1. Rhipsime Rose

    Rhipsime Rose Member

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    Is this a good setting idea? // making it unsettling/eerie/disturbing???

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Rhipsime Rose, Oct 22, 2021.

    Hello,

    So I am working on a new psychological horror(?) story concept, and one of the main things about this one that makes it a little different from some of my other stories is that it takes place on... a ship. A 777-foot-long, Great Lakes freighter known as Thalassa, to be more specific.

    The ship itself is supposed to be awe-inspiring but foreboding. Within the ship, where most of the story takes place, it is intended that something is "off", that something is deeply wrong but it can't be placed. The intention is that inside the Thalassa, there is this feeling of unreality, disquiet and unsettlement that is felt by the main character.

    There's also a certain "aesthetic" as to the physical appearance of the interiors of the ship. Seemingly endless, shadowy corridors and passageways, "liminal spaces", and cavernous cargo holds are all present.

    I'm just wondering if this is a reasonable idea and if the intention I'm trying to convey makes sense? I just want it to be unsettling and eerie as possible but not too heavy-handed.

    (This takes place between 1965 and 1975 if that's useful at all)
     
  2. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    It actually sounds amazing to me. I think it can absolutely work.
     
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  3. ItzAmber

    ItzAmber test

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    That's cool. If you can describe how it feels on the ship, its surroundings, etc, it would work!
     
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  4. QueenOfPlants

    QueenOfPlants Definitely a hominid

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    Ships absolutely work as an eerie setting. Go for it!
     
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  5. Robert Musil

    Robert Musil Comparativist Contributor

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    Sounds good so far--and I love Thalassa as the name of the ship. But I think a lot of it will hinge on the execution. So much of "eeriness" is in what you don't see, or aren't sure if you see. It's a very subtle effect, but being subtle is hard.

    I say this as someone who's currently trying to write a quite different but also spooky setting, so I've been working through it myself lately.
     
  6. Catriona Grace

    Catriona Grace Slaintѐ mhaith Contributor

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    Ships are as spooky as any thing I can think of: the idea of all those inner corridors, creaking noises, and constant threat of surrounding seas give me the cauld grue. Yep. Landlubber here.

    For creepy atmosphere, few can beat Shirley Jackson. You might like to read The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle for research as well as pleasure.
     
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  7. Joe_Hall

    Joe_Hall I drink Scotch and I write things

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    As someone who grew up in Michigan on the Great Lakes this sounds cool. You can definitely use the weather as an element....I have seen waves in Lake Michigan go over the top of a 50 foot tall lighthouse. Storms, especially in the spring and fall can be rather sudden and much more violent than most would expect of inland bodies of water. If you need a beta reader when you get to that stage, hit me up. I'd love to read it.
     
  8. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Contributor Contributor

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    "The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
    When the skies of November turn gloomy"
     
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  9. SapereAude

    SapereAude Contributor Contributor

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    How much do you know about ships in general, and great lakes ships in particular? Great Lakes freighters are basically bulk carriers -- they don't have miles and miles of corridors and passageways, and they don't have cargo holds that are accessible from within the ship.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_freighter

    This is not to take away from the premise of the story, but to suggest that it might be better set on an ocean-going tramp steamer rather than a Great Lakes ore carrier.
     
  10. evild4ve

    evild4ve Contributor Contributor

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    My first thought on reading this was it must have been done before... but I couldn't turn up anything very similar, so it seems to be an original approach, or at least one that nobody's particularly succeeded at (which comes to the same :)). Some horror stories with a ship in might be... Stephen King's 'Duma Key', Michael Crichton's 'Sphere', Marion Crawford 'The Upper Berth', Koji Suzuki 'Dark Water', Dan Simmons 'The Terror', Tim Curran 'Dead Sea'... but usually it's acting as a confined space to put creepy monsters in, or only used as a location for certain scenes.

    Then I got to thinking why hasn't it been done before much? It might be that part of horror's appeal is making us question our own safety in the environment around us. So the genre serves up more stories about haunted dolls-houses than haunted prisons. We're uncomfortable enough in a prison anyway - haunting it is redundant. Ships might have an element of that difficulty. Or maybe the insides of a ship are hard to write in practice - maybe the unfamiliarity and complexity of the setting needs the writer to give lots of description, and horror usually is very internal to characters.

    Picking up SapereAude's point, if the ship has been modified to be unlike a normal commercial freigher, that might help establish that something is "off".
    "That corridor's eight metres above the waterline. If it's underwater the ship's already sunk. Why would you put a bulkhead door there?"
     
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  11. AbyssalJoey

    AbyssalJoey Active Member

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    Sooo... you want to write a horror story in a setting that is naturally isolated and claustrophobic??? Sounds great.
     
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  12. Rhipsime Rose

    Rhipsime Rose Member

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    In regards to the name, thank you! I love Greek mythology and I always thought that since Thalassa is the primordial goddess of the sea, it would be a cool name for a ship.

    And yeah, subtleness is one of my weak points in writing, but I'm trying my best to become better at it.
     
  13. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    Oh, it's not hard—just beat the readers over the head repeatedly with subtlety! :cool:
    (Sorry... silly and useless comment)
     
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  14. Terbus

    Terbus Active Member

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    Currently Reading::
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    The interior of ships tends to be really crapped with lots of twisting passageways. Most vessels look big on the outside, but you get inside and immediately start wondering where all the space went. They also tend to be rather dimmly lit, which only adds to the erie aspect. Leaving the interior unpainted would add to this, as it would make everything basically look the same. The sounds things like pipes, the engine, and propellers make can be freaky even when you are accustomed to it. In general, there is a lot you can do to make it feel 'off'.

    Are you planning on a horror story or a thriller, btw? The difference--at least as I understand it--is that horror involves some kind of supernatural element (aliens, ghosts, monsters, etc), well thriller involves only the human mind and specifically does not involve supernatural activity.
     
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  15. Oscar Leigh

    Oscar Leigh Contributor Contributor

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    I definitely think that element of a subtle eerie atmosphere is a great tactic for horror. The persistent element that something is off, or something might be about to happen, but nothing is obvious; it's just a collection of little details.
    In regards to that, while the accuracy of the ship is a consideration à la @SapereAude's point, I would also say the ship being bigger and twistier inside than expected might well be part of that eeriness here, especially if there is anything supernatural about it (I'm guessing there is).
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2021
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  16. Rhipsime Rose

    Rhipsime Rose Member

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    Hi, hello, in all honesty, the choice of a lake freighter was more of a stylistic choice. I have only seen exterior photographs and I assumed that they are as maze-like as other cargo-ships. In my opinion, Great Lakes freighters have a rather unusual appearance in comparison to most ships I've seen, so yes, it was a purely artistic choice.

    I'll take your advice into consideration, though.
     
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  17. Rhipsime Rose

    Rhipsime Rose Member

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    Regarding the first segment, yes, that is what I'm going for. That is why I think a ship would be an interesting setting. Ships are spooky.

    For the second part, I was ultimately choosing a psychological horror possibly involving metaphysical forces and mythological elements, but I have since changed that. It has become a thriller with the most frightening thing being the power of deception and manipulation.
     
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  18. SapereAude

    SapereAude Contributor Contributor

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    I'm sorry to do this to you, but in the holy name of research I contacted some people I know who have first-hand knowledge of ships. I have received two responses.

    I would put more credence in the first of those. The second response is from a guy who is even more of a curmudgeon than I am (and that takes some doing), although he occasionally comes up with some useful tidbits.

    Here's a link to a video by a professional seaman, showing the living arrangements on a freighter:

    And here's a tour of his ship:
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2021
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  19. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    Yep, What he said ^^. I looked at a bunch of pictures of Great Lakes Freighters and they're almost all hold and deck, with a small wheelhouse at the front (I think that's what it would be called) where the captain and navigator must be, with any crew necessary to navigation etc, and a small deckhouse at the rear as well. Probably contains sleeping compartments, bathroom, kitchen if there is one. It looks like no large areas where there would be corridors or anything.

    @SapereAude I'm curious about what you said earlier that nobody would go down into the hold. Why not? Is the cargo tightly packed with no passageways in between?
     
  20. SapereAude

    SapereAude Contributor Contributor

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    I think on a tramp steamer there is access to the cargo holds from below decks, but I'm not certain of that. I think going into the cargo hold would be unlikely, because if the cargo shifts anyone in there would likely be crushed.

    The Great Lakes ships aren't "freighters," they're "bulk carriers." That means they don't carry finished products that can be packaged and transported in crates and/or on pallets. The Great Lakes ships carry things like ore from mines. It's just bulk product that gets dumped into the holds loose. They can't have doors that open into the holds, because if they were to open a door the bulk product would come tumbling out. AFAIK the only access is through the hatch covers on deck.
     
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  21. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    OK, well, that definitely explains it!!
     
  22. SapereAude

    SapereAude Contributor Contributor

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    Last edited: Oct 28, 2021
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  23. Chromewriter

    Chromewriter Contributor Contributor

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    I think the closest horror story I have encountered about ships was called Triangle. It's fairly good and the ship does sort of lend itself to some creepy situations. But I think there needs to be a reason why people cannot just jump out of the ship and swim to land. Especially if it's some lake situation.
     
  24. Terbus

    Terbus Active Member

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    There's a few horror novels involving ships out there. One of my favorite books ever is one that's already been mentioned in this thread.

    The risk of freezing to death if you tried jumping ship on the Great Lakes is high. I live on about the same latitude, and the water here is only safe for a handful of months in the middle of summer. You'd also need a clear day with little wind, and the Great Lakes are known for their storms. And, yo state the obvious, you'd need to know how to swim.
     
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  25. Chromewriter

    Chromewriter Contributor Contributor

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    Aha, I'd think it would be funny to read about sailors who couldn't swim. It wouldn't make much sense for them to be on boats.

    I forgot that the scale of the lakes we are talking about is different. I'm probably picturing a pond while these lakes are big as the Caspian sea.

    Even then, you'd have to include the lake as part of the horror element in some way to keep them pinned to the boat. I mean they could jump out in a life boat dingy or something and I'd rather do that than spend time on a horror boat.

    But I guess those elements could be taken care of with horror elements on the ship itself:

    communications don't work. Why? Horror.

    Dingy has a hole in it. Why? Horror.

    Engine broken. Why? Horror.

    Yea sounds like a pretty good setting for horror.
     
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