1. thesystemforce
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    thesystemforce New Member

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    Fleshing Out a Horror Novel. Advice/Suggestions, please!

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by thesystemforce, Mar 23, 2012.

    Alright, trying to kill some writer's block and in doing so, I'm revisiting a story idea I've wanted to pen for some time. I have a general idea of where I want to go with things but I could use a bit of group brainstorming to help me move from this planning stage to actually penning the novel.

    Here's the premise- the protagonist is returning to the town where he grew up for the first time in years. The reason: the death of his grandmother. He doesn't get along with his family for a variety of reasons and initially intends to get in there, attend the service, offer personal condolences to his mother, aunt, uncle, etc. then get the heck out.

    During the trip though, seeing how the tragedy strikes his family, he starts to feel bad and, ultimately, a bit nostalgic for the times in his life he didn't wanna distance himself from his family. So, he goes to his late grandmother's home, digs through the closet and pulls out a bunch of dusty old home movies from when he was younger; Christmas, birthdays, etc. The times he has fond memories of. He begins watching these movies and in doing so, notices something strange. There's a stranger on the tapes; someone he KNOWS wasn't at these gatherings. The guy never seems to interact with anyone but he's always on the cusp of doing so. For example, two people will sit down on either side of the couch, while he's sitting in the middle. They won't talk to, acknowledge, etc. him but they won't sit where he's at either. Or someone will stop and wait as he passes through a doorway then keep on walking, also without acknowledging him.

    Obviously, this freaks him out and at first, he thinks maybe it's just someone he doesn't remember. After all, its been awhile. But the more he thinks on it the more he can't place the person. Eventually, he gets a hold of one of his family members he doesn't completely detest and asks them to view the tapes. But when they do, the figure is gone. This, in turn, leads to the protagonist questioning his sanity... a fact that's compounded when he begins to see the figure OUTSIDE of the tapes.

    __________

    Right now, that's where I'm sitting on the idea. I have some scenes worked out. One of which has the protagonist setting up a camera in the house to try to catch sight of the figure. He's walking through the house when he suddenly feels warm air on his neck. Looking up at the camera feed he sees the figure on the screen, standing behind him, breathing down his neck. Always something I felt would make for a nice hair-raising little scene and the one that really made me feel like this idea is viable.

    One of the main questions I keep asking myself about this though, is what sort of figure should this be. I was thinking perhaps something along the lines of the Slender Man, I've considered your typical ghost/malevolent force, etc. What do you guys think? Also, can you think of any other really creepy scenes this sort of story calls for? Needing some inspiration these days so any sort of advice/suggestions would be great. Thank you. :-D
     
  2. CheddarCheese
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    CheddarCheese Contributing Member

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    Hi systemforce,

    I like the premise you have, and it seems very interesting (although maybe a little unoriginal).

    As for the figure, it really depends on what the figure actually is. Is it a ghost? A demon? Some other sort of monster? And why did it interact with your protagonist's family? Did it even interact with the family, or did it only interfere with the tapes? Why is it only interested with the protagonist, and not any other family member?

    In my opinion, I like these kinds of stories when the figure starts off ordinary looking and small, then slowly starts to change/disfigure/warp into something that more resembles a monster. Along with the changes, it could start getting more violent. Of course, this also depends on what the figure actually is, and it's only my preference.

    Good luck!
     
  3. cs2212
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    cs2212 Member

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    I really like your concept, I think it could have a real creepiness/suspense to it. Even while their actions are benign there is still a feeling of threat from an unknown 'presence'.

    Maybe somebody quite tall, slender and dressed in a way that is slightly incongruous to everyone else around him. Just to mildly emphasise the sense of not belonging without turning them into a boogyman.

    Have you thought about what kind of influence he is exerting over people that is leading them to accommodate his movements without acknowledging him? Are they just aware of a presence and avoiding avoiding it subconsciously or is he exerting a more direct control over them?
     
  4. NotoriousLynx
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    NotoriousLynx New Member

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    Reading the concept actually gave me chills, I imagined the whole thing as a movie and it seemed great, and while it seems like an amazing premise (especially for that reason), I feel like its a bit unoriginal.

    Can you tell us who the figure is and what the moral of the story is? In the beginning, I imagined reading this like, the main character just wanted to get the portion of his grandmother's fortune from the will before I read what else you had. Why is the main character questioning his sanity? Is he guilty about something?

    In my opinion, two ways you can go about reading this is using words that give the sense of what the main character is feeling, and then as the main character starts to become insane, you can show that in his sentences by having them go against the normal writing style.
     
  5. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I love your premise, it sounds very cool and seems like it would work brilliantly in a movie. I think you need to think more on who this figure is - is he evil, neutral, good? Why is he hanging around this family? Is there any reason why your protag saw him but nobody else did? It might be kinda cool if this figure affects the environment and people around him, maybe his presence changes people's personalities, or something, or their moods which causes conflicts etc.

    Maybe watch some stuff by Del Toro - he does a lot of horror/fantasy/mysteries - his films are quite disturbing, not directly "horror" but certainly hair-rising and creepy, and I like it because it's original. Or perhaps watch The Grudge, if you've heard of it? A Japanese horror about an evil spirit who haunts this house, and when the new owner comes and lives there, she sees this demon child everywhere - and at first he simply stands there. It's majorly creeply. There's an American version of this but the Japanese version is way creepier.
     
  6. Erato
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    Erato Contributing Member

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    Yes, agreeing with what's been said, I like the premise. I'd say, firstly, that it suggests insanity; secondly, that it suggests black magic; thirdly, that it suggests foul play. Maybe with the grandmother's death, maybe with this guy tampering with the tapes; he seems to be trying to get the MC's attention. Does he need to tell him something? Maybe there's an actually evil thing that's trying to get to the MC and the Slender Man is actually good and wants to warn him. Maybe he just wants to creep the MC out before killing him. Maybe he's the ghost of a long-dead family member. One thing's for sure: it's really creepy, and I don't do creepy things, but it sounds like I might actually want to read it when it's done.
     
  7. thesystemforce
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    thesystemforce New Member

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    Thanks for the replies guys, and the compliments. I'll try to address what questions/comments I can here and hopefully open things up for some continued discussion. And I'll do it without actual quote boxes because this post is going to be long enough without them. :p

    First, I know the idea isn't entirely original. When planning it, I definitely wanted to go with a 'new spin on an old idea' sort of thing. That and I deliberately inserted some elements of classic horror mostly because they're things that continue to work, both on a basic storytelling level and on a 'getting you published' level. :p

    As far as what the figure is, that's something that I'm still narrowing down. At this point, I mostly know what I DON'T want it to be. While I'm fine with a ghost, I don't want it to be the ghost, or other figure, that's trying to get the protagonist to uncover and/or solve a murder. As we established, there are some unoriginal elements in the concept. This sort of thing, while classic, has been done to death. As such, I'd like to stay away from it. I've pondered the possibility of the thing trying to warn him about a death that hasn't happened yet; quite possibly his own. But it's really something I keep kind of second-guessing myself on.

    As far as what sort of influence the figure is having on others, I'm definitely thinking what was seen in the tapes is a subconscious sort of thing. The people at the parties couldn't see him and there was no strange feeling or anything that led to their actions. They just sort of felt like what they needed to do at the time. Naturally, I want to stay away from actions that are particularly weird. Things like sitting on the edges of the couch or pausing before passing through a doorway couple nicely with excuses, allowing the behavior to be rationalized.

    @NotoriousLynx: The moral of the story is something that's still somewhat dependent on where I take the mysterious figure. If he's more malevolent it's bound to be something about it being preferable to let the past stay buried. If he's trying to guide the character in order to prevent something bad from happening, it'll obviously be quite different. As to why the MC is questioning his sanity, I get the general feeling that he isn't entirely sane to begin with. He's not CRAZY by any means, but with his family issues some depression or other, common problems are likely. He's dealing with the grief of losing one of the few family members he could actually stand, then, on top of that, he starts seeing this figure in the tapes he knows wasn't there. Then, when he shows it to someone else, it's gone. He's bound to rationalize to a certain degree. He's not going to immediately think it's something supernatural. And really, the only explanation that's anywhere near rational is that he was seeing things. Then, when he sees the figure outside of the movies, it's going to put him that much more on edge. As to is he guilty of something? Nothing major. I'm sure he'll feel some guilt about the fact that he didn't get back to see his grandmother before she died. I'm sure 1-2 other family members may even give him a hard time about it.

    @Mckk: I've been thinking about the figure's impact on his surroundings. I think this is another place where I want to incorporate some classical ghost story elements. Probably nothing as tired and overdone as a cold spot, but certainly a eerie feeling, technology getting a bit weird... things like that. I don't want to have him inciting conflict though as I feel like that kind of takes away from the fact that the conflicts between the protagonist and his family members are going to be 'real.' They just lost someone, they really don't get along, he has avoided them as often as possible and initially intends to attend the service then go back to being nowhere near them. The situation in and of itself is a bit of a powder keg. By attributing conflicts therein to the figure, I feel that you end up taking some of the meaning out of those conflicts.
    And I've watched most of Del Toro's work, both versions of The Grudge, and probably hundreds of other horror movies. I'm a major movie buff, particularly horror, so there's very little good horror from the last 40 or so years that I haven't seen. Thank you for the recommendation though. :D

    @Erato, I think I've covered most of what you said here in my other replies. But as far as the other stuff- I'd given some thought to tampering with the tapes and ended up dismissing it. I am definitely going for a supernatural element here and while in the end, it may turn out that someone has justification for doing some tampering, I just don't think that opportunity is going to rise. Particularly the chance to tamper with them between when the character watches them and when he shows them to someone else.
    I hadn't much thought to black magic. It crossed my mind that maybe he's some sort of fallout from tampering with occult stuff better left alone. I don't know who I'd have messing around with that sort of thing though. Or their purpose in doing so. Still, it's definitely something I'll give some more thought to.
     
  8. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Or, have you seen this Japanese anime called Princess Mononoke? It's not horror, it's fantasy adventure, but it's pretty dark and involves Japanese mythology and gods and demons and such. It doesn't relate to your novel idea but it might be inspiring nonetheless?

    Tbh, judging from what you've written, my first impression was that this figure isn't evil or horrifying. Perhaps he could be a memory? Like a memory of something the family hasn't dealt with, and he's walking around like an invisible person (which could be quite symbolic), always between the family members but only because the family members kinda "put him there". And maybe that's why your protag starts seeing him outside of the movies because as he explores this figure, the memory is growing stronger and the family members are beginning to deal with it?

    If you want the family problems to be very real, making the figure into an object of terror will certainly take the focus away. It depends - are you writing a horror novel, as you claimed, or are you writing a family drama with a dash of the supernatural?
     
  9. thesystemforce
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    thesystemforce New Member

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    I own Princess Mononoke along with much of Hayao Miyazaki's other works.

    And as to the question of genre, I'm definitely going horror. The family issues are going to establish a backdrop and color attitudes/interactions, but dealing with the mysterious figure is definitely going to be in the forefront. I don't even forsee much in the way of resolution on these family issues. Perhaps they'll become less fractured as a group, but this isn't going to be a story about them working out their problems.

    As far as a memory, I've considered something that's at least somewhat in line with that and that's making the figure a Tulpa/Thoughtform. But I want to insure that this thing is indeed an object of terror, for the character and the reader, and making it some sort of manifestation of angst/sadness feels like it could detract from that. If I go a route similar to that I'm thinking that the thing is going to be so alien to people that its attempts to work out whatever we're working out here are going to be more terrifying than helpful.
     

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