1. SpecifyIt
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    SpecifyIt Member

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    Horror Horror

    Discussion in 'By the Genre' started by SpecifyIt, Jun 28, 2009.

    As you may know, my horror, at the moment, is down-right crap; I'm trying to improve it. I'm just wondering about description in horror, particularly short story horror. Just how much description do you believe should be in short story horror? I'm not talking about the gory scenes, I'm talking about the openings, ends, other scenes. What should be described? Should there be much emphasis on the weather, or should it all be focused on the characters and suspense?

    Thanks :)
     
  2. sorites
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    sorites Senior Member

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    Read some horror short stories and pay attention to what they are like. I read Skeleton Crew by Stephen King a long time ago and it was good. It includes The Mist, which was adapted into an excellent movie.
     
  3. Gamecat
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    I think this is all down to your personal style. Mr King goes into great detail about some mundane things before he lets loose with the freaky stuff, that's his style and it works. I guess due to him setting up the normal world so well the eventual horror is even more horrific for it's mundane setting.

    I personally prefer to move things on quickly and I think that for a short story that's quite essential. People let King get away with it because they're familiar with his style and know what's coming is going to be good. Unknowns like us run the risk of boring their audience and having them skim though lengthy intros so I normally attempt to have something exciting happening fairly quickly.

    But that's what this place is about. Experiment with your ideas and see what you like the most.
     
  4. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    IMO, just enough details to paint a strong movie in the reader's mind and to produce the desired emotions. Why would you need more details if the details accomplish that?

    By details, I am not refering to character building. You should spend as much space on that as is needed to make the person seem real.
     
  5. NigeTheHat
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    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

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    However much it takes for your world and your characters to seem real. If you don't mind a generalisation, the horror in horror tends to come from the reader imagining all the nasty stuff happening to them. Just as in any other genre, if your world is believable and your reader can empathise with your characters, the piece will be more effective.
     
  6. Ragnar
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    Ragnar Contributing Member

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    I would just go with the amount of descriptions you feel is right, if you start "adapting" to make your writing style the way other people think it should be, you might find that you're barely writing as yourself anymore and find the writing process less entertaining and rewarding than you did originally. Stay true to yourself, make small changes where you see fit.
     
  7. Erebus
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    Erebus Member

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    Horror for me is about unease and putting something strange with something mundane can sometimes work. What you´re aiming to do is unsettle the reader and so something that tickles at the imagination rather than whacking it with an axe would be my preference. With a short story, you need to make sure words aren´t wasted. Sure, describe the weather if you feel it´s right and sets the atmosphere.
     
  8. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    When I think of short scary fiction, I like some of Poe's darker short stories. They range from vivid detailing to thrilling plot with less detail.

    I think it really just depends on how much the reader needs to make the world real. And you only find that by experimenting with different styles and having others read it and tell you what they think.
     
  9. tophathaiku
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    tophathaiku New Member

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    As Sorites said, read other works of horror. Reading is the best way to improve yourself as a writer. You may find visualization helpful. Imagine yourself as the characters, asking yourself questions like, "What am I feeling when X is doing Y?" I advise caution though, don't put yourself in any dangerous situation (blantant disclaimer for ya).
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Horror writing is the art of coaxing the demons out of the darkest recesses of the reader's mind. Those demons are shy, though. They grow in darkness, and dissipate in the light. Try to overdescribe them, and they will vanish like a curl of fog in the morning sun.

    Horror isn't about gore and slime. There may be putrescence, there may be blood and death. But they aren't the central elements, or the climax. They are there to feed the unease and the anxiety -- food for the demons to grow upon.

    Horror takes its best from within the mind of the reader. One image that conflicts with the reader's scenario can burst the bubble. So description needs to be carefully managed. Just enough to feed the atmosphere, while allowing the reader's buried nightmares to add flesh and teeth to the demon.
     
  11. tophathaiku
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    tophathaiku New Member

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    Describing the weather in great detail may make your story cheesy. I would think using the weather as a symbol within the story may be beneficial, though.
     
  12. Maroon
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    Maroon Active Member

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    I'm a huge fan of horror.

    So if you ever want someone to read over your stuff, or to give you a steer on what's working, do get in touch.

    M.
     
  13. Dr. Doctor
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    I myself have been dabbling in horror since I came here, as it is one of my favorite genres and something that I find very challenging to write. So, I did a lot of thinking about what scares me - that is the crucial thing in horror; know what scares people, know what scares you, and get a feel for the general fears of people as a whole. Then, go crazy; you can make it a supernatural tale, you can write a slasher story, you can set it in the past, the future, anything. Fear is universal, after all.

    What I basically did was go on Facebook and ask people what scares them. It's given me some potentially good ideas for horror stories that you might see here in the future.
     
  14. B-Gas
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    B-Gas Contributing Member

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    H. P. Lovecraft wrote horror. He wrote big horror. And there was one, and only one, reason that his horror was so profoundly terrifying- he based it on his own greatest fears. He hated foreigners, was phobic of seafood, and wanted to matter. And thus, his horror brought forth Cthulhu and the associated Greater Gods. They are the consummate foreigners, foreign from even this planet; all of them have some variation of a fish motif to their design (huge humanoid crabs called Mi-go, the squid-headed Cthulhu, the tentacled, anemone-esque Old Ones), and fundamentally they do not care about us. They could squash the human race in a second if they actually cared. But they don't. The Old Ones created humankind as a throwaway species, a joke, something to laugh at while they got on with their studies. When they left, we managed, barely, to take over, forgetting our heritage in the process. If Cthulhu, the Old Ones' greatest foe, ever wakes up, he will destroy us with a thought and we will be gone. All of humankind will be gone and nothing in the entire universe will remember us.

    That, my friend, is horror. It was terrifying to him, and he took that fear and shaped it into a book. They say "write what you know." If you're terrified of heighs, write horror where the ground drops away from you. Insects? Monstrous, terrifying insect creatures, or a person made up of insects- hell, throw some loneliness in there. Everyone else on the planet is just a bag of skin stretched tight over a writhing horde of locusts, and you're the last human left.

    One last thing, though- there should always be an element of the real in there amongst the horror. Horror should always be supernatural- anything else is just a thriller or a suspense novel- but it should always have some reality to it. Something solid and human and this-world. Horror should be set here, if not now. It's hard to fear an alien on a spaceship; it's really easy to fear an alien that's lurking on the other side of this very computer screen, the one you're reading right now.

    That's right. You're next.

    Run while you still have legs, because we are legion and we are hungry. Or don't. Sit still. Relax. It'll all be over soon.

    Okay, okay, I'm done.
     
  15. Sharon
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    Sharon New Member

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    I write horror. I love it, I breath it, it consumes me on a daily basis. Description in horror is very important. But it's not so much as what is described as it is how it is described.

    IE:
    The old store clerk had a scar on his face. He also had an evil sneer whenever he looked at the small boy across the counter.

    ~kind of boring and doesn't really hit it.

    The store clerk had gray unkempt hair that barely covered the thin pink scar slashed across his wrinkled forehead. The small boy across the counter was looking at the old chipped and worn out man. He looked like a sad man thought the boy. That was until the old man got a good look at the boy. The old mans brows lowered and his piercing dark eyes focused on the boy. With a faint curl of the old man's lips the boy caught a slight glimpse into the old mans black and yellow rotting mouth of teeth.

    ~Just came up this on the top of my head but I think it's better than the first and illustrates what I am trying to say. It's all about word choice. Also horror is one of the slowest genres to write in. The monster of the story doesn't just introduce himself and say boo.

    You need to cox the reader into the haunted house. Showing them every room and every cobweb. You need to let them hear every creek in the floorboards, every breath they take in the silence of the house. Let them feel the draft from the open window, or the heat as they sweat. To taste the old dust, mold and rot in the air.

    Description in horror almost always has one purpose. To heighten the senses. Like a roller coaster making it's first clicky clacky climb up before the drop. It is slow and builds suspense. Horror writers know one thing, that it's not the drop that got the reader but it was the climb up. The rest just follows suite.

    A few books that help me out when I write:

    H.P Lovecraft and Poe of course are the grandfathers of horror. But there are so many others that are just as enjoyable.

    A good read and a must for studying horror throughout history is this book - Dark Descent by Clive Barker

    How to book - On Writing Horror

    In particular for short stories, this is a quick and easy read. It will give some basics but isn't the meat of the topic. Great for starters - Writing Horror

    And of course there is always a plethora of information found at the website for the Horror Writers Association.
     
  16. allangelsfall
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    allangelsfall New Member

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    The best Horror book I have read is THROUGH A GLASS, DARKLY by Bill Hussey.

    It's meticulously written and disturbing as hell...everything you want in a horror......
     

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