Posts Tagged ‘editing’

Today I wanted to talk about something that is becoming much more common in fiction these days, and that’s the twist villain. If you’re unfamiliar, a twist villain is when one character in a story seems to be the villain, but later on it’s revealed that another character, usually a character we thought was a good guy, is actually the villain. This twist villain is supposed to be a surprise, something you didn’t see coming while reading the story. Hence the name “twist villain.” The problem is, the twist villain is becoming such a common trope these days. In the past couple years, we’ve seen it in Disney films like Zootopia and Frozen; popular novels like Gone Girl and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban; a couple of recent superhero films; and more than I can possibly name in this blog post. And when so many works of fiction are using the twist villain, we become used to not only seeing the trope but also the signs that a twist villain is going to be used (and trust me, there are signs), and then when we see the twist villain, we’re not very surprised. Heck, sometimes we even predict who the villain is well before it’s revealed.

Why is this trope becoming so popular? Simple: people want a good story. Good stories produce good memories and good profits. As standard stories of good vs. evil have been done to death, creators need to think of new stories and story elements to keep consumers interested in their work. One way to do that is a third-act twist, which when done right can really enhance a story. And a twist villain can be a very good third-act twist, if you’re careful with it.

Sadly, I find that a lot of creators aren’t careful with their twist villains, making the twist ineffective when it happens. Which is sad, because I love the idea of a twist villain. Heck, it’s one I might use in the future, if I haven’t used it already. A good twist villain can make your mind reel, make you look back trough a story to see if there were any clues and make you marvel at the genius of the creators for setting up that twist so well.

A bad twist villain, on the other hand, just leaves you feeling neutral at best (my reaction during Zootopia) and disappointed at worst (my reaction looking back on Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed). Which is why I’ve come up with a few tips for writing an effective twist villain. With any luck, these tips will help other authors (and myself) avoid making a bad twist villain.

1. Does your story really need a twist villain? Any time you want to include something in a story, ask yourself if it’s really needed. I swear, so many stories just add in elements that aren’t needed (*cough* lots of stuff from BvS *cough*). Ask yourself if your story can stand on its own without any of the extra elements. If it doesn’t, DON’T FORCE IT IN! Especially with twist villains.

2. If you’re going to leave clues behind, don’t make them obvious. You can have a twist villain without leaving a trail (Hans from Frozen, for example), but with twist villains, creators often like to leave little hints of who the real villain is. I think this is narcissism on our part; we like to show how clever we are. But that leads to us leaving some rather obvious clues, which our readers/viewers will pick up on and deduce the twist long before the twist occurs. Take Scooby-Doo 2: it was so obvious that the reporter was the villain! Why else would they include a reporter with poor ethical practices unless she was at least in league with the villains?

3. Have a good herring villain. A herring villain is just that: a herring to keep us off the real villain. In Frozen, the herring villain was the Duke of Weselton. He had obvious malicious goals, is willing to kill Elsa, and he was over-the-top, which felt right for a villain in this movie. Imagine our surprise when we find out he’s not the true villain, but Hans, who had no trail leading to him and was such a nice guy up till that reveal! A good herring villain will often lead to a great twist villain reveal.

Compare that to Zootopia or Wonder Woman: the former doesn’t give us a herring villain, which causes us to consider each character and eventually land on Ms. Bellwether, who has said some interesting things and has actually benefited from these events. The latter gives us a herring villain, but it’s a comic book movie, and the General doesn’t do a thing to make us think he’s a famous DC villain we’re very sure will make an appearance.

In short, have a herring villain, and make sure they’re set up in a way where people will actually consider them as the main villain, so the twist will actually be effective. To do that, be aware of what sort of story you’re writing. Often the story will have certain requirements for villains (motive, opportunity, etc), so make it seem like the herring villain has those. You’ll find your herring villain much more effective.

4. Do the reveal earlier than the third act. A lot of twist villains reveal themselves in the third act. Nothing wrong with this, but it’d also work if the reveal was done earlier. For example, Hydra was revealed as the villain in Captain America: Winter Soldier in the second act, and that was a really interesting twist, as we hadn’t expected it. If they’d done it later in the story, we might have actually figured it out by then, or there wouldn’t be enough time for exposition mixed with a great climax. So consider doing the reveal elsewhere.

5. Try a variation on the trope. The twist villain, like most tropes, has a standard formula: something happens, one character seems like the villain, but another character is revealed at the third act to be the villain and why. Oh, and it’s usually not the protagonist.

Variations on common tropes have proven to be very effective in storytelling, so try something a little different with the twist villain, like these examples below:

  • It’s a villain, but which one? In Doctor Who series 8, we’re introduced to a character named Missy, who seems likely to be a villain, but we’re not sure what her deal is if she is. In the second-to-last episode, she explains that Missy is short for Mistress, making her a female regeneration of the Master, a well-known DW villain. A lot of minds were blown that day, believe me. The idea is you can introduce a seemingly new character into a long-running story, and then link them back to a previously-established character. Trust me, it works.
  • Everyone’s the villain! Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express ends with every suspect actually having some sort of hand in the murder. It made the novel a sensation back in the day, because it was a seemingly impossible idea, but it worked. So try something impossible and make it possible: everyone’s a villain, no ones’ the villain, or even two very good suspects with alibis both committed the murder. It could work.
  • The hero? American Horror Story: Hotel is my favorite season of the series, and this twist is one reason why. The protagonist, a police detective, is on the hunt for a serial killer, only to find out in the second half of the season that he’s the killer! Trust me, I did not see that coming until the reveal episode, and only by a few minutes! So making a hero or a character who nobody thinks of as a possible villain the villain can work very well.

And these are just some examples of variations that have worked in the past.

Twist villains are a trope that won’t go away anytime soon, but as long as we have them, we should write them as well as we write any other type of character or trope. Because if we’re not going to give people our best, then what are we actually giving them?

What are your thoughts on twist villains? What are some good tips for writing them well?

You may have heard me speak of the Five Nights at Freddy’s video game franchise about a haunted pizzeria filled with killer animatronics before on this blog (if you’re unfamiliar with what that is and want a quick lesson to know what I’m talking about, click HERE), including the novel released about two years ago, Five Nights at Freddy’s: The Silver Eyes, that’s part of the franchise’s lore (click HERE for my review of that novel). I find the franchise itself fascinating, though I did not care for the novel that was produced from it, finding it cliched and predictable, as well as poorly edited. So when I heard that a sequel to the novel, Five Nights at Freddy’s: The Twisted Ones, was coming out, I was skeptical. Could this be an improvement? Or would it just be terrible? I decided to get a copy and find out.

And if you’re a huge fan of the franchise or whatever, don’t expect me to delve deeply into the lore and try to figure out the exact mythology of the game. I’ll leave that to the people on the Game Theorists channel on YouTube. No, I’m going to evaluate the novel as a novel: how it was written, if it was scary, how good the plot and the characters are, and what could’ve been fixed or improved. Why? Because that’s what I do here.

So, FNAF: The Twisted Ones takes place not too long after the events of the first novel. Charlie, the protagonist of The Silver Eyes,  is at college learning about robotics and trying to sort out all the things that have happened in her past. However, a series of murders that can only have been caused by the sentient animatronic suits from Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria draws Charlie, as well as her friend Jessica, old flame John, and hometown sheriff Clay into a bizarre nightmare, with more mysteries to uncover and an old enemy out for blood.

Was it any better than the first book?

Well, it did have some improvements. For one thing, The Twisted Ones is edited much better than The Silver Eyes. You can tell that franchise creator Scott Cawthon and writer Kira Breed-Wrisley took their time making sure the grammar, spelling and punctuation was up to scratch, as well as ensuring that the indentation wasn’t all over the place. There was also way more animatronic action, something that was sorely missing from the first book. And I have to admit, the plot was somewhat unpredictable, with the final third–especially the climax–being actually a bit of a whirlwind in how it gripped and held onto you. And there were new elements introduced into the story that actually did shed a little light on the franchise (I won’t go into them here, but observant readers should be able to put the pieces together).

However, there were a number of things I didn’t like about the book. For one, these characters feel even flatter than they did in the first book. In the first, they were just given enough characterization to carry along a slasher movie, but those characters that have come back feel even less like actual people. The exception might be Charlie, but most of her character is fretting over the events of her past rather than getting to know her and see her grow as a character. Speaking of characters, I also found the character of Arty totally unnecessary. He’s introduced as this classmate/friend of Charlie’s and a possible rival to John, but he’s only in about two percent of the story, and he doesn’t contribute anything. If you took him out of the story, it seriously wouldn’t make a difference. I wonder why he was even in the story in the first place.

I also found Charlie’s obsession with her past and her brother coming across as melodramatic. You can have a character affected by a horrible experience that exposes a lot about their past, but here it felt almost corny in how over-the-top the emphasis was. Please, can we scale back on that? Surely there’s more to this character than “Oh, my past is so tragic! I’ll live my life around my dark and horrible past!”

The next book. Hopefully it’s good.

But the biggest thing that I didn’t like was that during one scene about two-thirds of the way through the book, the scene is set in Charlie’s dorm room. A few paragraphs later, however, they’re in the car, and it’s such a sudden transition. How sudden, you ask? Imagine in a Marvel movie, Nick Fury and Captain America are talking in a hangar bay in one frame, and in the next they’re in an open field, but none of the characters notice the change. It’s that sudden, and it’s very sloppy.

Still, The Twisted Ones is a better novel than The Silver Eyes. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving this book a 3.0, an improvement of 0.4. The characters aren’t that interesting and there are problems with the book, but I honestly prefer it. Though you can’t get me to love this series, and I honestly would like Cawthon to stick to video games. Just being honest.

Speaking of which, Cawthon is releasing a new book late next month titled The Freddy Files, which is supposed to go over game mechanics and even answer the complex lore of the series. I might read that, but I honestly don’t know if I want to. Not only that, but I’m pretty sure Cawthon’s going to release a third book in the franchise at some point. Like I said, I wish he wouldn’t, but with any luck, he’ll take another year and a half to release his next book, enough time to improve his next literary venture by another 0.4 or more.

Anything’s possible, especially when killer animatronics are involved.

I actually almost missed this milestone. I was going to bed Saturday evening, and I was like, “Wait a minute, that’s Monday! Note to self: write a blog post in the morning after cleaning the bathroom.” And now that the bathroom is squeaky clean (as well as the kitchen, which also needed a touch up), I’m taking the time to talk about this milestone and ask myself, “Has it really been four years? Blimey, it feels longer.”

So if you don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, here goes: about five years ago, during my sophomore year of college, I started putting together a collection of short stories. I was still editing Reborn City at the time, and I wanted to have something to work on while the editing process of that took its time, as well as something to release and test the waters of self-publishing. A short story collection felt like a good idea. So I wrote five scary stories in about a couple of months, edited them and had other writers/horror fans look at them, and designed a cover. On July 17th, 2013, I published The Quiet Game: Five Tales to Chill Your Bones on Amazon and Smashwords, later putting them on Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and Kobo.

The five stories in the book are: Addict, about a man dealing with trying to kick his sex addiction; I’m Going to be the Next James Bond, about a bunch of kids who go to an abandoned hospital to hunt for ghosts; In the Lady Ogre’s Den, about an autistic child’s stay in a hospital; The Quiet Game, about a Catholic school that finds itself cut off from the world and deaf all of a sudden; and Samson Weiss’s Curse, about a senator being stalked by a spirit known as a dybbuk.

This has been by far my most commercially successful book, not only because it’s been out the longest, but because it’s a very quick read, and costs less than my other books do, e-book and paperback. People who might not necessarily want a long read see this little collection of short stories, and that it’s received positive reviews, and they’re like, “Okay, let’s check it out.” For the most part, people love it. So for someone still growing an audience, that’s a pretty good achievement.

Speaking of reviews, this is also my most reviewed work. I think that the reasons for that are the same ones for why this has been my most commercial work to date. And as I said previously, it’s had some pretty good reviews, with a score of 4.1 on Amazon based on 14 reviews. Here’s what people have been saying about the book:

5 wonderfully crafted tales! I purchased this as an eBook originally and put off reading it for quite a while, I really wish I hadn’t waited. Sometimes when one purchases a collection of short stories you expect some of them to be less entertaining or of lower quality than the others, but none of these disappoint. Well worth the money, especially considering after you read each story the author gives you creative insight into what inspired him to write each tale, which is really wonderful.

–Jeff D.

This is not my genre, but since I know the author [:-)], I read the stories. Each one was very unique and created its own atmosphere and mood. My favorite story was the Quiet Game but I found the ending a little confusing since I didn’t really know the literary reference at the end; what I loved was the world created in the story and the message it conveyed. I look forward to the author’s improving his craft, and I will certainly read more.

–Gefilte63

Imagine if you will a young Stephen King penning dark scenarios inspired by his youth, and what you get is this anthology. Through this collection of short stories, Rami Ungar brings us into the world of dark urges, childhood traumas, ghosts, phantoms, and dark psychological thrillers. An inspired creation, and definitely a good intro to this indie author’s world!

–Matt Williams, author of “The Cronian Incident”

I especially like that last one calling me a young Stephen King. Always love being compared to him.

If any of this makes you want to read The Quiet Game or check out more reviews, I’ll include the links for the book below. An if you do end up reading the book, please make sure to leave a review. Positive or negative, I love feedback, and it helps me out in the long run.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I may have a new review out tonight, so keep an eye out for that. Until then, have a good one.

The Quiet Game: Amazon, Createspace, Barnes & Noble, iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo

My good friend Kat Impossible from Life and Other Disasters (definitely check her out) tagged me for the 777 Challenge! Normally I don’t get tagged for these things, and when I do, I don’t always have the time for them. However, Kat only tags me for something if she thinks it’s up my alley, and it not only sounded fun to do, but it’s something I’m in a unique position to do because I’m currently working on something and I’m at a stage where I want to showcase something from it. That story, to be a bit more precise, is Rose, whose first chapter I just finished editing the other day (20 more to go!).

So what does one do when they are tagged for the 777 Challenge? Well, simple enough: share 7 lines from the 7th page of your WIP! They can be completely random if you want, it’s your story. Also, you can use a fun little graphic, like the one I created up above (it’ a skull made of shoes! How could I not use that?), but I’m pretty sure that’s optional.

So without further ado, here are some random lines from Rose, currently in its third draft:

  1. There’s another angry pulse, but that’s all that happens.
  2. My nails are turning a deep shade of pink as I stare at them, while the skin around them is turning light green, the skin tingling where it changes color.
  3. I blink, my eyes itching, and I know without having to look that they’ve turned green as well.
  4. “What the hell are these?” says the man, drawing my attention back to him.
  5. Maybe he’s just as scared as I am.
  6. Soon everything below the shoulders feels like it’s buzzing with electricity, until the green coloring climbs up my neck and spreads over my face.
  7. I wonder if whatever’s happening is over.

What did you think of that?

So now I have to tag some others and pass the challenge along. And I know just which three authors to challenge:

Check out their websites, because they’re awesome. Also make sure to link back to me if you decide to do the challenge, guys. I’d appreciate it.

That’s all for now. I hope you liked what you read and I hope my friends are willing to try this out. Until next time!

I wanted to get at least one more blog post out before I go off to Boston (spoiler alert: the trip is imminent), and because I didn’t have time to watch and review a movie I’ve been wanting to see for a while, I thought I’d do another post about romance in fiction. Why? Because my last post on the subject did very well, well enough that a writing blog associated with Columbia College in Chicago listed that post in a Valentine’s Day-themed article last year (that’s staying power!), and because I’ve had some thoughts since then about the subject. And those thoughts revolve around this simple idea: for a romance story to be truly successful and compelling, there has to be a conflict of some sort. Let me explain:

A couple of months back, I tried watching this anime I discovered on Hulu. The idea for the series sounded interesting, it was a fantasy series with a big romance element, and it was loosely based on a popular fairy tale. I decided to try it (I’d found anime and manga I loved on less than that), and settled down to watch a few episodes. It had a good first episode…but then the problems set in. One of the major ones was that after the first episode, when it’s pretty obvious that the two leads are attracted to each other, there’s nothing really to make the romance aspect exciting. They just settle into this rhythm that says, “Oh yeah, eventually they’ll get together.” Nothing that came up really served as a threat to their relationship, and because the story’s main focus was the romance aspect, I kind of lost interest.

Thus this post. Every good fiction story has some sort of conflict, something for the protagonist(s) to overcome and aid them while they grow as people. These conflicts can be outer and/or inner conflicts. In Harry Potter, it’s Harry’s battle to stop Lord Voldemort and protect his friends. In Stephen King’s It, there’s a shapeshifting evil clown and the desire to hang onto childhood wonder while also accepting the inevitability of growing up. In When Marnie was There, it’s Anna accepting that she’s the one isolating herself, and that if she only comes out to people, they will accept her. In romance, it’s often the main couple realizing and struggling with their feelings for one another while something tries to keep them apart.

Every good story has a good central conflict.

I’ve read a few romance-heavy novels (not many, but some), as well as watched a few TV shows and taken in several anime and manga with strong romance storylines. What always makes them good or memorable to me is the journey for these characters to fall in love with each other and get together, and all that can potentially tear them apart. Without them, like in the anime mentioned above, the story quickly becomes boring. In The Mammoth Hunters by Jean Auel, the two main characters start out in a relationship, but they nearly lose it when a new suitor tries to sweep the female of the pair off her feet (the outer conflict), as well as the couple’s vastly different cultures/childhoods and their communication issues (the inner conflict). Part of what made that novel so exciting was watching those issues affect their relationship, feeling the mistrust, heartbreak, and anger this couple went through. It was thrilling, because you really felt for these characters and wanted to see them together in the end. And getting to that end and overcoming their issues in the process was what made the novel as a whole good.

Arata the Legend: great example of how a story can have a compelling romance without that being the main subject of the story.

But this post so far focuses on stories that are mainly romantic. What about stories where romance is secondary? Same concept applies. You see this a lot in manga and anime. Take Arata the Legend by Yuu Watase (highly recommend, by the way), for example. The story revolves around a teenager named Arata who ends up in an alternate universe, where he becomes a messiah figure in the process. Arata ends up traveling around the universe with a band of magical warriors to gather magic items and save both worlds, while also dealing with his own fears and insecurities. These are the main outer and inner conflicts of the story. However, a sub-conflict in the story revolves around a love triangle between Arata and two girls who travel with him, a warrior girl and a healer. Both are attracted to Arata, Arata’s attracted to one of them, and because of various misunderstandings and past experiences, they’re unable to be honest with one another with their feelings, genuinely thinking that one might be better with the other or that one doesn’t like the other. This subplot is a major ongoing part of the story, and one of the reasons I always look forward to new volumes coming out (waiting on #25 since August last year).

As you can see, a story with a romance but no challenge to that romance is more often than not less exciting than a romance with challenges to it. The exceptions, in my experience at least, would be stories where the romance is a minor element in comparison to other issues in the story (the anime Code Geass definitely comes to mind in that aspect. Also highly recommend that one), but if that’s the case, then the romance probably isn’t a big part of why you’re into this story, right?

But when a story’s romance is a major aspect of why people would want to check the story out, having a conflict would definitely make it a more interesting aspect of the story. Otherwise, all you’ve got is an anime where you’re just watching and waiting for these two obviously-attracted-to-each-other people to take that first step and kiss each other and that’s about it.

Life is rarely straightforward. That is a fact. People change, or their thoughts and feelings change, new paths open up in front of you, and your understanding of the world never fits in the box you want it to (that last one isn’t really relevant to what I’m going to talk about here, but I felt like stating it anyway). And my life and feelings have changed. I need a break from what I’m doing right now. I need to do something different if I’m to pursue my goals in life.

With that said, I need to shut down Rami Ungar the Writer. At least for a little while.

I’m kidding. But for a split second, you bought that. You did, and it worried you for a little bit.

No, what I really mean is that I need to take a break from Full Circle. A very long break.

You see, I’ve been working on that novel since November, eight months in total. And I’ve only taken some occasional breaks, each working on a couple of short stories, and then getting back into it. And you know what? I’m a little burnt out. Normally by this time, I’m already finished with the first draft, but I’m only a little over the halfway point. And when I think of getting into the next chapter, I’m filled with dread, because it’s likely going to be a long chapter, and I’ve been dealing with this story for eight months straight, and it has not been easy at times.

All writers get like this. Yeah, we do. There are times when we’ve devoted so much energy to a story, that we need a break if we’re to give it more and give it the energy it needs. And honestly, I’m at that point. It’s nothing I did wrong or anyone else did wrong. There’s nothing big in my life that’s making me super happy or super miserable, thus causing me to think, “I can’t work on finishing the Reborn City trilogy right now.” Nope, it’s just me needing some distance and the chance to work on something else. And I need a long something else. Because if I take on a project, and it only lasts a month at most, I won’t be ready to work on Full Circle again. I’d be ready to bang my head against a wall in frustration, but I wouldn’t be ready for FC again.

Which is why I have the perfect project:

Some of you may recall that during my last year of college, I wrote a novel called Rose as my thesis. The story was about a young woman with amnesia who starts transforming into a plant creature. And that may sound comical, but it’s actually pretty dark, exploring themes of dependence and abuse in romantic relationships, as well as how memory, truth, and falsehoods can shape not just our perceptions of others, but of ourselves. It was a challenging novel, to say the least, but I managed to get two drafts of it written between August 2014 and April 2015, and they turned out okay. I let it lie for a while when I was in Germany and during my job search, and tried working on it again after I moved into my new apartment and started my job. For a number of reasons, it didn’t go well. Mostly because I didn’t have a plan for editing it beyond, “Let’s sit down in front of the computer and see what happens.”

My new project: the third draft of Rose.

But since then, I figured out a plan to help me get along with editing in general (see my post on that on Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors. It has a similar opening to this blog post). I’ve also had plenty of time to think about changes I’d like to make to the story, and to the characters, and I’ve really been itching to take a crack at it again. And I’m pretty sure that, once I get another draft of Rose done, I’d be ready to send this story to an editor, and then maybe to an agent or publishing house.

So starting very soon, I’ll be taking another dive into Rose. It probably won’t happen until after I get back from Boston, but after that and I’ve done all the travelogues and checked my new digital recorder for ghost voices, you can bet that I’ll be working on my new project with gusto. Until then, Followers of Fear, wish me luck as I work on a couple new blog posts, and as I prepare myself mentally and emotionally for what will hopefully be a very successful third draft and a very refreshing break.

Pleasant nightmares!

There’s been a battle raging among horror fans and horror writers for years. A fierce battle with all the monsters, deaths, and mysterious disappearances that one can expect from such a group. This battle is played out in bookstores and on bestseller lists, in interviews with magazines and television hosts, and even on message boards (because this is the age of the Internet, so why not?). The debate is: which is better, horror stories where the supernatural is the cause, or where humans are the cause?

Surprise to say, this is an actual debate among fans of horror. What makes for a scarier story, one where the horror is caused by something supernatural, or when it is caused by a human like you or me?* Or perhaps some combination of the two? Each side has their own pros and cons, and depending on which you prefer, can have a huge influence on what you tend to read and, if you’re a creator, what you put out in the world. Authors themselves tend to deal in both kinds, but if you observe an author long enough, you start to notice their preferences. HP Lovecraft and Anne Rice seem to go more for horror, while Jack Ketchum likes human horror. His Royal Scariness Stephen King has a lot of supernatural forces in his work, but there’s definitely a partiality towards human-based horror. One needs only read Misery to see that. Even in his more supernatural stories, there are usually human characters who are only to happy to cause pain and death, whether of their own volition (Carrie’s mother and Chris Hargensen in Carrie) or under the influence of a much more powerful force (Henry Bowers and Tom Rogan in It).

A great example of supernatural horror.

So is there a better source for horror? Let’s take a look, starting with supernatural-based horror. Honestly, this one’s easy to explain the appeal: whether it’s been called Satan, Lilith, dark faeries, demons, yokai, or a hundred other names, humanity has been scared of some possible other out in the universe. Something greater than human beings, possibly very malevolent, and ultimately difficult to understand. The only way to survive is to run, placate the monster, or find some way to fight back, and the last one often comes at a high death toll. There’s also greater room for imagination with supernatural stories. You can take forces right out of mythology, use them as they’re typically portrayed, or change up their mythologies. Sometimes you even come up with original creatures, like Stephen King’s Langoliers or the entity formerly known as It. There’s a lot of freedom and potential in supernatural based horror.

On the other hand, there’s a chance that you can fall into a trap of relying too much on a mythical creature’s established mythology. And if you try to create something original, you find it’s extremely difficult to do so. Not only that, but with something non-human, there’s the risk that, unlike a human villain, the reader will have difficulty connecting with them. Some readers really enjoy connecting with villains, which in this instance makes Cthulhu a bad villain choice.

My own human-based horror.

Human-based horror, on the other hand, is a lot more personal, and very true to life. Despite our lofty ideals of goodness and perfection, one needs only look at the news to know that humanity is capable of dark thoughts and acts.  Human-based horror taps into that, delving deep into what humanity is capable of without a supernatural cause or encouragement, as well as how characters and we the audience react to it. It’s a powerful, visceral way to tell a story, and is often quite effective at scaring us with not only the acts of the characters, but at what we ourselves are capable of.

And that unfortunately is also the con of human-based horror. No one likes to be exposed to their darkness or flaws, and this form of horror gets deep into those. Which for some readers can be more disturbing than they would like. Hell, for some writers it’s more disturbing than they would like, sending them to parts of their imaginations they would rather leave alone. And exposure to this sort of horror can not only leave readers scared, but depressed. I’ve written before about how the escape into imaginary horrors can be therapeutic, and sometimes people prefer an escape that doesn’t remind them of the reality they’re escaping. Or as someone from one of my writer’s groups put it, “If I wanted human horror, I’d put on CNN.”

So which is better? Well, I say neither. Like I’ve just shown, both have their pros and cons, as well as their supporters and detractors. Personally, I (and most of the members of one of my writers’ groups) prefer supernatural horror, but we all agree that the occasional jaunt into human-based horror and vice versa are great. Hell, one of my novels, Snake, is human-based horror, and it’s one of my favorite stories.  So in the end, whichever you prefer to read or write, make sure to every now and then dip into the other so as to better appreciate both once you dip out again. And if you write, whatever you write, remember to keep practicing both types, so that someday you can write it well.

What’s your take on this debate? Which is your favorite?

*Still debatable if I count as human, though.