Thursday, November 19, 2009

Update: And A Little Horror

So I took a break from my blogging and novel writing to produce a very short story.  I noted a call for a horror story, actually, one of less than 500 words, and decided I would tweak an idea that had been on the back shelf of my mind, and submit it.

This is strange for any number of reasons.  Sci-fi is my first love, the most perfect of genres.  But I have been enjoying fantasy more and more over the years, and have continued to include elements of it in my stories.  Horror was something I never wrote, but would read on occasion.  Usually because the periodicals or anthologies I was looking at would carry all three themes, together, in a sort of "it's fantastical so we'll stuff it all in" approach.  So I ended up seeing quite a bit of horror, especially in short story form.

Anything "horrific" that I've written has always, always, contained fantasy elements.  Horror for me is almost by definition a fantasy concept.  Ghouls, demons, aliens with bad tempers and long probes, that kind of thing.  But this call was for a horror story that had no fantasy elements.  It had to be in a modern setting, and it had to be completely believable.  I thought about it for a long, long time.  I finally came to the conclusion that modern, believable horror was basically going to be like watching the nightly news.  The editors of the publication in question had in fact stated that they already had enough serial killers, and wanted something else.  I ... I'm laughing as I type that and I don't even know if it's funny.

But I did have this small idea, a good fit for a very small story, and thought I'd give it a go.  Well, it was the hardest 400 words I think I've ever written.  Writing it has taught me a very interesting lesson about myself.

I almost always write in first person, past tense.  I do this because my characters are me; I feel what they feel, hear their internal voices like I hear my own, and live their experiences with them.  Writing becomes a reporting exercise of "how can I present this so the reader feels like they are here, too?"  It is part of what makes sci-fi and fantasy so enjoyable for me to read and to write.  I can actually be there, be a part of amazing worlds and stories and futuristic adventures.

So horror, from this perspective, is HARD.  Painful, actually.  And I'm wondering, now having written a small story that had my palms sweating by the end, how anyone would find it enjoyable to read.  It scared the pants off of me, just writing it.  And yet people spend gazillions of bucks each year on the horror movie industry.  I begin to see why I don't usually read this stuff. 

I am chickens$!t.

Writing a story like this is creepy exactly because it is way, way too real.  The movie "Alien" is one of my favorites.  It is really super scary, and handles suspense beautifully.  Many people would describe it as space horror at its finest.  And yet, I can still watch it and imagine I'm basically safe.  It's on another planet with aliens, after all, and I'm a scientist.  The story I wrote is nasty and could happen to anyone.  And that's ... well ... horrible.

So on with the update.  I am enjoying maintaining my two blogs, and they are helping to keep me honest about my writing schedule.  I had a few tough days, and so didn't work on my NaNo novel, but got a little bit in on it last night.  Need to keep chugging on that.  It's up over 50K, now so I've met the obligations of the exercise.  But the story is shaping up, and so I'm going to continue and see where it leads.  And as above, I submitted a short story.  I'm also kicking around looking for blogs, forums, publications and such that have good information and a lively community.  As I find them I'm putting connections right here for easy access.  And I've been going through and finding some of the better RSS and blog services and listing with them, in the hopes that it will help others who may be interested in this blog actually find it.


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