1. Leaka
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    Leaka Creative Mettle

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    Horror Horror Rut

    Discussion in 'By the Genre' started by Leaka, Sep 8, 2008.

    I have realized something all my main characters for my horror stories are the criminals and the crazy.
    I don't have any non criminal horror stories. Even the ones with supernatural my main character is the criminal.
    How do I get out of this rut?
    How do I make a story with a group of people and not make that group seem stupid?
    I had always thought it would be scarier if they staid in a group and got killed anyway.
    I also like stories where ever character dies.
    [Didn't know what place to put this so I thought General writing]
     
  2. Scattercat
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    Scattercat Active Member

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    People dying is not scary.

    People dying is gory.

    There's a difference.

    Generally, one doesn't see horror stories (or movies, for that matter) with groups of people for the simple reason that it is much, much harder to be scared in a group than it is to be scared alone. The best examples I can think of for horror in groups involve widespread, large-scale disasters, with the story focusing in on one particular segment of the people affected.

    Cloverfield is a pretty good example of it, but even that movie is as much action as horror. The best "scary" sequence is probably the scene in the subway tunnels, when the "fleas" attack. Look at that scene. What's scary about it?

    1) It's dark, so we can't see precisely what's happening.

    2) The characters don't know what's going on or why.

    3) The menace is foreshadowed by the rats fleeing, building a sense of panic.

    4) The movie plays on the audience's knowledge of the tropes, so that we all know what's going to happen to the girl after she is bitten but miraculously survives. (The movie scores major points with me by never actually TELLING us what happened to her; it's just one more in a long series of tragedies and shocks that pile onto the main characters.)

    Some of the best advice I've heard on writing a horror story is this: Look around you. Find an object, something familiar, something simple.

    That object is wrong. Don't imagine it looking different. As it is, right in front of you, it is wrong. There is something not right about it. Tell yourself this.

    Now figure out what it is that isn't right, that could give you that creeping sensation down your back, and you've got a story idea!
     
  3. Leaka
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    Leaka Creative Mettle

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    No, I understand that concept people dying is gory and not scary.
    I generally like to mix the gore and reaction together to make it scary. I also like to add symbolism, kinda like Edgar Allan Poe.
    But I find I only write about killers.
    I never write about victims.
    Or I write about crazy people.
    And never normal people.
     
  4. Scattercat
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    Scattercat Active Member

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    For myself, I generally find the "killer's eye view" stories to be dull and uninteresting. The exceptions to this are few and far between. Murder Man, by Ewen White, had a delightful twist to it, for instance. Berenice, since you mentioned Poe, is a nice foray into a disturbed mind. Too often, however, the gimmick is just stale; there's only so many times I can be shocked and horrified by the realization that the narrator is the killer(!)

    You say you're in a rut and want to do something different. So come up with a story like you usually would. Now take a step back, turn it around, and try to tell it from the victim's point of view. What do they see? How do they feel? What is it that terrifies them about the situation? How do they try to escape? What is the result?

    Try writing something other than a killer, as well. There are other things to be frightened of; most of the best horror comes from the gradual realization that things are not as they ought to be, rather than detailed descriptions of horrifying scenes.
     
  5. Leaka
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    Leaka Creative Mettle

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    I find myself drawing a blank on what would be scary to people because it has to scare people, but I tend to do things that scare me.
    I rather do something real and frightful.
    Rather then supernatural and frightful.
     
  6. Scattercat
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    Scattercat Active Member

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    - A mother comes to school to pick up her daughter. She waits and waits, but her daughter never comes out. She fidgets and worries, and finally goes in. "Oh, your husband came to pick her up. They left right at two forty-five." The woman does not have a husband; the father of her child died in a car accident two years ago, and her first husband was an abusive alcoholic who beat her. She finally got the courage to seek a women's shelter and divorce him thanks to help from her friend Sheila. He was later imprisoned for vehicular manslaughter, having run over a little boy after drinking all night at a bar. He used to send her letters from prison; she threw them away unopened.

    The woman asks what her "husband" looked like and what kind of car he drove. It was a red pickup, she is told. She feels ice in the pit of her stomach. That was what he drove.

    She calls Sheila at home. No answer. She calls Sheila on her cell. No answer. She drives to Sheila's house, growing desperate. No one is there. Panicking, she forces the lock. Sheila's house is in disarray, and in a back room the woman finds Sheila, dead, killed by some sort of heavy bludgeon.

    The woman calls the police, and becomes frantic. She realizes that she has a pile of unread mail at home, bills piling up. She goes home and checks the pile. Sure enough, there is a letter from him. He can't be specific, because they read his letters before they send them out, but he uses some hints and code words that she remembers from their courtship - a reference to a famous killer from their hometown, a casual mention of "meeting her daughter." He mentions that he'll be getting out soon. The letter is dated three weeks ago.

    The woman realizes the truth. This horrible man from her past has come to take misguided revenge. She pursues him, traveling to the place mentioned in his letter. There she confronts him, armed with the tiny pistol she'd bought back in the early days, when she was still terrified of every man she met. She's never used it, barely remembers the firearms safety course. He has his old shotgun, which he is pointing at her daughter's head.

    They have a tense conversation. He threatens. She freezes. He moves. She fires. He goes over, but he manages to pull the trigger as he does. The little girl is left, crying hysterically, in the rain and gathering dark as her mother and the murderer slowly bleed to death.

    ---

    There. And that's off the top of my head. You just need to think about some common themes and fears.

    - Losing a child or another loved one.
    - Being betrayed by a trusted friend.
    - Fear of foreigners or anyone who is "other"
    - Worries about being caught in random violence in a gang-heavy area.
    - Dying without making amends
    - Crippling injury, particularly loss of vision or mental faculties.
     
  7. Leaka
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    Leaka Creative Mettle

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    How about being stuck in a box without a way out?
     
  8. Scattercat
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    Scattercat Active Member

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    Could be terrifying, certainly.

    Why is s/he stuck in the box? What is the eventual conclusion? Horror comes from context; if we don't empathize with the characters, we won't care about what happens to them.
     
  9. Solaris
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    Solaris Active Member

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    Well, what do you mean by 'box'? o_o
    Cardboard box? LOL.
    Or some sort of Saw-esque type of situation?
    Why is this person trapped there in the first place?
     
  10. Leaka
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    Leaka Creative Mettle

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    Not a cardboard box. Maybe a coffin box, or a steel box.

    Maybe he was kidnapped at night while asleep, maybe they fell in and the door was closed.

    Or even worse what if I wrote a short story and his "best friend" was sitting on a toy box and wouldn't let him out.
     
  11. Solaris
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    Solaris Active Member

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    Damn, and I was all for this cardboard box idea!

    "SHYTE! I've been trapped here in this cardboard box! Which isn't good due to my inherent fear of Styrofoam! Oh wait, I found a toothpick... maybe I can scratch my way out of here! Or at least poke some breathing holes!"

    But on a serious note.
    There are a number of situations you could come up with, such as the ones you've stated already.
    And many people have this type of fear. This kind of reminds me of the movie 'The Cube' actually. Freaky ordeal.
     
  12. Scattercat
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    Scattercat Active Member

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    Perhaps a child with breathing difficulties. Asthma can be triggered by stress; if the child is also claustrophobic, that could lead to a very tense sequence when his/her friend unwittingly instigates a disaster by playfully trapping him/her in the toybox.

    Throw in a few leering clown puppets and fears of crawling spiders ("I saw one in here once; it was huge, big as a dinner plate!") and you'd definitely have a rather frightening scene.

    ETA: I loathed The Cube because of its pretentious nonsense, but it was very effective at making a terrifying foray into the unknown.
     
  13. Leaka
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    Leaka Creative Mettle

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    Well I remember when I was a kid, my friends and I would play coffin.
    I remember the kids would stick me in the toy box and leave heavy items on there.
    I could never get out and I would scream for help, but no heard me. I remember after a while I couldn't breathe.
    It was the scariest thing of my life.
    Thank god I hadn't died.
    But I don't know why I never learned my lesson with playing coffin. I did it like three times, until the third time they left me there longer then thirty minutes I was so scared I was going to die. I was crying, I couldn't breathe, and I was just thinking to myself I was going to die.
    I was go to die there and no was ever go to know. My body would rot in there and then they would find me.
    It was so scary, I don't want to be in anything small again.
    A closed box never, a tube slide never, etc.
    I'm afraid of being locked again.


    I didn't have asthma and I started suffocating. I was going crazy in there.
     
  14. Scattercat
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    Scattercat Active Member

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    Okay, well, it sounds like you have a lot of first-hand experience to bring to the table.

    There! You have a non-psycho-killer horror story kernel. Now sketch it out and figure out a dramatically satisfying ending, and you'll be golden.
     
  15. Solaris
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    Solaris Active Member

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    Yes I have to agree with you about The Cube. Though it did succeed in making me very uncomfortable, just the thought of being in that situation.
    And as a child I was terrified of that movie lol.

    And I like your idea about puppets/spiders things like that.
    Maybe a Jack-in-the-box? :p
    The child could become delusional and find it talking to him in the dark corner of the box.
     
  16. Leaka
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    Leaka Creative Mettle

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    I make the people believe the kid is dead. You know one of those fades to black moments.
    An hour later and no one hears him and he is still crying in the box and then it ends.
    You never know what happened to the boy.

    Or he could die. The boy could die and then everyone will be very angry at me for killing a little boy.

    Or he could survive for ever being traumatized, the way I was, by anything small.



    But I think I want to personalize the story. I want the kid to be a bit of an oddball and isn't liked by his classmates.
    They pretend to like him and play all these games with him.
    Like Hide and Dump.
    The kids would play hide and seek and then instead of looking for me they would just leave me where I was hiding.
    Or my personal favorite Marco Don't Say Anything.

    Then final my super personal favorite Coffin.
     
  17. Scattercat
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    Scattercat Active Member

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    I think the story has a lot more "horror" to it if the "killer" is an innocent child who truly doesn't realize the damage s/he's causing. The added dramatic irony will sharpen the audience's suspense.

    Having cruel bullies picking on a hapless outcast both runs the risk of being a trifle cliché and of hitting a little too close to home for you; you might end up writing more of a rant than a story. Finding something meaningful to you is good, but it's also important to have enough distance that the story is accessible to other people.
     
  18. Solaris
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    Solaris Active Member

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    I agree with Scattercat.
    The innocent child situation has a much creepier feel to it in my opinion.
    Especially if they were siblings. And to think of how a parent would feel knowing what had happened, in the case that something did end up going wrong in the end.
     
  19. Leaka
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    Leaka Creative Mettle

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    I have doubts about an innocent child sitting on a toy box for an hour. When I see young innocent children most of them start crying when you start crying and they open the box.

    And they can't be to old not to fit in the toy box.
    I was six.
    I had one good friend his name was blah blah blah and whenever I started crying in the box he would start crying to.
    It was a whole mess.

    So I don't think a innocent kid that age would be able to hold up sitting on the box for an hour.
    And a kick who is six can easily open the box if a child even younger is sitting on the box.
     
  20. Scattercat
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    Scattercat Active Member

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    Perhaps the box has a lock or a latch that the child does not know how to operate, once it is accidentally put into place. Then, panicked and terrified because of his/her friend's cries, s/he flees back to his/her own house without telling anyone what s/he has done.

    ETA: Alternately, an older sibling who is trying to "toughen up" his "wussy" little sister/brother could also be a viable character.
     
  21. Solaris
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    Solaris Active Member

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    Maybe the child gets sidetracked by something.
    Like hearing something interesting on the television out in the living room, or mom is cooking something in the kitchen.
    In the case that they were related, that is.
     
  22. Leaka
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    Leaka Creative Mettle

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    If mom is cooking in the kitchen they are going to go to the kitchen.
    If its in the living room they are going to go to the living room.

    I have baby sitted kids before, if they distracted they get distracted. They actually leave to go see what it is.
     
  23. Solaris
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    Solaris Active Member

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    Yeah that was my point lol.
    And younger children can tend to forget things when something else excites them.
    The thought of a younger child accidentally trapping his brother in a box is more unsettling to me.
     
  24. Scattercat
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    Scattercat Active Member

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    Yes. Which is why a latch is a good way to work it. Especially if it's supposed to be rusted open or something similar, or perhaps needs a key which no one has.

    Kid locks friend/sibling in box accidentally, for a joke.
    Kid cannot find way to open box.
    Kid panics and flees.
    Friend/sibling remains trapped in the box for far too long, full of fears and worries and, eventually, hallucinations.
    ? Ending ?
     
  25. Leaka
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    Leaka Creative Mettle

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    A joke?
    How about a game?
    Latch is stuck and can't get open?
    Kid hears his favorite show on?
    Kid leaves?
    Friend remains trapped in box.

    Ending:confused:
     

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