Saturday, 16 January 2016

Galway Horror Writing Group - summary of first workshop

“Oh, Whistle, And I’ll Come To You, My Lad.”

Below is a short summary of the first Horror Writing Workshop. I’m posting this in response to emails from people interested in joining the group but worried that they may have missed out because they did not get to the first workshop. Don’t worry, you can still join the workshop group. The first evening was an introduction and discussion session. The actual writing will start next week. There are seven workshops still to go. Please drop me a line for details of prices and workshops see: Writing Dark Tales - creative writing workshops or email at
Okay here’s the summary:
The workshop began with a discussion about death. How humans have rituals and beliefs and manufactured certainties that let us live full lives despite the fact that those lives will one day end. However many dark tales (books, films, theatre, fairy stories, folk tales etc.) warn us that in fact there are forces worse than death ever ready to upturn and rip apart those beliefs and certainties, that there are dark malevolent angry things from other dimensions or other galaxies hungry and eager to snatch at us. They not only wait for us after we die but are constantly looking for ways to intrude into our living lives.
I used a Scottish folktale to illustrate this fear of things worse than death. The discussion then ranged over ghost stories in Ireland, serial killers in literature, the films of Guillermo del Toro, and the dangers of over active imaginations.
We also discussed the texture of stories. Because horror deals with the intrusion of The Other into this world, it is important to create as real a setting as possible for the stories. To create this it is important to not only use our visual sense, but our other senses as well, hearing, taste, touch, smell. To this end I have asked workshop participants to keep a journal, and to fill it the observations of the world around them, remembering our world is not only filled with things we see, but with things that stimulate the other senses.

We briefly discussed how horror stories begin slowly to allow the reader to step into the reality of the tale. We will examine this more fully next week when we begin the writing process. What we did examine in detail was the role of objects in Horror Stories, how the discovery of even the most simple of objects can lead to terrifying events. The example we studied was the little whistle in MR James’s 'Oh, Whistle, And I'll Come To You, My Lad'

The homework for next week is for people to find an object and write a description which uses not only sight but some of the other senses too. You might also want to think about the story of the object or the emotion it evokes. Have fun with this and write as little or as much as you want about it.
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The BBC did a lovely adaption of the MR James story in 1968. It is only 42 minutes long and is a little different from the original short story. It does not have the humour of the original but it has lovely texture, especially the use of sound and silence.  You can watch it at

Also, I’ve posted up a few blogs about horror stories which you might find interesting:
Awesome Tales of Horror (parts one &two)

For more on my work as a writer and storyteller see rabfultonstories
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 or my Galway supernatural story Transformation

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