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Something Wicked This Way Comes



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Mon Sep 03, 2007 5:04 pm
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Caligula's Launderette says...



Something Wicked This Way Comes
Cal’s Soapbox: On Horror
[Brought to by your neighborly friends at Black Writing]

“Hot blood only tingles your senses, while pulsing fresh from an open wound. There is no taste quite like it…” – Count Avronious Dunstall

Horror, what is it?

Horror in the dictionary is defined as “a painful and intense fear, dread, or dismay” and “an overwhelming and painful feeling caused by something frightfully shocking, terrifying, or revolting; a shuddering fear” and horror fiction is describe as “fiction that elicits those emotions in the reader”.

The Online Etymology Dictionary breaks down the word thus:

c.1375, from O.Fr. horreur, from L. horror "bristling, roughness, rudeness, shaking, trembling," from horrere "to bristle with fear, shudder," from PIE base *ghers- "to bristle" (cf. Skt. harsate "bristles," Avestan zarshayamna- "ruffling one's feathers," L. eris (gen.) "hedgehog," Welsh garw "rough"). As a genre in film, 1936. Chamber of horrors originally (1849) was a gallery of notorious criminals in Madame Tussaud's wax exhibition.


Douglas Winter wrote in the anthology Prime Evil that “[h]orror is not a genre, like the mystery or science fiction or the western. It is not a kind of fiction, meant to be confined to the ghetto of a special shelf in libraries or bookstores. Horror is an emotion.”

And, he was spot on. What makes the horror stories so good is that they are dependent on us being human; that we fear and that we understand little of everything in the universe. It relies on our emotions and imaginations; our fears.

To quote Robert McCammon: “[h]orror fiction upsets apple carts, burns old buildings, and stampedes the horses; it questions and yearns for answers, and it takes nothing for granted. It's not safe, and it probably rots your teeth, too. Horror fiction can be a guide through a nightmare world, entered freely and by the reader's own will. And since horror can be many, many things and go in many, many directions, that guided nightmare ride can shock, educate, illuminate, threaten, shriek, and whisper before it lets the readers loose.” (Twilight Zone Magazine, Oct 1986)

As a writer of horror fiction the key is that horror is not safe in anyway shape or form. It is always changing, never the same, and relies on the confrontation of the unknown.

(Examples, cause we love examples.)

Ernst T.W. Hoffmann’s The Sand-Man is in epistolary form, mostly letters from the main character, Nathanael to his fiancée. He talks about his childhood and how his Mother would always send the children off to bed and tell them to sleep because the Sand Man had come. One day she tells young Nathanael that there really isn’t a Sand Man; “‘there is no Sand-man, my dear child,’ mother answered; ‘when I say the Sand-man is come, I only mean that you are sleepy and can't keep your eyes open, as if somebody had put sand in them.’” But he was not convinced that his mother was correct so he asked another woman, and she told him, “‘Oh! he's a wicked man, who comes to little children when they won't go to bed and throws handfuls of sand in their eyes, so that they jump out of their heads all bloody; and he puts them into a bag and takes them to the half-moon as food for his little ones; and they sit there in the nest and have hooked beaks like owls, and they pick naughty little boys' and girls' eyes out with them.’” One night he sees Coppelius who he interprets as the Sand-man. He is grotesque and Nathanael is appalled by him, and frightened for the man keeps demanding “Give me your eyes!”.

Hoffman makes the horror work because he preys both on the narrator and his audience’s fears, and though young Nathanael’s fears are of shadows and stories, Hoffman makes them real.

You can read the text of The Sand-man online here.

The horror genre also appeals to us because it extrapolates on the violence of the human species, both metal and physical; as well as our morbid curiosity with death. 21 Jump Street, anyone?

To quote from What Makes Horror Horrifying?:

Elizabeth Barratte wrote:Absense

    · The unknown: This is the first, most primal fear because it contains all the others. Anything could happen; anything could emerge from the darkness. In the real world, certain guidelines like natural laws help us predict events; in fiction, authors often suspend those rules. Our imaginations readily run away with us, leaving us clinging to the edge of our seats. Yet the unknown is limitless in potential as well as in threat. Everything known emerges from the unknown, and so it has endless power to hold our attention.

    · The unexpected: From the unknown comes the known, the way we expect reality to function. When something shatters our expectations, we feel shock and distress. Your stomach plummets when the monster smashes through the wall. Even without the sudden impact, unnatural creatures and occurrences make us uncomfortable. On a deep, instinctive level we react to them as wrong. Sane people do not like having to deal with an insane world! The absurd confuses us. We look for a solution, a rational explanation ... any rational explanation, just so long as it maintains our reality tunnel intact. However, we also need occasional shakeups to avoid getting ourselves into a mental rut; a one-track mind can become a serious handicap.

    · The unbelievable: Nobody ever listens. The scourge of the story can be flattening a city and the main characters can't get any assistance because nobody believes them. We disregard that which does not fit into our pre-existing definition of reality ... a dangerous habit. We also fear falling into a situation that places us beyond belief. The nature of sanity comes into question. Despite this, we enjoy a jaunt outside the boundaries of everyday reality. We look to fiction as a means of stretching our minds; we willingly suspend our disbelief and thereby enhance our abilities to distinguish between different types of reality. A definition, attitude, or set of rules which works well in one situation may prove worse than useless in another.

    · The unseen: Blood and guts grab our attention precisely because, in a normal world, we never see them. They only become visible when something goes seriously wrong. This is why slasher scenes work -- they show us something we rarely see -- and why their effectiveness decreases with repeat exposure. Other instances of the hidden revealed include ancient manuscripts, artifacts, or creatures brought to light. When something new and strange arrives on scene, we can't take our eyes off it. Our own curiosity holds us hostage.

    · The unconscious: Inner worlds mystify us because we can neither control nor escape their effects. We all fall prey to subconscious urgings, many of them not very nice. Thus, we fear ourselves; we also fear that others may give in to their vile desires. At the same time, we feel compelled to explore these strange regions which remain a part of ourselves no matter how we may try to hide them or expunge them.

    · The unstoppable: We all believe in entropy; in nature, things wind down. Humans and other animals wear out eventually. Therefore the inexorable advance and endless pursuit upset our expectations. People retreat, fighting harder as they back into corners. Relentless forces too powerful to fight call up uncomfortable associations with death, which most people don't like to think about. Yet death comes for everyone in time, so we cannot avoid it forever. Instead we go whistling down dark alleys to confront the inevitable.


Elizabeth Barratte wrote:Presense

    · Helplessness: Nothing feels worse than the inability to affect your fate. In most fiction, characters must have agency -- the ability to act, react, and change -- in order to hold a reader's attention. In horror, much of the attraction comes from a complete lack of agency, of power. We all feel helpless sometimes, so this motif strikes a chord with everyone. We can relate deeply to the anguish of helplessness. We also love the rush of satisfaction when, in many stories, the protagonist somehow manages to overcome the odds.

    · Urgency: When you can't do something, you must. This is the central conflict of most horror. Helplessness contrasts with aching, desperate need. The price of failure is always astronomical: the death of a loved one, the destruction of the world. The characters cannot simply walk away; they draw us into their urgency as well. This driving force also contrasts with the apathy common today, the feeling that one's decisions and actions never make a difference. Thus, the very stress of the protagonist's struggle appeals to us.

    · Pressure: Ah, suspense; a successful horror writer must master this technique. With the slow build of tension comes the increasing need to do something. Pressure combines with urgency to spur characters to greater feats, while heightening audience involvement. You lean forward, urging the protagonist on. It may seem strange to enjoy fiction like this when we face so much pressure in our own lives today, but unlike real life, fiction promises a resolution -- though not always a happy one. The pressure builds, peaks, and then dissipates.

    · Intensity: With danger comes a heightened awareness, enhancing all emotions both positive and negative, drawing attention to every detail. The senses pick up far more than usual; the world becomes more immediate, more real. Also, the threat of death often drives people to celebrate life, so we see romance running hand in hand with horror. People fall in love as the world falls apart and gibbering monsters chase them down dark alleys. Making love can also get characters killed, a popular motif in slasher movies. The intensity of emotion and sensation drowns out common sense. This surge of input from overloaded senses can appeal to people used to living a calmer existence.

    · Rhythm: The preceding elements combine to create a rise and fall of tension. Rhythm is essential to horror in that it allows the intensity to build to a higher peak than would a straight assault. It sets up a pattern of action which draws the reader in, rather like the panting advancement of childbirth. Alternatively, some horror stories succeed through a profound lack of pattern, again playing on our innate desire for the world to make sense. The random attacks eat away at our security and force us to take the story on its own terms.

    · Release: The promise of resolution offers a refuge from the undelineated stress of everyday life. Every story comes to a conclusion. In horror, we may see the world returned to "normal" or bent beyond recognition, removed from all hope of salvation. The uncertainty keeps us reading eagerly to find out what happens, because we have no way of knowing how the story ends until we get there. Either redemption or disaster offers us a sense of completion not often found outside of fiction; it allows us to heave a sigh and let the story go.


I myself am not primarily a horror fiction writer, but I do dabble, using elements of horror elsewhere.

Have fun and keep writing.
Ta,
Cal.
Fraser: Stop stealing the blanket.
[Diefenbaker whines]
Fraser: You're an Arctic Wolf, for God's sake.
(Due South)

Hatter: Do I need a reason to help a pretty girl in a very wet dress? (Alice)

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Thu Oct 04, 2007 1:52 pm
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Twit says...



Good! I'll keep all this in mind. NOT that I write horror, but this could be helpful in writing other scenes. Where does the title come from? Shakespeare? (random guess)
"TV makes sense. It has logic, structure, rules, and likeable leading men. In life, we have this."


#TNT
  





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Fri Oct 05, 2007 4:15 am
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Caligula's Launderette says...



I don't really write Horror either, but I find it fascinating and I employ it in other things I write. The title? Ray Bradbury, actually from his novel: Something Wicked This Way Comes, but yeah, in extension, Shakespeare as well.

:D

I often think people think that horror has to be gruesome when it's not.

Another quote: "There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it." -- Alfred Hitchcock.
Fraser: Stop stealing the blanket.
[Diefenbaker whines]
Fraser: You're an Arctic Wolf, for God's sake.
(Due South)

Hatter: Do I need a reason to help a pretty girl in a very wet dress? (Alice)

Got YWS?
  








I have my books and my poetry to protect me.
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