Interview: Corey Farrenkopf, Horror Writer

Corey Farrenkopf is a thirteenth-generation Cape Codder. His family has been around since most of the towns were colonized along the peninsula (it’s the arm that sticks off the end of Massachusetts into the Atlantic). “Most of what I write is set in nearby coastal towns,” Farrenkopf says, “so my place of origin very much makes its way into my writing.”

Corey Farrenkopf

He’s been writing seriously for about ten years, publishing for the last seven. “I’m usually drawn to supernatural horror, weird fiction, dark fantasy, quiet horror, and literary fiction with a dark bend to it. Most of my stuff is pretty fluid between all of those, which makes it difficult to say exactly what I’m writing at any given time.” He also dabbles in dark sci-fi and light fantasy from time to time.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

I’ve always been compelled to create. When I was young, I’d tell stories and draw very terribly articulated monsters.

Then I played a lot of music in my teen years, mostly punk and indie stuff with different bands, while still dabbling with writing. But in college I really committed to writing, recognizing that in order to be happy I had to be creating and writing. It was what I was best at and enjoyed the most, so it won out over music. I’d given up drawing way before that point. You can only draw the same terrible dragon a thousand times before you get tired of it (I mean this fairly literally, I’d draw the same dragon endlessly in middle school, so I’m glad I moved away from that.)

What books have most influenced your life?

There are definitely a handful of books that have very much steered my writing course. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Marquez and Collected Fictions of Jorge Luis Borges were both important early on, along with Pastoralia by George Saunders, Saint Lucy’s Home for Girl’s Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell, and all of Poe’s short stories. Probably the two most important books for my writing, though, as far as what’s brought me to what I write today, are Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer and A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay.

I studied creative writing as an undergrad. My professors weren’t into genre fiction, so I didn’t get exposed to as much as I should have, and the stuff I wrote was always somewhere between realism and the weird, so I never really found my place on the literary spectrum until I read those two books. They showed me where I fit in, where the type of writing I always wanted to do could go… and that there are a ton of awesome writers writing in a similar vein.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

I don’t know if I can say I have a favorite author, but the first three that come to mind are Karen Russell, Laird Barron, and Caitlin R. Kiernan. As far as what strikes me about their work…

Karen Russell has the best sentences, character descriptions, and humor out of any writer I know. There’s a line in her story, Bog People, that describes the main character’s uncle as the kind of guy who would, “eat the sticker on a green apple rather than peel it off.” I think that’s the most beautiful and hilarious way of saying someone is lazy.

Laird Barron just kills it in every story. His ability to write about nature is second to none, and the darker imagery he creates never leaves you. I think about the horse scene in Hallucigenia way more often than is healthy. I also love how so much of what he does plays with structure and blends the best parts of so many genres together.

Caitlin R. Kiernan also kills it in every story. I think I can apply much of what I love about Laird’s work to what Kiernan does. In addition, they do such an amazing job at creating shared worlds for their stories. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do in my own work. I’m thinking about the four stories that make up The Dandridge Cycle, or Jacova Angevine showing up across short stories and novels, or their linked Tinfoil Dossier novellas. Also, everyone needs to read Houses Under The Sea—it’s very necessary.

Do you write every single day? What’s your writing routine like?

COVID has made my usual routine a little weird, but I generally get some words down every day. I usually shoot to write between 1000 and 2000 words a day. I don’t have a specific time when I write. Just when I can. I snatch an hour here or there, write on my lunch break, write before bed… basically whenever I can.

I’ve gotten in the habit of starting off by editing whatever I wrote the day before and then jumping into drafting to make sure my voice stays consistent. (And to save myself from having to do that first horrible straighten-every-terrible-sentence edit like I used to.)

What do you think is more important: characters or plot?

I’ve always been a plot guy, which has actually been a challenge for my own writing. I love plotting, but the most common feedback I get usually focuses on a desire to have a more rounded/likable character (at least in my novels). So I think the true answer is character is more important. If the character is good enough, the plot should come along fine.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in writing one of your stories?

I was writing a story on an island off of Cape Cod, doing an eco-horror sort of thing, when I stumbled on the fact there was a bunch of unsolved murders out there. I was originally just trying to write about bird populations, but that fact really swayed the direction of the story. I’m still working on it, so we’ll see how it turns out in the end. A murderer who loves bird watching maybe…?

Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?

I hear from my readers through Twitter pretty frequently. I have many friends in both the horror community and the flash fiction community, so I think we all pretty much read each others’ work and get excited about what everyone else is doing and try to be as supportive as possible.

How active are you on social media? And how do you think it affects the way you write?

On Twitter, very. Everywhere else, so-so.

I don’t know if Twitter has helped my writing, but it has enabled me to find so many publishing opportunities that I never would have seen before. All the open calls that get posted there, or announcements for flash contests or guests editors… I would have missed so many opportunities if I wasn’t tuned in. Also, a lot of my Twitter friends are super supportive, so it makes writing feel much less lonely with all of them metaphorically around.

Has COVID affected your writing routine this year? If so, how?

Oh, definitely. My work schedule is all over the place now, so I don’t have a normal time of day that I write. Like I said previously, I just snatch the time when I can. And like so many others out there, I find it hard to focus some days depending on what new terrible thing is going on.

Tell us about your current project.

Right now I’m working on edits for an eco-horror/weird fiction novel set on Cape Cod with my agent, a handful of supernatural horror stories (most of which are also set on Cape Cod), and five or six short stories for different venues. I’ve been writing about a lot of lake/ocean/pool/pond/river monsters lately, so figure there are a number of aquatic creatures spread out across those projects 🙂

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Don’t be afraid to submit your work. Yes, you need to polish the heck out of it, but don’t wait too long or you might never get it out there.

Also, always try to write something that you’d want to read. That’s my goal anyway. I think of what a version of myself maybe five years ago would get stoked to read, and I try to create that.

Everyone always says read a ton, and I echo that, and I want to add that when you find a writer you really click with, devour as much of their work as you can. This always helps inspire me and get me excited to sit down at my computer. Whatever I can do to get me excited about typing is cool with me.

You can follow Corey Farrenkopf at his website, https://CoreyFarrenkopf.com. His Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/corey.farrenkopf/. Follow him on Twitter at @CoreyFarrenkopf and Instagram at @Farrenkopf451.

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Interview: Natalie Edwards, Horror and Crime Writer

Natalie Edwards (aka TC Parker) hails from a UK town in the East Midlands called Leicester, where she now lives, though she works mostly in London and the US.

“I haven’t actually been writing fiction very long at all by the standards of many people in the horror community,” Edwards says. “I only really started a few years ago in my mid-30s, and only started publishing this year. ” She admits she was evidently trying on some level to compensate for the earlier lack. She has published four books in 2020 and a fifth is ready to come out in January 2021.

Nat Edwards“That said, I’ve done a few jobs that are fiction writing-adjacent: I’ve worked as a copy-writer and copy-editor, taught media and communications at university and college level during and after grad school, and now run a semiotics and cultural insight agency, which involves producing a fair number of written reports for clients.”

In terms of fiction… “I write predominantly crime and horror.” The horror tends to feature a lot of grisly death and mythical creatures (though she’s currently working on what’s rapidly evolving into a sort of cosmic splatter Western), and the crime tends to be more heist-focused. “I’ve just wrapped up a trilogy about a gang of London-based con artists, though even they ended up populated with more than their fair share of serial killers and sociopaths, which suggests I can’t get away from horror, whatever genre I’m writing in!”

Edwards promised a friend that she would try her hand at a romantic comedy sometime in 2021—”though I think we both secretly know there’ll be at least one murder in there somewhere, if I do.”

“Possibly the other thing that characterizes what I write is its queerness,” she says. “I have a lot of very strong opinions about increasing the visibility of LGBT+ characters in fiction, especially lesbian characters—so queers tend to pop up in central roles in almost everything I write, and I suspect always will. They’re not always pleasant, but they’re always there, and not just on the peripheries.”

Are there any new authors that have captured your interest? Why?

God, so many! From the horror community, I absolutely love Hailey Piper, Laurel Hightower, Steph Ellis, Kev Harrison, Ross Jeffery, Wayne Fenlon, Alyson Faye, Zachary Ashford, Sonora Taylor, and a hundred others—all fantastic writers and incredible people. E(dward) Lorn is a gifted writer, terrifyingly prolific and a wonderful human being to boot. Quite honestly, though, every one of the horror guys I’ve come to know over the last year has been prodigiously talented. Getting to know them has really been one of the highlights of an otherwise quite dismal 2020.

Beyond horror/dark fiction, I’ve been loving Lucy Bexley and Bryce Oakley, who write lesfic, and am excited to see where they go next—especially since they’ve already released one horror/lesfic crossover.

What authors did you dislike at first but grew into? Have they impacted the way you write now?

I wish I could say there were some! My undergrad degree was in English Lit, and I suspect I was slightly inoculated against taking any real pleasure in some of the “classics” I had to study. (Looking at you, anglophone novels of the mid to late eighteenth century.) That said: A lot of the MR James and Robert Aickman I’ve read has left me cold—but I’m conscious of how much of an impact they’ve had on a lot of the writers I love and admire, from King onwards. So when the opportunity arises, I’ll probably give them both another go.

What do you see as the biggest differences between horror and crime fiction? Where do the genres intersect in your work?

In practical terms, the sort of crime fiction I write (labyrinthine mysteries with a lot of twists and turns) tends to need slightly more rigorous plotting than the horror fic. (Though I’m an assiduous plotter anyway, so I kind of like it.)

In terms of the content itself, there’s often a huge overlap. The horror novels and stories I’ve written tend to have elements of mystery/thriller, and the crime stuff often gets quite dark. So I don’t necessarily consider them radically different beasts. (To the extent that I now slightly regret using a pseudonym to separate one from the other!)

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Finding time to do it! I run a business, have two young kids (one pre-school) and not a lot of spare time to play with—to actually being able to sit down somewhere quiet to just write can sometimes be a challenge. Thankfully, I think it actually helps here that I’m a plotter: I rarely write anything without a full outline in front of me, so I don’t often lose time worrying about what comes next and how I’ll get there.   

What are common traps for aspiring writers? Are these things you’ve overcome in your own writing?

I wouldn’t want to comment—I’m probably still stuck in them myself!

Has COVID affected your writing routine this year? If so, how?

As for a lot of people, the primary impact has been on the amount of time I’ve had free to write at all. The kids have been in the house a lot more, since a lot of nurseries and schools here have been closed and classes quarantined, so I’ve been spending more time on childcare and trying to juggle that with my day job. And previously, I traveled quite a lot for work, so was able to do bits and pieces of writing on longer train and plane journeys—which obviously hasn’t been possible this year.

On the other hand, I’ve spent a lot less time commuting back and forth between cities so probably have more time at home in front of the laptop than before.  

What does literary success look like to you, Nat? What goals do you have to reach that aim in 2021?

2020 has been in some ways oddly wonderful in terms of writing. It’s been incredible publishing books and seeing people I love and respect read and enjoy them. So my primary goal is to keep writing and to keep producing publishable fiction that people will want to read.

Beyond that… I love my day job, so I wouldn’t necessarily want to give it up, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find the idea of writing full-time (or even part-time) quite attractive.

Are there any recurring messages in your work that you want readers to grasp?

There are definitely recurring themes and ideas. Queerness, obviously—and perhaps difference more generally—and what that means in terms of the social construction of identity. I’m very interested in social/cultural environments and technologies as determinants of individual and group behavior, so both of those probably crop up often too.

And, probably more specifically, I’m fascinated by what Marc Augé calls non-places and what Foucault calls heterotopias: spaces in which the conventional rules of conduct and behavior, and even conventional understandings of things like time, are temporarily suspended, and where—therefore—unexpected things might happen. So places like airports and transit zones, hotels, hospitals, prisons, abandoned buildings, shopping malls, even casinos (and probably Vegas as a whole, come to think of it). These sorts of heterotopic spaces lend themselves well to horror especially, I think. It’s probably not a coincidence that so much horror fiction plays out in them.   

Tell us about your current project.

I’ve just started writing the horror Western, with the first two chapters down and twenty or so more to write. I suspect it’ll net out at something like novella length, though I tend to write long, so who knows?

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Mostly… if you’ve read anything I’ve written: thank you. I’m exceptionally grateful, and honestly still a little stunned that people actually sit down and read things I write. It’s the best feeling in the world, knowing that the weird ideas that live inside your head have taken on a life of their own in other people’s.

Follow Natalie Edwards/TC Parker at https://www.tcparkerwrites.com/ and on Twitter @WritesTC.

You can find crime written as Natalie Edwards on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Natalie-Edwards/e/B08BXZLJL6/.

For horror written as TC Parker, on Amazon, go to https://www.amazon.com/T-C-Parker/e/B08CGLZPFW/.

Published books:

As Natalie Edwards (Crime)As TC Parker (Horror)
The Debt
The Push
The Remembrance (coming January 2021)
Saltblood
A Press of Feathers

Nat Edwards books

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Interview: Zachary Ashford, Horror Writer

Zachary Ashford was born in England but now makes Australia his home. He grew up in the Brisbane area and still lives there.

“I’m a teacher,” he says, “but in the past I’ve been a copywriter, sub-editor, and radio creative, so I’ve always had a background in writing.”

Ashford started to take writing seriously in 2018 and had a couple of stories published. “Most of what I’ve had published so far has been of the creature-feature variety. I’ve seen it called ‘splatter,’ but that’s not really a genre I’m super familiar with—I just like a good monster story that goes for the throat and splashes on the gore.” Indeed.

Zachary Ashford

When did you first start writing? How did that develop to where you are now?

I guess like everyone, it started while I was in school. I always knew I wanted to write fiction but didn’t really do too much of it. I was a real procrastinator in that respect.

I studied a minor in creative writing at university and wrote a few small things, but it was more just something I always wanted to do. I had some ideas but never put them to paper until I decided I should actually apply myself and make it happen back in 2018.

The first story I wrote was “Blood Memory,” and that found its way into Dark Moon Digest. My first solo release was the Demain Publishing book The Encampment by the Gorge and Blood Memory.

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?

Yeah, for sure. I think everyone experiences emotions differently, and the best stories are the ones that are full of empathy, but absolutely.

How important is research to you when writing a book or story?

It depends. Like everyone, I’ll flick for small bits of research, but I really just want most of what I do to be fun, and if a few truths get bent for the sake of moving the plot along, I’m not too fussed. Obviously, some things require research, but I certainly don’t invest hours—I just do a bit of reading, watch some YouTube videos, and move on.

Tell me about your writing style. How does it differ from other writers’?

I hope that it flies off the page. I’m a big fan of metal music, and I love trying to capture that same energy in my stories.

I think my two novellas (one coming out soon) and my upcoming Demain story are humorous, but I also like to think I have range. Some of what I’ve written has been quite serious in nature (even if it’s over the top).

What books have influenced your life the most?

Tough question. I’m a huge fan of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. It’s probably my all-time favorite, but then I love The Old Man and the Sea, Frankenstein, Lord of the Flies.

Is your family or significant other supportive of your writing? If so, who’s the most supportive?

My wife is amazing. She’s very patient when I’m trying to pump out some work, and she’s always the first to tell me whether a story is any good or not. I think my kids think it’s pretty cool, but sometimes when I show them the books, they’re just like, “Oh, yeah.”

How do you see writing? As a hobby or a passion or a job?

I’d love it to be a job, but I have a pretty good career as a teacher—and that takes up a LOT of time. At the moment it’s a passion. I’ve been fortunate enough to have some books released, and they seem to have reviewed well. It’s got me on a couple of podcasts and things, but it certainly hasn’t made me any money! One day, I hope.

What is that one thing you think readers generally don’t know about your specific genre?

Oh, man, that’s hard. Horror fans are a pretty knowledgeable bunch. They’re like metalheads. They’re really passionate about their genre, and they know the history. I think most readers know all there is to know, especially if they read wider than Stephen King.

Is there any advice you would like to give to aspiring writers?

Just keep writing. Don’t self-reject. You have to back yourself and promote yourself. Others won’t do it for you.

Tell us about your current project.

At the moment I’m making some changes to a novella for a publisher who’s asked me to tweak some things for them. They’re a bit of a dream publisher, and they’re holding a slot for it, so hopefully I don’t screw it up.

After that, I’ve got a really cool idea for an alien sci-fi/horror that I’m gonna play with. I’m also 50,000 words into another novel that’s been kicking my arse for a while now. I’ll need to finish that up sooner rather than later as well.

As for releases, I have two coming up in the early months of this year—one for Demain and another novella for a rad publisher I’ve worked with before—that are yet to be announced.

You can learn more about Zachary Ashford at http://zacharyashford.com. Follow him on Twitter  @Ashford_Zachary. Peruse his Amazon author page at https://www.amazon.com.au/Zachary-Ashford/e/B087LV2SQP/.

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Interview: Eric Raglin, Horror Author

SubscribeEric Raglin is a writer and horror educator from Nebraska. He’s been writing since he was in elementary school, but “only seriously started paying attention to writing craft in the past few years,” he says. Most of Eric’s stories are horror, weird fiction, or some variation of speculative.

Eric, when did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was in fifth grade, but I’ve only taken serious steps to make that happen in the past couple years. Having a few publications out there has fueled that desire further.

Eric Raglin Do you recall the first ever novel you read?

The first novel I remember reading was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. As a kid, I went to many Barnes & Noble midnight releases for the Harry Potter books. It was always an event, and I wish there were more book events like that today.

Whose work do you enjoy reading the most?

I’m not sure I could narrow that down to just one writer, but Livia Llewellyn’s prose never ceases to amaze me. It crackles with energy, weirdness, and emotion.

Do you have a set schedule for writing, or are you one of those who write only when they feel inspired?

I try to write for at least thirty minutes a day, but other than that, I don’t have a set schedule. I tend to write a lot more on the weekends when I have more time and energy.

Do you aim to complete a set number of pages or words each day?

I don’t keep track of the number of words I write each day, but I shoot to complete a short story roughly once every two weeks. If I’m managing that, I consider it a success.

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Most of the time writing energizes me. However, there are some stories that don’t come as easily as others, and those ones tend to give me headaches. Thankfully, that’s rare.

Do you hide any secrets in your stories that only a few people will find?

Sometimes I’ll model characters off of real-life people. When those characterizations are less than flattering, I disguise the character so their real-life inspiration won’t find out.

If you had to do something differently as a child or teenager to become a better writer as an adult, what would you do?

I would have joined Twitter sooner. I know that sounds silly, but I’ve found some great writing friends, beta readers, and inspirations through the website even if it is a hellish place at times.

Over the years, what would you say has improved significantly in your writing?

I’m generally good at accepting feedback and making changes accordingly. More often than not, the people who give me feedback have solid judgment. Taking their words seriously has helped me hone aspects of my writing craft that otherwise would have been neglected.

Tell us about your current project, Eric.

I’m currently co-editing ProleSCARYet: Tales of Horror and Class Warfare. It’s an anti-capitalist horror anthology that should be out in May 2021. I’m also revising Nightmare Yearnings, my collection of weird, queer horror stories. That should come out in September 2021.

You can learn more about Eric Raglin at his website: http://www.ericraglin.com/

Follow Eric on Twitter at @ericraglin1992 and @CursedMorsels, his podcast with interviews and discussions about horror short stories.

Scene Structure: Understanding Turning Points

Turning PointEvery scene needs conflict. And every scene must “turn.” Here’s some insight about the turning point, a crucial ingredient of every scene.

What’s a Scene?

A scene is a discrete story segment in which your characters engage in conflict and take significant actions that you portray memorably as if the events were happening in real time. Robert McKee in his seminal STORY recommends that every scene be a story event. And every scene must “turn.”

What’s at Stake for Your Character?

SubscribeA scene is like a story in miniature: it has a beginning, middle, and end. “No matter locations or length,” says McKee, “a scene is unified around desire, action, conflict, and change.”

A scene begins with a problem or goal that’s based on some value at stake in your character’s life at the moment. What’s at stake? Love? Truth? Safety? Honor? Justice? Meaningfulness? Action genres turn on values such as freedom/slavery or justice/injustice. Educational stories turn on interior values such as self-awareness/self-deception or life as meaningful/meaningless.

In chapter 1 of THE SIXTH SEED, my protagonist Tom Furst’s freedom is at stake, both personal and financial.

Examine each of your scenes and identify what’s at stake for your character.

What’s Your Character’s Objective?

Tom’s goal is based on a desire to change the current state of his freedom.

In each scene your character pursues an immediate, short-term desire. This scene goal must be sub-goal of his or her greater story objective. In a scene, your character goes after this scene goal by enduring conflict or opposition to make a decision or take a specific action.

The scene portrays this push and pull. The process is built on beats, individual units of action and reaction. Your character says, “Stop doing that.” The opposition says, “I won’t.” Beat by beat, this dance of behaviors escalates progressively. The last beat must end with a turning point.

Deliver the Unexpected

In this process of mounting action/reaction between your characters, their conflict produces a big reaction that your character failed to anticipate. McKee explains that:

The effect is to crack open the gap between expectation and result, turning his outer fortunes, inner life, or both from the positive to the negative or the negative to the positive in terms of values the audience understands are at risk.

Your character asks, “Why won’t you stop doing that? It’s hurting me.” The scene antagonist replies, “Because your best friend likes what I’m doing. And I’m in love with him.” BAM!

In this way, a scene creates change in a minor yet significant way. So how do you set this up?

Polarity Must Change

Polarity must change.Once you’ve highlighted the core issue, state the charge of that value at the start of the scene: positive or negative.

For example, with Tom Furst in THE SIXTH SEED, the value of freedom at the start of chapter 1 is negative. He’s between a rock and a hard place and needs to increase his freedom to gain some financial breathing room. His goal is to undergo a vasectomy (a procedure so intense you have to read it for yourself!), a small step in gaining that freedom back—or so he thinks.

Your characters begin the scene with two things: the current charge (+/-) of their core value at stake, and their immediate goal. Then, they:

  • Encounter the opposition (who also has a goal and value of their own)
  • Engage in conflict (exchange escalating behavior beats)
  • Finally experience an outcome

This outcome is the turning point of the scene—the moment where your character’s value changes polarity.

The effects of turning points, according to McKee, include: surprise, increased curiosity, insight, and new direction. The turning point provides new information and a goal for the next scene.

At the end of the scene, what is the state of your POV character’s value? Is it positive, negative, or both? Compare the charge at the beginning and the end. If the value doesn’t change polarity, then why is the scene is in your narrative? McKee points out:

If the value-charged condition of the character’s life stays unchanged from one end of a scene to the other, nothing meaningful has happened; it is a nonevent. If a scene is not a true event, cut it. If the scene is only there for exposition, it needs more justification. Every scene must turn.

Story Structure

How to Make Your Scenes Turn

Craft your scenes using the following process:

  1. Begin with a value at stake in your character’s life. Base a scene goal on that value. (You could also start with the goal and discover the value at stake.)
  2. Determine the motivation and goal of your scene’s opposition. (Your antagonistic force cannot exist merely to give your character an ass-pain.)
  3. Over the course of the scene, challenge and threaten the state of that value through conflict between your character and the opposition. Beats should escalate logically and progressively (not leap a chasm from rationality to absurdity or from laxity to high tension).
  4. Determine the final beat that is the turning point, the reaction that bears the fruit of surprise, increased curiosity, insight, or new direction.
  5. Evaluate whether the beat process and turning point have changed the polarity of your character’s value. If not, keep working.
  6. What is the outcome of the turning point—the surprise, curiosity, insight, or new direction? This is the starting point for your next scene in this plot line.

Note: If you’re a pre-plotter or outliner, you might find it useful to map the value/goal/turning point/outcome for each scene to ensure that your scenes are linked logically in a greater chain of cause-and-effect over the course of the narrative. Just as beats escalate to a turning point in each scene, so do scenes escalate to major turning points or reversals in the broader narrative.

SubscribeTest this process by analyzing scenes from well-written books. Apply the process to your own scenes. If you find it helpful, I’d love to hear from you. Please like this post and subscribe. And spread the word!


Building Your Horrific Monster

What makes for an effective monster in a horror story? Noel Carroll in his dissertation, The Philosophy of Horror (Routledge, 1990), asserts that a proper monster must be both threatening and impure.

Broader scopes of fiction seek to induce fear in the reader. But Carroll states:Philosophy of Horror by Noel Carroll

…[T]he character’s emotional reaction to the monstrous in horror stories is not merely a matter of fear…. Rather, threat is compounded with revulsion, nausea, and disgust. …[T]he tendency in horror novels and stories [is] to describe monsters in terms of and to associate them with filth, decay, deterioration, slime, and so on. … The monster is not only lethal, but also disgusting. (p. 22)

Is Your Monster Threatening?

The monster in horror fiction must be threatening—physically, psychologically, socially, morally, spiritually—or all of the above. It must be able to hurt your body, your mind, your relationships, your conscience, or your soul.

If you’re working on a story of your own, consider the following exercises, helpful in the planning stage.

Build Your Threatening Monster

Describe how your monster is threatening to your characters in one of more of the following ways:

  • Physically
  • Psychologically
  • Socially
  • Morally
  • Spiritually

Is Your Monster Impure?

MonsterThe horror monster must also be impure. What do we consider impure? Anything that “violates the generally accepted schemes of cultural categorization.” We consider impure that which is categorically contradictory, such as:

  • The categorically ambiguous: amphibians (they both swim and hop, can exist both in water and out of water)
  • Incomplete representatives of their class: rotting things, things not fully formed, things with parts missing (think Invasion of the Body Snatchers)
  • Formless things: dirt, blobs, fog

More Carroll categories of the categorically contradictory (what a horrific tongue twister!) include:

  • Fusion: Disparate entities fused into one stable being. Example: The spider-like erector-set creature with the bald, one-eyed doll’s head in Toy Story.
  • Fission: Disparate entities that change into and back from something horrible at different times (or a multiple figure being whose identities are opposite). Example: Werewolves and other shape-shifters. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
  • Magnification: Enlargement. Example: Giant people, giant sharks (Jaws), giant animals.
  • Massification: Hordes. Unnaturally large numbers of something dangerous or relatively harmless. Example: Jellyfish in the movie Sphere. Birds. Rats. Locusts. Snakes. Spiders in Arachnophobia. Zombies. Vampires in I Am Legend.
  • Metonymy: Something not revolting in itself associated with things that are. Example: The rats and wolves that attend Dracula.

Build Your Impure Monster

Describe how your monster is impure in one or more of the following ways:

  • Categorically ambiguous
  • An incomplete representation of its class
  • Formless

List and describe how you could use any of the following techniques to besmirch your monster:

  • Fusion (disparate entities fused into one stable being)
  • Fission (disparate entities that change at different times, or a multiple figure being whose identities are opposite)
  • Magnification (enlargement)
  • Massification (hordes of something dangerous or relatively harmless)
  • Metonymy (something not revolting in itself associated with things that are)

Fire Up the Tesla Coils!

To give life to your horrific monster, you must build it from the right parts. Your monster must be regarded as BOTH: 1) threatening, and 2) impure.

If it is only threatening, then the emotion is fear. If it is only impure, the emotion is disgust. But, if both, the emotion is horror! (p. 28)

We’ll talk more about the philosophy horror in future posts. You’ve been warned…


Writing Update

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted, so I thought you deserved an update.The Surefire Method of Growing Rich

I’ve been hard at work this year writing non-fiction.

I recently released The Surefire Method of Growing Rich, a metaphysical guide to living the abundant life.

Response to a Concerned Heterosexual ChristianThis month I’ll be coming out with a trade paperback version of Response to a Concerned Heterosexual Christian, which is newly updated for Kindle.

I’m also working on a biblical study of everything the Bible has to say about Sodom and Gomorrah, as well as a biography/social commentary on a hippie evangelist from the Jesus Movement, Lonnie Frisbee.

You must admit, I’m eclectic.

I’ll keep you posted as things get published. In the meantime, thanks for your support!

I still love reviews on Amazon and Goodreads!