I was nervous about the interview because this character was to be the epitome of evil complete with horrific appearance and behavior. The “man” who entered my office was again, very different. I found him compelling and alluring with a definite darker side concealed beneath his attractive appearance. At the same time, he was forthright with a definite sense of humor about the story that is to come.

I have four more interviews to do with my previous version of this story still in the back of my mind. What will become of this story? I have no idea. It’s truly in the hands of these fascinating new characters. One thing for certain, I won’t be bored!

Thanks for visiting my site. I would love to hear your thoughts…

Getting to Know Your Characters

Getting to Know Your Characters

Another tidbit from a few years back that has changed my writing life forever….

In between the required reading in ON WRITING HORROR, I’ve been studying the various essays by the gifted writers enclosed within its pages. The latest nugget of wisdom came from Tina Jens titled “Such Horrible People.” Ms. Jens describes characterization in such a creative and entertaining way that not only have I soaked up her insightful words, but I do believe they have changed the way I write forever.

Within her essay, Tina Jens describes getting to know your characters as well as you would your high school buddies. Their ins, their outs, their quirks, fears, flaws and successes. What makes them tick? Getting to know your characters so well that they are sitting there beside you writing your story for you. Your job as a writer is merely a stenographer, they are in control. After all it’s their story, right?

Yes, I’ve read lots of articles on developing characters but never in such a clear, open manner where it is not only practical, but brings the knowledge down from my gray matter to application. Thank you, Tina Jens, for such an intelligent and entertaining essay.

So to put into practice this new-to-me character-creation process, I’ve interviewed one of my main characters for my current work-in-progress. As it turns out she is nothing like the puppet I created. I got her name, hair color, age and even personality totally wrong. The character that arose from this interview is stronger, more dynamic and a complete improvement over what the puppet-master (me) had created.

Rather than feeling the pressure of creating this novel purely out of my own tedious, task-oriented agenda, I am excited to see what she and the other main characters will show me as their story unfolds. I have more interviews today. One I am particularly nervous about, my villain. He’s a dark, angry creature whose fiery home was recently disturbed. Wish me luck….I’ll keep you posted.

Thank you, Tina Jens and the Horror Writers Association…and to you, thanks for reading!

close

Did you enjoy your visit? Please spread the word

EMAIL
Pinterest
Pinterest
Tumblr
GOOGLE
GOOGLE
http://ingridfoster.com/tag/horror
RSS
LINKEDIN
SOCIALICON