Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Genre Series: The Lore of Gore




It's getting dark earlier. The temperature is dropping. Cool autumn winds blow crispy dry leaves in scratching cadence down the streets while dead tree branches tap-tap-tap against an upstairs window. Light a fire and snuggle up. Roast some marshmallows and let's tell spooky stories.

There is a reason that Halloween is a multi-billion dollar industry. People like to be scared. Scientists have many theories about this. Some believe that people like to be scared because we have an innate need to explore and master frightening situations. Some believe that it's hormonal... we like the adrenaline rush we feel while being scared (when we are actually excited more than afraid,) or that we suffer through the fear portion of an activity simply because we love the euphoric sense of relief when we get to the end.

My opinion? Concentrating too long on the scientific reasoning just sucks the fun right out of it. And this is supposed to be fun. Right?

While playing around one night in gchat, JeesieChreesie pointed
something out to me. There isn't enough horror in Twilight fan fiction. I have to admit, I didn't even think to look before then. But when I did, I found out... she was right.

In Twilight Fan Fiction, poor grammar and borderline (balls-out) porno-sex scenes are the predominant sources of horror. Scary stuff... I promise you. *shivers* I maintain Edward what-what'ing in the butt is far more terrifying than anything Stephen King wrote...

Vampires and werewolves? Should be GREAT material for horror stories. But the characters we have learned to know and love in the Twilight universe are probably less scary than my Aunt Claudia's mustache (Seriously, ask a Buffy fan if the Cullen's are real vampires...) And not many people venture into taking them a darker direction. I'm not talking about "darkward" stories. Giving Edward a few tattoos, a filthy mouth, and a love of all things anal isn't fulfilling the need for good old suspense, blood and gore. (Repeat after me, spanking, the word "fuck," and mental illness does not make a character dark it makes them kinky, troubled, or a just a dude in general. Killing, maiming, and torturing makes you dark with a lemon peel twist of psychopathic.)

We took a chance and decided to comb down the pompadours, get rid of the sparkles, and get down to the nitty-gritty of the monsters that could have been. Then we decided to sit back, and encourage some of you to do the same. Abandon all hope all ye who enter, for here there be wild things...

I have decided to put my responses in the closest color I can find to pink. Therefore Katie = this strange boysenberry color.

Yeah... and I'm (Kat) gonna rock out my two pennies in green.

When we decided to tackle this article, we both agreed that maybe we should actually do a little research about writing horror stories. Imagine our shock and surprise when we found dozens of “how to” lists on the subject! We took the time to pull out some of the suggestions that were repeated time and time again to make a new list here. As were our constant remarks of, "I didn't know I was supposed to do that..." So while we perhaps should have perused these articles in advance of writing our own stories, we can at least do the work for you. Or we can just open ourselves up for mocking as we recount how horribly we failed to follow directions...

1. Try to be original.


No, this is not an oxymoron in fanfic, or as obvious as it sounds. While Summit may try to market Twilight for dudes by throwing in some extra badassery in the form of fight scenes, in the end this is a mushy love story and the vampires are pansies. (She's using a nicer word than I typically do. But it starts with the same letter. So, yeah.) What this means is that you've got a huge opportunity to branch out of the Twilight mold and yet still have a gold mine to play with in canon. Because while Stephenie Meyer may not have received the memo, vampires are scary. For most people, that penetrating stare and neck-happy habit tend to be terrifying, and not so much dazzlingly sexy. Don't just take the books and twist a scene or two, or copy Stephen King's It and make Alice the satanic clown. (Admit it. You can see it. Nobody should be that perky all the time.) You're trying to write horror, so go to that place inside you, where all your deepest fears exist.... and Let. Them. Out.

I didn't really tap into any of my own personal fears... I tapped into my own twisted and sick sense of humor. Don't forget it can be FUN to be scared. That's why Halloween is such a popular holiday. It's why scary movies make tons of cash. Aforementioned scientific reasoning aside, I literally sat and laughed like a maniac while writing several pieces of my story. So whether you pull up inspiration from your inner-scaredy cat, or your inner-psycho... take a deep breath and challenge yourself to do something different.

2. Create strong, identifiable characters


So take the characters to a new level. Let Edward's anger issues and stalking habits be *gasp* bad. Maybe even...irredeemable. Let Rose's inner bitch be channeled into the psychopathic rage that she unleashed on Royce. Play with Emmett's shrugged off snacking of his own singer, and need I even delve into Jasper's potential? And Alice the penultimate mischievous meddler was in an insane asylum. The possibilities are endless, and that's just playing in AU. Though mess with Carlisle and Esme at your own risk, because making them evil is more foreign than Mr.Phoeny giving bad advice.

We are talking about fanfic here. Steph has given us great spring-board characters. Don't be afraid to jump! Take these kids on a spin. Horror is about the unexpected. Play with that. Don't be afraid to give the characters your own twist. But take the time to make it believable. Own it. If you wouldn't half-ass it while making Edward a romantic hero... give him the respect he deserves as a villian as well.

3. Study the classic horror novels. And read, read, read everything you can get your hands on.


Um... about that. We kinda hate horror books and movies. I'm a big old chicken shit when it comes to them...to the extent I was positive the Scream killer was coming to eat me in sixth grade, and my sister and I attacked our Dad with frying pans when he unexpectedly came in the back door late one night... So we skipped this step, for the safety of our loved ones. But it's a good idea. Read some Edgar Allen Poe. He kind of defines this genre, and he's more spectacularly awesome than terrifying, and he does it all through his word choice, unpredictability, and symbolism. Say it with me now..syymmmmbbbboooollllissssmmmm, not symbology (If you don't get that, stop reading this, and go watch Boondock Saints. Actually consider that your homework, because the violence is spectacular and it will spawn your creativity.) It is a key element in the genre. The black as death raven, the blinking clocks in Final Destination, the big-boobed blond running upstairs in a teen horror movie... it all give the reader a hint at what's to come. Normally it's death, but hey, feel free to switch it up a bit.

I don't read horror books. And I usually try to avoid scary movies (unless there is some sort of humor element involved so that I can laugh about it.) Just HEARING the music from the Excorcist reminds me of all the freaking nightmares I've had about that film! But I guess that it's probably good advice to pass forward. If you want to write like Stephen King, read Stephen King. If you want to write like Dean Koontz... read Dean Koontz. Learn from the writers that you would like to emulate.

4. Try to pick a subject that scares you, personally.


Consider it cathartic and free therapy. You know the truth will set you free and all that balls. That's really a big lie, but the truth of the matter is that if you're not invested in it, you won't make it scary or have it effect people. Nearly every review I get for my story includes, "OMG GROSS," and I nod my head and think yeah..it really freaking is nasty. Thusly I've written my worst fears; slit throats, fires, eyeballs, the heart organ in general...I'm completely disgusted by it in every way, and therefore the readers are too. It's also basic common sense. Write what you know. Well I'm not a doctor or a mortician, so I don't know much about death, but I know what haunts me and that's what I write. Except for spiders. That shit's nasty.

Yeah... I wrote a spider. A big, freaking, hairy one. Because I didn't sit back and consider the things I am personally afraid of. (Okay, spiders DO creep me out.) But I did chuckle and think about typical spooky-movie props. Dark road? Check. Broken down car? Check. Secluded cabin in the woods? You get the idea.

5. Think about horror ideas in the dark


Now this is actually one I've done... and be warned, your sleep habits will be destroyed in the process. The first month of writing Masque, I woke up every hour on the hour from an ongoing nightmare about the story...and I jotted it all down immediately and put it into the story. Horror plays on our basest nature. The characters in the stories only ever have two options, fight or flight, and sometimes either way they'll still die. This genre brings that out in us, that place in which no matter what happens we know our fate, we know there is no protector to rescue us, and that death is coming for us long before we expected. And that is why you have to think about it in the dark. Let yourself slip into the shadows of the night, where everything is distorted, and anything could be standing behind you, waiting to reach out and do god knows what to you. That's what scares us. The unknown. So let it wrap it's cold foreign tendrils around you and invade your mind. You will be amazed at what possibilities suddenly open up to you...if you survive the process....

Nope. I'm way too much of a wuss to ever follow this piece of advice. Moving on.)

6. Take care of the details


For all my abstract ramblings, horror is in the details. It's those little things that you see in your own life and suddenly make you think it could happen to you. It's what takes you out of being told what's happening, and you can feel it instead. In 'Toye" Bella wets herself in fear, and it doesn't just say, "oops I peed." No you feel the steaming urine trickling down her leg coalescing in her shoe and providing the first warmth she's felt in days. It shows the readers how terrified she is, how long she's been in that cage, and how horrifying the events unfolding must be. In The Emperors of Washington by gallantcorkscrews Edward the sociopathic killer smells like rotted milk and baby powder, and yet Bella leaves with him regardless. This shows us not only that is he so bad he's rotten, but also that clearly Bella is just as twisted because she doesn't mind.

However, there is another side of the details that's specific to horror. That's the gore, and it's a very delicate balance between just right and too much. The main goal, is to only use what's necessary. I stabbed a pen through someone's eye in my story. And that's disgusting. But just stating it doesn't accomplish much, so I added an analogy of the sound, and how it felt sliding in, and suddenly myself and anyone reading it were throwing up in our mouth because it became real. You don't need to account for every splatter of blood, but a few big details done quite specifically puts the reader inside it, makes them feel it, and twists their gut uncomfortably. It is horror after all...

Katie has got this one covered. Little known fact about me... I never think too much about what I'm writing. The stuff plays out in my head and I just type as fast as I can to get it out. And I try to explain what I "see" in a way that will help someone else to "see" it too. Look around the scene in your mind and paint the picture. Writing is creative. Use your imagination! If you want to explain how something tastes... imagine actually tasting it. Then... just write. And if you do it well, we'll be able to imagine the taste too.

7. Make sure your masterpiece has no spelling mistakes or other grammatical failings. (Gross-checker)


Once again this is fairly obvious, and I think we all know by now we need an editor. But, do you have a gross-checker? You know that person who reads your story and judges whether you need to be locked in an asylum for being a complete creeper or if it's just shy of that point, and therefore ok? Or who gives you the heads up on if it's a tummy clencher or if she really threw up reading it? Maybe they tell you're playing with something too taboo. Maybe if you've got a completely fabulous beta like I do, she'll tell you to up the ante. Point is, in this genre in particular, you need an extra set of eyes...after all you never know when the pen you're using might take out one of your own...

A beta or an "early reader" can also be counted upon if you want to find out reader reactions. If you are actually lucky enough to be able to watch someone reading your story... even better. To see their nose scrunch up, or their mouth pop open... to see them chuckle or even cry while reading? THAT lets you know if you are on the right page. If you aren't in the position to have someone read your work that way, make sure you have a beta you can trust who isn't going to blow smoke up your ass. False compliments and encouragement do more harm than good. Badfic? That's a whole different type of horror...

x-x-x

From scary movies to roller coasters... from bungee jumping to freaky fanfiction... people throughout history have enjoyed being scared as a form of entertainment. And many people like to be the ones to do the scaring! Whether you want to play with campy scary stories or titillate and terrify, there are plenty of monsters to play with in the books. So put in your favorite creepy mood-music and give it a shot. (I, personally, LOVE the soundtrack to Bram Stoker's Dracula![No seriously, it's all about the Dark Knight soundtrack. Slip on "Why So Serious" and tell me you don't feel like creating a little chaos..] ) Trust me. If two girls who don't even like horror stories can have fun doing it... you can too!



Wanna get your spook on? Try these very freaky, yet very different tales on for size. We haven't read all of these, (we told you we were chickens!) but we've only heard good things about them...you know, especially the ones we write... (Please, direct your mocking to fandom_wank...)

The Masque of the Red Death by JeesieChreesie.

Her blood would be mine. As would she. Once she begged, pleaded, demanded, and wept for my bite. And she would. The only question was how many would die first." Vampire AU. Mature audiences only. NO sexual abuse.

Toye by Bratty_Vamp

Vampires like to play with their food. A campy and kitschy horror short-story that lets the men of the Cullen household be the monsters that Edward always claimed they were. Extremely OOC.

The Emperors of Washington by gallantcorkscrews

Edward is a killer. But it can't be explained away by his vampire nature. He's just a sociopathic, human teenager. CAN I MAKE A LOVE STORY OUT OF THIS? ExB.

The Dollhouse by Kambria Rain

We were all going to die. I used to be an optimistic person, but that went out the window as soon as the hot mountain man decided we were going to hunt the hunters. AH. Warning: So far, there are minor character deaths, and Edward's a little scary [complete!]

Short list eh? What? We told you we don’t read scary stories! But if you feel the urge… search for something else to get your pulse-hammering here:
Darkward’s Dungeon
or The Darkward Contest.

Happy Spooking or Maiming!

Love,

The Horror Hoars
Katie (JeesieChreesie) and Kat (Bratty_Vamp)




Brattyvamp is the prolific author of such Twilight fan fiction as Abbracciare il Cantante and her current work, My Escort. Besides the aforementioned horror fic, JessieChreesie is the great mind behind Atlas Shrugged.

6 comments:

  1. Lol I have to say I read a couple of the Darkward contest entries & creeped myself out enough with those. Then again I can't handle Stephen King so I might give these a miss, especially since they're more than one shots and if I didn't finish them in a sitting I would be out of my mind with every noise or movement.
    That being said, thanks anyway for the rec's :)

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  2. Def. a short list! but thank you for this! Been the fanfic junkie i am, i´ve read ALL of those stories and they´re all amazing! 2 in progress that make me squee a bit when an alert hits my inbox :)
    Great article! We need more more stories!!

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  3. I love reading horror stories. I usually have to sleep with a lamp on afterward though. Thanks for the recs. If anyone wants to start out with a T rating, I suggest Finders Keepers by sdfreeze.

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  4. Hey! I did help with the list! Whoot!

    Thank you! I barely even count Twilight vampires as vampires. I saw a special on the history channel on vampires and was INCREDIBLY freaked out. Living dead people, that shit's scary!

    Ahem, but thank you. This was awesome.

    ~Kyrene

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  5. Thank you, Thank you, thank you!! This has come just at the right time :)

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  6. Wow, this was a really interesting piece. It's true, I've noticed the lack of horror as well in the Twilight fandom. It was perfect timing in my view, because I'm planning on a little oneshot (dark one, obviously) about Esme. (Yes, I know you said be careful with her, but I plan to try my best).

    You mentioned Stephen King's "It" a few times. I tried to read that, but after a few chapters, it scared me so much I had to stop. Damn, I'm a wuss sometimes. ;) I absolutely love reading dark fanfictions about murder, gore, anything like that. But if I pick up a Stephen King novel, I just freak. He is that good.

    One more thing: This is called the "Genre Series", correct? Does that mean there might be more? Like: humour, romance, etc.?

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