May 26th, 2016

Fireworks Delight

Writing Excuses 11.21: Q&A on Elemental Horror, With Steve Diamond

Writing Excuses 11.21: Q&A on Elemental Horror, With Steve Diamond


Q&A Summary:
Q: If I want to make something ordinary, like peanut butter, terrifying without coming off as silly, how do I do that?
A: Start with the character's reaction. Then look at specific words you are using. When familiar things start acting in unfamiliar ways, it scares people.
Q: What is your personal line between good horror and gore-nographic?
A: Does it change the character? What is the purpose? What is the audience reaction? Remember, gore is not horror. Context.
Q: How do you avoid going too far?
A: Again, gore is not horror. Who are you writing for? Your first reader is you -- is it too much for you?
Q: In movies, horror is often communicated through subtle incidental things like lighting, sound, and music. How do those things transfer into the written word?
A: Details and mannerisms. Get into the character's head early and understand what makes them fearful. Word choice and rhythm. Establish the familiar, then change a small aspect of it.
Q: For someone who has written similar genres to horror, thrillers and suspense, what would be the best way for me to start edging into writing a horror story instead?
A: Write for your audience. Atmospheric details. Beta readers who love horror. Don't flinch. Lay out your plot, then find a way to force the character to make a horrible decision and deal with the consequences.
Q: How do you decide when to show the monster, and how does it change your story once you have?
A: When it fits your plot. After you prepare the reader to be scared, and when it will cause the most harm. When you show the monster, either make it different than we expect OR far worse than we expect.
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[Brandon] All right. That's all the time we have. But Dan is actually going to give us some homework.
[Dan] All right. We gave this homework to one of our listeners. We're going to give it to all of you. We want you to plot out a story and build an outline that will force your character to make a horrible choice. Force them to do something they shouldn't do, to compromise themselves morally, to do whatever awful thing. Then build it so that that's the only choice they can make when the situation arrives.
[Brandon] All right. Well, thank you again, to Steve Diamond.
[Steve] Thank you.
[Brandon] Let's also mention Residue, his book, which you can get at fine bookstores everywhere, but mostly Audible and online is your best bet, right?
[Steve] That is the best bet.
[Brandon] And you guys are out of excuses, now go write.
[Chuckles fading into the distance]