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Which works better in a horror novel?

  1. "Snakes? I ain't afraid of no snakes! I--- OH, NO, MONSTER SNAKE! AAAGGGHHHHH!"

    100.0%
  2. "Please don't tell me there's snakes around here. I'm deadly scared of snakes. Snake!? Run!"

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  1. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Character Triggers in a Horror Novel

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Catrin Lewis, Jun 15, 2016.

    The second book I'm working on is a contemporary horror novel. There's a monster/crypto-creature at the bottom of it, with snakelike characteristics. As I'm writing my protagonist so far, she's not afraid of snakes and rather despises those who are. My idea is that my monster will leave signs of its increasing activity: trails in the mud and that sort of thing, which my MC will blow off as nothing but evidence of ordinary harmless garden creatures--- until Something Happens and she has to accept that something far worse is going on, and she can't really deal with it at all. This will undermine her concept of herself just when she needs all the self-confidence she can muster, and her pride will keep her from bringing in the help she needs.

    However, I was listening to one of the Writing Excuses podcasts the other day, a discussion of the Horror subgenre, and the panelists recommended that the Ordinary-Thing-That-Is-Kind-of-Like-the-Monster should be something the protag has never dealt with well, that she already has a deadly fear of, so that when she's confronted with the monster she's likely to make some gosh-awful decisions and make her situation even worse.

    What do you think? Which works better in horror and suspense? Please comment, and just for fun, I'm going to generate a poll.
     
  2. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    I think it just depends on what kind of protagonist you want: one who goes into things confident and has to be broken down, or one who goes into things scared and has to be built up. Both preying on an existing fear and cultivating a new one are effective and can be scary. It seems like in your plot the mc already makes bad decisions due to her pride and makes her situation even worse, so you've got that one covered ;)
     
  3. Buttered Toast
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    Buttered Toast Active Member

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    I like the confident style character and then being halted by something really silly or making a mistake because of a really stupid phobia like being scared of puppies lol :D
    Or on a different tangent, I also like it when something doesn't look like what it seems like the rabbit in the holy grail! :)
     
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  4. newjerseyrunner
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    newjerseyrunner Contributing Member

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    Lots of times the monster is not the real antagonist, the character's own mind is.

    Think about Jaws. The monster was the shark, but the real sense of anxiety while aboard The Orca was Brody's aversion to being on the water itself and Hooper's affair with his wife. Both seriously complicated the hunt.

    In The Exorcist, The demon was the main monster, but the main sense of anxiety came from the loss of Damien's mother and his crisis of faith.

    It doesn't have to be the monster itself that places immense stress on the characters, it's often other personal situations that exacerbate the situation.
     
  5. FireWater
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    FireWater Active Member

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    I think it depends on whether the snake monster is the actual antagonist itself, or a setup/backdrop for a more character-oriented antagonist.

    If the snake is actually the ultimate nemesis, I think it would be better if it were something the MC was truly afraid of.

    But the way you described could work if the snake-hunting case is more like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where she's badass at dealing with it, and it just serves as the backdrop for an internal or character-based dynamic.
     
  6. Iain Aschendale
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    Iain Aschendale Contributed Member Contributor

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    If I'm reading this right, I kind of like the first option better. Just for example, the MC is a herpetologist, or at least an avid snakeowner, lots of experience with snakes, knows how to handle cobras and constrictors alike, healthy respect where it's due but no phobic reactions at all, and she's sneering at the simple villagers/suburban dads/panicked teens who are shrieking and gibbering about a "monster" snake. She gets out whatever they call those hooked sticks and a nice big burlap sack to go round up the beastie, steps around the corner, and sees it ingesting a Volkswagen.
    That, to me, is more interesting than someone who loses it every time she sees a garden hose, although as izzybot pointed out, it's one of two very valid character arcs.
     
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  7. DaveLu
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    DaveLu Member

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    This kind of reminds me of Chamber of Secrets, where Rowling left bits of bread crumbs and clues that tied together at the end of the novel. I hope I understood the question correctly, but I think as long as you make it evident that the Main Character is completely (rationally) oblivious to the clues, then it should work. I personally like the subtle build up, as a reader having to go back and look at clues.
     
  8. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    I read a lot of horror and I like your approach better.
     
  9. Lemie
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    Lemie Member

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    Even though I'm not really interested in horror, I think that your first idea sounds more interesting than the later.

    Even though I understand how "facing your fear" kind of thing might be a standard, and can probable be made interesting somehow, it is obvious. So your idea to make the character NOT being afraid of what she will face (until, I guess, it's getting too late), sounds fresh and interesting in comparison.
     
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  10. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is great. I hadn't thought of having her pee her pants. That might work very well.
     
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