Skills you can learn from writing horror

Horror

 

The best way to learn new and interesting writing skills is to write variety and read a variety, the more you expose yourself to the wider and more varied your range of knowledge will be. Think about it those who read or write thrillers will learn different lessons to those who read or write romance. Each genre has it’s own specific strengths and weaknesses and if you limit yourself to a single genre (either reading or writing) then you’ll build a certain set of strengths but never overcome the weaknesses. But by reading different genres and styles you may find tips and tricks to overcome the weaknesses inherent in the genre your writing at that time.

Horror is my own main focus (although I dabble all over the place to widen my own skill set), this means the bulk of my strengths lie in horror. Today I am going to share with you some of the potential skills you could develop by giving horror writing a try.

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Videogames: F.E.A.R

Videogames

I’ve talked a lot in the past about how I think videogames are a marvellous medium for Horror, they are more immersive than simply watching a film, and to an extent I personally find them to be more immersive than books. In books you do not control the character’s, you’re effectively watching them, although in your head rather than on a screen. Videogames allow you to experience the story but still retain an element of control, which in turn makes you responsible for your avatar. That little person on the screen is you and if you make a stupid decision and die then it’s your own bloody fault.

Sadly, even though on the surface videogames seem like such a good tool for horror so many creators struggle with making this work. This is, in part, down to the fact that a lot of videogames are meant to be empowering, they make you stupid powerful or skilled and it’s hard to feel fear when you’re like that. Take Batman Arkham Asylum as an example, this is a creepy game on-premise, your sneaking around a mental institute, which for the large part is an old bloody mansion with graveyards, secret labs etc. All the inmates have busted out and are roaming the grounds hoping to find and kill you. Creepy right? But one thing let you down, YOU ARE BATMAN. How scared can you be when your playing as Batman, Batman! The guy who took on Superman, the guy with a gazillion weapons, super fight skills and the ability to almost-fly (seriously the grapple is amazing, as is the glide function). How can you be afraid of some low skilled, mentally unwell thug when your frigging BATMAN.

Sorry, started a rant there.

But today I don’t want to talk about Batman, Arkham Asylum. Today I want to talk about FEAR.

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Writing Characters that Are Different From Yourself

Copy of Autumn (10)

This has been something of a hot topic from the moment the idea began, and it is something I’ve touched on before in previous blogs such as “What Are You Allowed to Write”, that being writing characters from different cultures, ethnicities and genders than yourself.

Just to be clear, before I start talking about this, I feel I should point out that I’m a thirty-three-year-old, white, British female (so you know where I’m coming from lol), and my main point in this blog will be that I feel it is acceptable to write whatever characters you feel fit into your story, PROVIDED that it is done with compassion, a ton of research and clichés are avoided.

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Real World Horror: Drekavac

Real World Horror

Today’s real-world horror will be taking a look at creature from Slavic mythos, the Drekavac.

This creature differs depending on who is doing the telling, and where they are from but fundamentally Drekavac are little dead people who jump on the backs of living people and tell them predictions, usually cheerful predictions about their deaths and the deaths of their loved ones and, oddly enough, farm animals. Though I suppose back in the day if your farm animals died then you died so that was an epic deal.

As I said the myth differs depending on who you talk to, some people say they are babies, other people think they are undead men, some say dead soldiers. In a few places, they are animals, cats, dogs, foals etc., all dead of course.

There’s an odd one that says they are dead dogs that walk on their hind legs. A really weird one says they are long-necked creatures with a cat head, a cat giraffe, kittyraffe. Last odd one, some places think the creature is something very thin (think slender man levels of thin) but with a huge head and wings, apparently this is the soul of a dead child, sounds more like an emaciated fly to me.

The two things they seem to have in common is that they are all dead and they predict horrible bullshit. Although some say the human forms predict people death and the animal forms predict animal death.

The myths that have the creatures appearing as children all mention them being unbaptised, as a result of this they popped up a lot during Christmas time as the twelve days of Christmas are also known as the unbaptised days. Personally, I feel sorry for the whole unbaptised baby thing, a lot of different cultures have unpleasant things happening to them and its just mean, poor babies didn’t choose to be baptised or not. Personally, I get the impression these stories are a way to scare parents into getting their kids connected to the Church but I’m a bit cynical when it comes to things like that.

The Drekavac pop up in a few pop culture references, mostly in books and short stories although they have been known to pop up in role-playing games and videogames, such as Magic: The Gathering and Eve Online and, my personal favourite, they pop up in the Devil May Cry remake.

Review: Sleeping Beauties

reviews

Stephen King is one of my all-time favourite horror writers, so consider yourself pre-warned that I am not walking into this review with an open mind. I picked up this book expecting to love it and I did. I suppose that makes this blog more a rave than a review? Perhaps, as I’m not quite blind to the book’s faults, but as with most of my reviews, I prefer to write about what I liked as opposed to what I wasn’t keen on. Quite frankly there are enough reviews out there that discuss faults, some fairly and others less so, so yeah, I’m going to continue to sit here in my corner of positivity.

Anyway, today I want to talk to you about Sleeping Beauties, the bloody huge story by Stephen King and his boy, Owen King.

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Cliche: Villians

Cliche

Today I want to talk about a topic that I considered doing an entire series for, to be honest, I’m still considering it. Maybe next year? Consider this a teaser for a potential series and let me know what you think if you’d be interested in having a more ‘deep dive’ on the individual topics rather than the broad brush overview we’re doing today. Thank you.

Also, warning, I’m probably going to talk about Thanos a lot. I won’t spoil End Game cause I’m not evil, but Thanos will feature in a lot of my examples’.

Anyway, to get to the point, today in the ‘cliché’ series I would like to talk with you about cliché villains. The bad guys, the ones we love to hate, the contrast to the protagonist. So many of us love villains despite them being perhaps the worst for suffering from clichés.

I love it when you get a bloody good villain, and am heartbroken when you see a potentially good villain suffering from clichés. It makes them boring and these are your best opportunity for entertaining your reader or viewer or player. Villains are fantastic tools for creators, they can build dramatic tension, they can be hilarious, they can be sympathetic, they are probably the most versatile tool in your arsenal.

So why do we use clichés?!?

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Famous Horror Writers Darren Shan

Horror

When I think back to my childhood, it was full of all kinds of books, from Animals of Farthing wood to Wind in the Willows all the way through to one of my favourites, Clive Barkers Thief of Always. I was probably around twelve (I think) when my dad came home one day with a copy of Cirque du Freak by Darren Shan, he’d seen t in WHSmiths on his way home from the train station and from the cover alone had thought it would be something that I would like. This was when I was well into my Animorphs phase and while I was no stranger to horror at twelve (I think my mum read me Thief of Always when I was around six, thank god for book-loving parents) it was a departure from my fare at the time.

I cannot thank my dad enough for that little impulse gift, it introduced me to the world of Darren Shan, both the character in the book (although Larten was and always will be my favourite, to the point where a year or so ago, while I’m in my early thirties I picked up the Saga of Larten Crepsley, WHY WAS THIS SO SHORT, I NEED MORE!). Anyway, enough of the memory lane nonsense, today I want to talk to you about Darren Shan, a fantastic author who’s introduced an entire generation to horror in a superb fashion.

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Cliche: Aliens

Cliche

Admittedly I tend to watch Sci-Fi more so than read it, that’s not to say I don’t read it I just tend to absorb a bigger percentage of this genre via movies, games and television. But that aside the cliche’s of the genre shine through and that is what I want to talk about today! In particular the cliches, we cannot seem to get away from with alien species.

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