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Thursday, April 19, 2012

On the Subject of Horror


Crazily drawn by B.C. Matthews
I used to hide under the covers when I saw E.T. I mean, that glowing finger was sinister. How didn't the adults watching know that? I wasn't fooled. E.T. might come off as cute to others, but I knew. He was scary as hell. Although, considering I also used to hug a bunch of pillows while watching the X-Files, that might tell you were my horror threshold was at that point in my life.

Since then, I've found that I love the dark and sinister. The gory even. The weird and surreal. Haunted mansions, waxwork statues brought to life, a dude turning into a fly, stupid college kids getting hacked to bits by a madman...I now love this stuff. Even the cheese factor of horror that's so bad that its deviously hilarious.

Despite the fact that I love it so much, I've found that my worst reader responses and critiques have usually centered on the darker elements or gory bits. I know that horror isn't for everyone.

But come on people, Stephen King can make a garbage disposal the most terrifying thing ever (I vividly remember a scene in his book Firestarter with a character almost sexualizing his desire to stick a hand down the garbage disposal; it creeped me out then, it creeps me out now).

I've found that I received so many less than friendly responses to the dark and scary that I found myself shying away from it, rather than embracing my messed up, deep and dark subconscious. For a while, I didn't even want to write anything with blood in it, even if a character punched another in the face. And my characters frequently deserve to get punched in the face. I soon got over my momentary trepidation. Blood and guts and the creepiness factor made its way back into various pieces of my writing. Since then, I've had people bow out of reading my stories because they found them "too dark."

I rarely (if ever) read or write Happily Ever After (HEA), because I find them too cute, and too insulting to characters you've mentally and physically tested to their limits. HEAs feel like a band-aid slapped on something that needs stitches, or a hospital and an ER team. While my endings are not always "everyone dies in terror" I do see the merit and the interest in such endings.

I feel sometimes like I'm fighting the darker part of my brain. I frequently lose interest in light and fluffy stories, but if there is something dark happening, then it sticks with me. I want there to be places in my stories where the reader can think, "Shit just got real."

So, on my short story-a-week goal, I'm going to allow and encourage myself to write the most weird, surreal, and utterly messed up shit I can dream up. I'll see where it takes me.

How do you feel about the dark and terrifying?

2 Comments:

At April 23, 2012 at 8:23 PM , OpenID danthonybrown.me said...

I don't abhorrently hate HEA, but so often authors stack the deck to make it happen. And I don't believe in HEA in real life, so I generally don't write about it either. On horror, I'm very squeamish but I enjoy blood and gore in my books, as well as psychological horror.

At the end of the day, write what you like, friends be damned.

 
At May 6, 2012 at 12:12 AM , Blogger B.C. Matthews said...

Psychological horror is the good stuff. It's my chocolate ice cream of horror, though I do like the gory bits too (which is like a strawberry shake of horror?).

"Friends be damned!" Yes!

 

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