1. Flashfire07
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    Flashfire07 Active Member

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    Horror Blending action and horror?

    Discussion in 'By the Genre' started by Flashfire07, Sep 15, 2011.

    As I'm a horror writer at heart I tend to write stories where the characters have their backs against the wall for pretty much the entire story, one of my friends has told me that this a boring way to write and I'm wondering if it's possible to add a bit more "Rule of cool" as he puts it while also maintaining the horror?
     
  2. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    What exactly are you asking?

    Of course it's "possible" to blend action and horror. You're the writer and it's possible to write whatever the hell you think of, lol. ;)
     
  3. Flashfire07
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    Flashfire07 Active Member

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    Basically what I'm asking is how to blend action with horror without diluting the tension and fear needed for horror.
     
  4. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Don't go on huge infodumps stating what happened in the action. Focus on the five senses during the action/fighting, but convey details in passing rather than describing them in a big block. For the horror, find some creepy ambiguous cue (could be a noise, smell, sight etc) and build tension based off of that, and weave it in among the action.
     
  5. Lothgar
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    Lothgar Contributing Member

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    The thing about horror, as I understand it, is that the tension and fear come from being in a dark situation, where you don't have control over some, or in some cases, any of the situation.

    If you choose to interject action into your story, you should probably be careful not to over do it. Most horror is about realizing the impending doom and trying to escape. Sometimes its a case where the MC realizes some terrible evil is coming and he has to figure out a way to stop it from getting here (because its too late once it arrives)....or some other variation.

    The tricky part about action is that if you MC suddenly turns into Bruce Willis and kicks the evil's butt, it ceases to be horror because all the fear and abject terror are gone, and becomes another action adventure story. If your MC realizes he can stop a zombie by shooting it in the head, he should realize that he only has a handful of bullets and there are hundreds of zombies. If a magical ritual can stop the world eating mad god from appearing on the next solstice, there should be a well armed cult out to stop the MC. If there is only one thing that can stop the gypsy curse that will make you turn into a man eating giant lizard, it should be far away, hidden and guarded by deadly traps or minions of evil.

    The one thing these all have in common is that even though the MC can and should engage in action to resolve the situation, one slip up could spell disaster, thus retaining the elements of suspense and tension required for a good horror story.
     
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  6. Flashfire07
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    Flashfire07 Active Member

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    Yeah, the tricky part is writing that without it seeming like I'm artificially adding tension, due to the fact I'm quite inexperienced when it comes to writing proper fiction and conveying that kind of tension without basically telling the audience "Feel scared now", so my tension comes from the fight scenes, and because I often write my fight scenes in a very chaotic fashion they can be hard to follow, but my gunfights are wherethings get bad, I have about three lines of dialouge per shot fired, that's the bits my friend said need speeding up. I don't want to have to sacrifice the "In the moment" feel in order to keep the action going, but I also know that the way I write is too slow for realism.
     
  7. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's the horror writer coming out, I think. If the characters don't have many bullets then they will be careful and make every one count, but that ramps up the tension, not the action. About the best I can suggest is to read lots of stuff by people who make a mix of action and horror work, and try to analyse how they do it. It's easier to find examples in film than in books (because Wikipedia has a category for action horror films), but many of those are just action with a high splatter factor.
     
  8. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Too easy. It should require the slow and painful sacrifice of the MC's most dearly beloved, in a way that will look to the rest of the world like brutal murder. Let's have some real psychological tension. Will he or won't he? (Or will he prove ineffective, and somebody else does it? Or does he fail, and the world gets eaten?) Oh, and a well armed cult out to stop the MC, for the action sequences.
     
  9. Flashfire07
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    Flashfire07 Active Member

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    Exactly what I'm trying to avoid in my story, I don't write "Splatterpunk" stories or shockers or anything with overly gory scenes just to make it 'scary', I write more slow burn stories which don't lend themselves to action easily. This is kind of a circular argument really, I need more action, but my stories don't fit action scenes.

    Too easy to kill, a mushy human who takes a 5.56mm or .45 round to the torso is dead, and his weapons are yours. I understand the point, but action horror is not my forte, I write realistic stories and I don't know how to blend realistic horror with action. The only horror authors I've read are Luarel K Hamilton and H.P.Lovecraft and a few by Stephen King.
     
  10. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I think it is a mistake to assume you "need" more action in your stories. If you want it, then fine. But there are plenty of great stories that aren't fast-paced and aren't filled with action. In the horror genre, there are very good ones that maintain a measured pace throughout. So I wouldn't assume that because a friend told you it needs more action that it is true. Write the story you envision. If that doesn't have more action, then so be it.
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Action and horror work somewhat at cross purposes. Tension is best maintained by deferring action (and the release that action provides), whereas horror works best with inexorably mounting tension.

    This is not an absolute, but it is certainly a trade off to keep in mind. After all, the movie Alien manages to blend action and horror effectively. But you are setting yourself a difficult task to try to keep both on a razor's edge.
     
  12. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Is it possible that your friend is right that your story isn't interesting enough, but wrong about what the story needs? "Needs more action" is a fairly obvious thought when one is bored, just as "needs more salt" is an obvious solution to bland food. But maybe you need some other seasoning - maybe the real solution is that you need to give your reader more insight into your character's thoughts and motivations, or more interaction between your character and other characters, or... something.

    ChickenFreak
     
  13. Flashfire07
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    Flashfire07 Active Member

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    Possible, I don't know what I need to add to it, I think it's pretty good, I mean there are lots of things that need to be improved but at my age it's acceptable to be not so good with bits of the writing. I don't know if it's just the fact I write slow burn, mystery heavy stories and he writes more fast paced, action heavy stories that's leading to the issue. But I happen to agree that my stories lack 'punch' but I don't know how to add 'punch' to my story. Sorry if this is a bit confusing, I don't fully know what's missing in my story.
     
  14. Show
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    Maybe it's just me, but I would think horror and action would be relatively easy to blend. Maybe it depends how you define each, but they seem to be somewhat able to be combined with relative ease.
     
  15. Flashfire07
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    Flashfire07 Active Member

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    it depends on how you write horror,my horror stories tend to be about fear for the characters health and safety, I have several main characters (9 at my last count) and spice things up by killing one off every now and then. My stories have a pre-established 'low power' aspect, my characters can't survive action movie stunts, a .22 to the leg is an issue that require hospitalization and could spell death if it hit an artery. So I'm stuck trying add that element of action while also reinforcing that the characters are in way over their heads. For example, one of the characters fires a high caliber handgun and breaks his wrist and nose due to the recoil, later the gun also jams and another character is deafened from having a shotgun go off in an elevator. Characters like that just can't survive long in a firefight.
     
  16. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's not just how you define them, but where you are positioned within the genres. As I indicated, splatter horror is easily (and often) mixed with action, but for reasons Cog has explained psychological horror is much harder to mix with action.
     
  17. Flashfire07
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    Flashfire07 Active Member

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    I'm sorry, I don't understand that, could you explain what positioned within the genres means please?
     
  18. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Simply that each genre has sub-genres. Some sub-genres of horror, such as extreme ("splatter") work well with many sub-genres of the action genre (but the original questioner has said that that's not what he writes). Other sub-genres (psychological, suspense, Lovecraftian, quiet...) don't fit well with the action genre. Some sub-genres (gothic, noir, supernatural...) are not a natural fit with the action genre but don't work against it either and so could easily include action scenes even if those scenes are not enough to make the work cross-genre.
     
  19. D-Doc
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    D-Doc Active Member

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    I think it works sometimes. A lot of the time I feel that action ruins the horror aspect though, for example the latter half of the movie The Descent.
     
  20. Show
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    I get that. I guess it also depends how balanced you want it all to be. Even psychological horror I can imagine being mixed with action, even if the action is not constantly coming. I feel that one of my novels can very much go into psychological horror/suspense at times, but I also feel that there is a certain level of action, albeit a more restrained one. (I guess if one of the two certain somebodys here who read it read this, she can chime in to confirm or deny my hypothesis. lol)

    The aforementioned novel is actually quite a bit similar. Lots of somewhat main characters, often get killed. I don't feel that action necessarily means unrealistic firefights or anything. But I guess everyone pictures different things when given a general genre category.
     
  21. Squidbulb
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    Squidbulb New Member

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    I wrote something like this. It was basically a human fighting a monster, not just running away. I wouldn't say it's really horror, but not too far off.
     
  22. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Does your friend love reading King, Lovecraft, etc?

    Before you take someone's advice on what your story needs, you should always consider where their personal taste lie compared to your own. I have a friend who's obsessed with everything from the 30's. Mickey Mouse, Chaplin, etc, and I know if I showed him any of my stuff he'd say it needs more cream pie gags.

    Find someone who loves the writers you love, and ask them what your story needs.
     

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