While the focus of my upcoming workshops on writing Horror Stories is on getting people to write dark, twisted and disturbing stories, I will also be talking a little about what stories make me shudder with fear.
Here then is the first of a series of blogs in which I will be musing on some of the dark tales that I enjoy. This is not a reading/watching list for the workshops, but it will give people an idea of where I’m coming from as a reader, writer and teller of Dark Tales.
I recently wrote a short blog article on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, one of my all-time favourite stories. I’ve seen many film versions of the Frankenstein story, and while some were brilliant none seemed to be based on the original story. This means that when many people try to read the book they find it so different from their expectations that they put it aside. This is a pity because it is an incredible story. How best to describe it though? Perhaps a Sci-Fi feminist masterpiece that absolutely and savagely eviscerates masculine dreams of power over life and procreation, with some incredible High Definition set pieces of mountains and forests throw in for good measure.
It is no surprise that Mary Shelley’s has beautiful poetic images in it. In poetry images are used to evoke other things beyond the immediate subject of the poem (emotions, memories) and to act as a lense that serves to widen our understanding of the poet, and of the internal and external world she or he lives in. Poetry give us a deeper understanding of, and empathy with, the rational world we exist in. Horror stories use imagery in a similar way, to evoke other things – but the things that are evoked by dark and weird tales are most certainly not of the rational world. Horror takes us to worlds beyond this one, to places of terror so shocking and overwhelming that it threatens to destroy not only our physical bodies but our immortal souls.
Great horror stories, in summary, scare the shit out of you. And the secret to making a terrifying story is to understand how to use the texture and symbols of language. Lovecraft is the master of this; though it could be argued that in his better works Stephen King manages to surpass Lovecraft. Both writers can create images that are as beautiful as they are eerie and disturbing. Equally they both tell a good gripping tale that keeps you turning the page even though your brain is screaming Stop!
It’s hard to pick a favourite from either writer, but The Call of Cthulhu is a great introduction to Lovecraft’s work (though the racism in it is a bit hard to swallow). Christine is one of my favourite Stephen King novels: for all the growing horror in this story of a possessed car King manages to keep a sense of the innocence and wonder of boys on the cusp of adulthood.
Now read: Awesome Tales of Horror - Part Two
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For more on my work as a writer and storyteller see rabfultonstories
My new workshops on writing dark tales of Horror, Sci-fi and Fantasy begin January 2016. For details see: Writing Dark Tales - creative writing workshops.
Fans of dark tales, may want to check out my online blog novel Marcus Marcus & the Hurting Heart which was commissioned by the Múscailt Arts Festival.