Posts Tagged ‘monsters’

My brain at work.

It’s been not even one full week into the new semester and there have been some interesting developments in the classes I’m taking. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’m taking a creative writing course this semester. The course requires us to turn in two short stories and a revision of one of them at different points throughout the semester, though not necessarily in that order (I wanted to turn in a revision and two original short stories, but I don’t have anything to revise at the moment, so forget that). And as I’ve also mentioned in previous posts, Ohio State’s English and Creative Writing departments tend to focus on classic and literary fiction. Genre fiction doesn’t often get as much discussion in Denney Hall.

I came into class with the idea that we were going to be writing several literary short stories during the semester, and even had a list of ideas for stories I could write. Imagine my surprise when my teacher announced that we could turn in genre fiction, so long as it was interesting. Yes, she said that. As long as it’s interesting and doesn’t hold to time-honored (0r time-worn) conventions, I could turn in something from genre fiction. The following conversation then ensued:

Me: So I could write a terrifying horror story, and as long as it is interesting and doesn’t hold to conventions, I can turn it in?

My Professor: Of course.

Me: Party time.

You can probably tell I’m excited. I love writing horror stories, and with the focus on finishing the first draft of Laura Horn and editing Video Rage taking up most of my time this summer, there hasn’t been all that much time to seriously focus on writing a decent scary story or two. However, there’s been plenty of time to accumulate ideas for short stories, so at the next available opportunity, I plugged in my flash drive and started looking over the Word document that contains all my ideas for short stories.

So much to work with, so little time.

What a list that was, with 294 entries at last count. Yeah, I know. And no time to seriously work on them. One of these days I’m going to have to set aside a period of time where I won’t work on any novels and I’ll just work on reducing the amount of ideas on that list, maybe put out a couple more collections of short stories.

But the other night when I went over the list, remembering ideas I hadn’t thought of in a while (good thing I keep a list!) and trying to remember what I was thinking of when I wrote down the idea I had for certain stories, I was looking for particular stories. They had to be the right length (under 10,000 words), they had to be one of the more interesting ideas I’ve had (I like to think they’re all interesting, but I tried seeing it from the POV of someone who’s not me) and I had to look for a story that wouldn’t be tied down to the conventions of horror.

And as many of the horror fans know, that last one can be tough. As the Scream movies, Cabin in the Woods, and Behind the Mask so wonderfully point out, horror stories often work within a certain narrative framework. This gives the writers who create these stories more freedom than you’d think as we struggle to please our fans who are looking for a certain product in their story, but there has been criticism (some of it well-founded) that horror stories can get a little too predictable, to the point where you get useful advice videos like this:

He does bring up some good points. Actually, a slightly paranoid fear of a horror movie death is why I’ve never smoke weed, drink sparingly, and I’m not violent outside of the books I write (I’m not commenting on the sex and abstinence part). I don’t want to die like that. That would suck! Especially if somehow my soul gets trapped in the place where I was murdered or is digested by whatever killed me or something. That would suck even more!

So in the end, I managed to pick out about eight or ten short stories that I thought fit the bill for what I was looking for, and I selected two out of them. Neither of these stories have any particular reason as to why I chose them. I just thought they were very unique and that they would be choices my teacher and classmates wouldn’t find boring or stereotypical. In fact, I’m hoping to keep them on the edge of their seats with suspense.

And as for what those short stories are, I’ll give you some hints. This is the hint for the short story I’ll probably start work on sometime next week:

And here’s the hint for the one I’ll probably start in late September, early October:

Anyone want to hazard a guess at subject matter and plot line? There are wrong answers, but no consequences if you guess wrong.

Well, that’s all for now. I have some homework to do if I want to get any form of creative writing done, so I’m off to do that. Wish me luck, and have a good weekend, my Followers of Fear. I’ll let you know the progress of each of these short stories as there is news to report and maybe even let you know what my classmates think. Hopefully they will be terribly scared.

Vampires are scary…but also kind of sexy and occasionally needy or envious of humans. Werewolves are scary…but in some cases they are cute and sometimes even sexy. Zombies…just walk a little faster and you’ll avoid them. Frankenstein’s monster…take the guy to a therapist to talk over his daddy issues. Witches….just tell them you have no intention of burning them at the stake and that you’re more interested in working with them and maybe using their powers to better mankind. Or leave them alone if they have Satanic leanings. Demons…well, they’re basically an incarnation of ultimate evil. Not even religion or faith can protect you sometimes.

But after demons, ghosts are probably the scariest of monsters, and they’re certainly my favorite. And I have some pretty good reasons why they should be your favorite as well. Let’s run through them, shall we?

1. There are plenty of people trying to prove their existence. Just go on TV, you’ll find shows dedicated to paranormal investigators who go to reportedly haunted locations (I’m a huge fan of Ghost Adventures, personally). And while some of what they find can be explained through science and reason, and while their methods may not exactly follow the scientific method, some of what they’ve found is pretty compelling and hard to explain rationally, which is more than I can say for some people who go hunting for Bigfoot or aliens. And plenty of paranormal investigators will take the time to show people who are skeptical that while the methods they use aren’t perfect, they will attempt to show you that their methods are as free from interference as possible.

2. Ghosts are found in nearly everywhere on Earth. Nearly every religion on Earth, every ethnic group, every cultural group and every philosophy has some conception of what the afterlife is like, and a good number have stories of the dead coming back to intervene in the lives of the living. Heck, even the Judeo-Christian tradition does (the witch of Endor, for example). Is it Jung’s collective unconscious at work? A human need to calm ourselves with beliefs of life after death, that we still exist in some form after our bodies begin to rot? Or maybe it’s something more.

3. Everyone believes in ghosts at some point. Don’t try and deny it. At some point everyone’s a believer. I’ve seen people discount werewolves or vampires or the Loch Ness monster right off the bat, but when it comes to ghosts they’ll admit that, if they don’t believe in them now, they certainly believe in the possibility or that they did in one point in their lives. And why not? After all…

4. The former victims of death are just as scary as death itself. Think about it. Death seems like the worst thing that could happen, but then there’s the possibility that something worse than just dying. And nobody wants to see a reminder of death, of how it can twist the soul and turn the spirit inside out, coming our way to do us harm. At least not most people I know.

5. There’s no set rules about ghosts. Minus that they’re the souls of the dead, of course. Vampires drink blood and are usually afraid of sunlight. Werewolves react to the cycles of the moon and are allergic to silver. Zombies are the undead and need a good beheading to kill them off. But ghosts are much more flexible than other monsters. They can be confined to one singular place, or they can be mobile spirits that can travel to various places as they are allowed. Everything from appearance to how they haunt to how they can mess with the living. It’s all pretty open, much to the delight of every horror author ever.

Now, I’m not trying to convince you that ghosts exist (though I do think ghosts are one of those things that skeptics can come to believe in much more easily than with other subjects and if I did somehow make you a believer, then welcome t the club). But I certainly think that ghosts are out there, and that they are honestly some of the scariest things out there…that aren’t the result of humans, I mean. So the next time you hear about a movie or a book featuring ghosts, take a moment and think about what that movie or book is tapping into. It’s more than just a primal fear of death, it’s something that could actually conceivably exist and do us harm. And that is one of the most terrifying thoughts of all.

Oh, and you know which culture has the scariest ghost legends of all? Japan! The yurei is a spirit that exists on the physical plane because of some lingering grudge or regret that keeps it from moving on. Yurei tend to wear white robes, have pale skin, long black hair and no legs. There are also subcategories of yurei, depending on how they died, what keeps them there, and who exactly has died. The most famous yurei is probably the onryo, a spirit that stays on this Earth out of a desire for revenge. And if you’ve ever seen The Ring or the Grudge (Japanese or English versions) you know what I’m talking about. Those things are Terrifying with a capital T!

Look at this thing! Can you blame me for being terrified?