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Results 1 - 10 of 90 God Squad: Nil. Is a supernatural horror novel revolving around an extreme game show broadcast on the internet which pits a Catholic priest. Enjoy browsing and reading our fabulous collection of contemporary, heart- thumping supernatural horror novels and ghost stories: they are guaranteed to scare. scariest books ever written in the English language, whether horror, non!ction, or speculative futures you never want to see. One caveat: the list is limited to one.
Along with the Antichrist Only a special group of people with individual powers can stop them. Welcome to the 9th circle of hell within the streamline savage dimensions.
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The bond between the group to find the Someone was after career criminal Larry McCulloch, but for Larry that was nothing new. Down through the decades he had amassed a quite remarkable number of enemies on both sides of the law. But this time it was different. Almost overnight that list, which had at its height reached three figures Walter, a Burgundy noble, remarried, laments the death of Brunhilde, his youthful lover and first wife when at midnight a sorcerer appears picking herbs for his spells.
The sorcerer raises the possibility of returning his beloved to life, but warns that it is better to leave the dead in peace Are you bored of kind and selfless fairies? More stories from the Dark Side by Graeme Winton where an inter-dimensional ghost hunter rubs shoulders with a demon soul. A crazed murderer preys on people who come to his door and another picks on the clergy among many others. Don't read last thing at night!
God Squad: Is a supernatural horror novel revolving around an extreme game show broadcast on the internet which pits a Catholic priest against a supposedly real demon.
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Saturation point was inevitable. In the early s I was invited to a publisher's Halloween party to launch yet another list of 'nasties'. Almost everybody there was either already writing nasties or had been commissioned to write one; for some it was their first book, bought on a brief synopsis. Unfortunately, for the novice writer, this kind of thing just does not happen today.
But within a couple of years or so the bubble had burst. Again the readership was looking to break new boundaries, they demanded quality rather than quantity.
The remainder baskets were full to overflowing. It was time to change yet again. The American influence Just as Edgar Allan Poe and Howard Phillips Lovecraft shaped the future of horror fiction in its formative years, again it was an American writer who brought about yet another change of direction. Stephen King changed the face of horror when Carrie was published in His books were refreshingly different from all that had gone before.
Psychological horror began to make a real impact. No longer were victims chased and mutilated by bizarre monsters dreamed up by a writer who did not have to explain or justify his creations; instead they were pursued by the figments of the mind, often their own. It was insidious, thought-provoking and much more frightening. King's next books, Salem's Lot and The Shining set the pattern for longer books. The 40,word novels were gone, their successors stretched to ,words plus, and they were growing in size all the time.
King's The Stand ran to a staggering pages and some of his later books were to exceed 1, Stephen King was one of the first writers to use brand names extensively and this was yet another factor in his incredible success. It added authenticity to a well-written story, that touch of realism which enabled readers to identify even more with his books.
His The development of horror fiction 13 characters were ordinary people, the victims could just as easily have been the readers he targeted. It was a well-researched policy which made him the world's bestselling author, both in the horror field and all other genres.
His colloquial style was accepted now, whereas previously it would have been criticized heavily. He launched horror fiction towards new horizons, exploded many of the taboos that had restricted it in the past, such as graphic descriptions of carnage. His novel Gerald's Game has a bondage theme which would have caused an outcry two or three decades ago.
Other horror writers who are making their mark include Dean Koontz, who wrote innumerable books under various pseudonyms before receiving recognition, and William W. Johnstone who is one of America's most prolific authors. Johnstone has written westerns, adventure, truckers and romantic fiction as well as horror. His output is phenomenal. Horror writers needed to change to survive. The 'western' genre had collapsed and died and horror was in danger of doing just that. Only a fool would attempt to imitate King but writers needed to come up with new ideas and present them in a different way.
Apart from the excellent Lovecraftian-style 'Necroscope' books written by Brian Lumley, today's horror novels are almost exclusively set in modern times. Because readers like to identify with the world they know and its everyday characters. Because real life horror is far more terrifying than anything the pulps ever produced. The aspiring writer is urged to read both historical and modern horror novels. He or she needs to have an insight into the prose and styles of Poe and Lovecraft, to see how wordage was churned out in the boom years, and then to appreciate how discerning readers have become in recent times.
Writing has progressed in much the same way as stage and screen; characters are portrayed as we see them around us, melodrama is no longer acceptable. Dialogue should be written as we hear it spoken, it is far more effective that way. Sub-plots are all part and parcel of modern literature, Poe and his contemporaries neither needed nor used them, but in modern horror fiction an extra-marital affair running parallel with some world threatening saga can be made to increase the atmosphere of tension as well as evoking that human touch to the story which is so necessary to create realism.
Often sub-plots are a major factor in 14 Writing Horror Fiction producing a novel of mega-selling potential. It is important to familiarize oneself with today's bestselling horror novels before attempting to write one, and also to have some insight into how the genre has changed and developed since the s.
Stories which frightened their readers a century or more ago would still do so today; they would just have to be presented differently. It is said that there are only seven original storylines; every story ever written is but a variation of one of those seven. Fans write in and ask me, friends ask me. Everybody asks me. Until fairly recently it was one of those questions that I answered vaguely, because I didn't know. I had never really stopped to think about it.
If the ideas dried up, I would be out of work. I just had to keep coming up with them.
Dreaming up ideas To some extent ideas are a systematic process with me. Something occurs to me and I jot it down for future reference.
I have never woken up in the middle of the night and scrawled something on the wall behind the bed in case I may have forgotten it in the morning. In Chapter 1 we saw how Mary Shelley and Robert Louis Stevenson wrote two of the all-time horror classics inspired by nightmares. Well, a similar thing happened to me a few years ago. I had a recurring nightmare over a period of several weeks.
Somebody or something with rasping breath shuffled its way down the corridor towards the bedroom; the door was edged open a little way but whoever it was didn't enter. My usual reaction to a nightmare is to become aggressive; according to my wife I shout incoherent threats and toss about in the bed.
As I did so in these instances and, as on many occasions before, she thumped me awake. The nightmare intrigued me. Who or what was it outside the bedroom door? There was only one way to find out so I requested Jean to tolerate my abuse for once and perhaps that way the dream would be brought to a conclusion by the nocturnal entity coming inside the bedroom where I could see it.
She agreed, thinking the whole business was extremely funny. It was some weeks before I had the dream again. Now the strange thing is that this time in my dream I was feigning sleep in an 16 Writing Horror Fiction attempt to fool the intruder.
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The door creaked open, the shuffling footsteps entered. And that was when I leaped up in bed and viewed this ghastly near-skeletal figure, clad in a shabby raincoat and a greasy trilby hat which was pulled down in a futile attempt to hide its cadaverous features from me. It was clearly terrified of me, cowered back against the fitted wardrobe. I shrieked in incoherent anger and was actually in the process of getting out of bed, my intention being to get my hands round that scrawny neck, when Jean grabbed me, yelled at me to wake up.
A great pity, but, no matter, I had seen all that I needed to see. As a result, the idea for my book The Cadaver was born. It was a most profitable nightmare. And it never returned, not even during the writing of the book when my concentration was focused on it for hours at a time.
Ideas from characters Sometimes a character is born before a book. I remember going to a wedding once when a man walked into church wearing a black jacket, jeans and a matching black fedora. He sat in a pew just behind me and, out of the corner of my eye, for he had already aroused my interest, I was somewhat surprised to see a cigarette dangling from his lips.
In fact, the vicar came down the aisle and requested him not to smoke in church. It was some months afterwards, when the bride and groom brought this fellow to visit us, that he confessed that the cigarette was only a chocolate one! The guy just had to be a book, I didn't know whether to use him as the good guy or the bad guy, I didn't even have a plot but I did have something definite to work on.
Initially, I saw him as a sinister character but then I decided that he had to be a hero. I hedged my bets: in the first book the reader is fooled I hope! I think he'll go into a few more books. I'm really glad that I went to that wedding. Rarely do ideas jump up and hit me out of the blue. I can never recall having had an idea during gardening or any similar chore. Simply because I'm too engrossed in what I'm doing. But some of my best ideas have come to me when I've been driving on a long journey on my own.
I don't get them on trains or buses because I'm usually writing, roughing out some text to put on screen when I get home. I find a long car journey relaxing and inspiring, when it's away from the bulk of the traffic. Everybody thinks about some- Expanding an idea 17 thing during driving; I let my thoughts wander, I don't channel them unless they throw up something specific.
I let them roll and, when I'm least expecting it, something pops up and hits me. Many of the ideas for my early horror books were spawned in the car. Ideas never occur when one needs them. If I were stuck for one, I guarantee that it would elude me mischievously.
That is why any worthwhile idea is worth noting when it occurs for it will surely be useful at a later stage. Stuck for ideas It is very frustrating when an idea just won't come. The harder you try, the more it eludes you. Reading can be a good source for ideas but one must be careful not to be influenced by another author's work.
Remember, that plot is dead, the author has already used it and 'rip-offs' won't do you any favours. Sometimes, though, a situation within a book leads to an idea for another novel totally unrelated to the one you are reading. I am always wary of my subconscious. When an idea springs to mind my first thought is whether I have read it somewhere, perhaps the blurb on the back of a book which I have picked up and browsed through in a bookshop and then put back.
I have a retentive memory but I don't always trust it! In this case, I make a few notes in the notebook which I always carry with me and then leave it for some time. If the idea still grabs me in six months' time then I'll work further on it. Usually, then, I will remember if it has come from a dubious source.
Let's consider a negative situation: you are really stuck for an idea and I'm never in favour of contrived ideas and you are frustrated because you are unable to come up with something.
All you need is a blank sheet of paper and a pencil. Shut yourself in a room well away from telephones, television and all other modern distractions. Head the sheet up 'Horror Ideas'. At least that way you have made a start! Next: what kind of horror would you like to write? Psychological, occult, rampaging mutated monsters? Choose one of these and write it beneath your heading.
Who knows, a provisional title might spring to mind with it. If it does, you are really on to a bonus. At least you know now what you want to write. Still stuck? Okay, go for a character as I mentioned on page 16, somebody you have met or know, and work on it. That just might spawn a plot.
Do you have a phobia? If so, jot it down, write something about it. Suppose your worst fear came true. You shudder, but you are well on the way to producing a worthwhile idea. One of my own phobias arose from the small underground reservoir that is our water supply.
Every so often, more frequently in dry weather, it is necessary to inspect the water level and the only way to do this is to open the heavy concrete hatch and take a look down inside. It is deep and dark down there, there isn't even a ladder going down into the depths. If I chanced to fall in, I'd never get out, nobody would hear my cries for help.
The thought used to send me cold, I just hated checking that reservoir. Until the day that I used it in a book! The phobia is quite illogical, really, I would have to jump in deliberately; that never occurred to me until I wrote about it. It produced a good scenario in a book and I was never troubled by my fear again. So, as a yardstick, write about whatever it is that you are most frightened of. In my own experience, one idea leads to another. Scrapbooks I shall mention these again in Chapter 4 covering the importance of research, but my library of scrapbooks a small shelved alcove in one of the bedrooms is invaluable for a twofold purpose.
Each scrapbook is clearly headed and numbered in sequence under a specific title. For example: Natural Horrors: includes plagues, earthquakes Serial Killers: the borderline between atrocious crimes and horror is very narrow.
There will be more than enough books written on the Wests but a horror writer needs to know the depths of depravity which his characters might plumb. As they say, truth is stranger than fiction. Animal Horrors: those straightforward novels of 'creatures on the rampage' may well come back into vogue. I collect accounts of big cats, giant squids, a plague of bullfrogs in the UK etc.
Police procedure: a writer needs to know how the police operate, and regulations are changing all the time. DNA has changed the Expanding an idea 19 face of all novels which involve police work, for example. Police methods will feature in many horror novels, you have to keep up to date. You must get it right or the credibility of everything else you write in the book will be destroyed.
The Loch Ness Monster: I am intrigued by this unsolved mystery and maybe I'll write something around it one day. Far better to accumulate the research as it becomes available.
General Research: something you may or may not need. This includes articles that interest you when you read them in your newspaper. Throw them away and you will forget them. They are worth pasting in. UFO Sightings: this may well be more for the science fiction writer but, again, it could just feature in a future horror book. I restrict my scrapbooking to 'sightings'. There are other scrapbooks which have helped in the past and may do so again; executions and war criminals record man's inhumanity to man.
As in the case of the Wests and others, you'll have to write about it sometime if you are going to write horror. Collect articles now and they are there for when you need them. My wife and I have a newspaper each every day. I am well aware of the various aspects of horror which relate to my books, ie the occult, natural horrors ecological disasters, escaped wild animals etc. My scrapbooks are headed and filed, it is important when you cut and paste every day to be able to find whatever you have saved.
Research is one reason for my painstaking mutilation of the dailies: ideas may also spring from them. So if you are not already a 'scrapbooker', start now. Clip and paste anything relating to horror. Make a neat job of it; it is, in fact, a book you are compiling and if it is easy to read then you will be more inclined to do so.
In any case, my scrapbooks make fascinating reading. It is intriguing to look back upon some event which you have virtually forgotten. Perhaps some conclusion has arisen from what was then a mystery; you have the nucleus of a fictional adaptation of macabre happenings. But, be very careful, use your pastings only as a guide, what is in the paper is fact and concerns real people.
You don't want a libel suit! Furthermore, the facts will already be known to the public at large, you have to present your readers with fiction. For example, I collected a piece about a tanker of toxic weed- 20 Writing Horror Fiction killer which was involved in an accident and the weedkiller spilled and contaminated a nearby lake.
I adapted that idea so that the lake became a reservoir which supplied a city with its drinking water. My weedkiller didn't dissolve and become harmless in such a volume of water - it formed a slick, went down the pipes and came out of household taps!
The book, Thirst, sold ,plus copies and I wrote a sequel. And all because I cut out a half column from a newspaper. Travel The more you travel, the more likely you are to come up with ideas for your proposed book. I don't mean exploring distant lands, although that is an excellent thing if you can afford it, just excursions beyond your normal routine journeys to work. You will need somewhere to set your book and that is best done in surroundings you know. So this may be a jump ahead of the procedure but there is always the chance that a location might spark off an idea.
Some building, perhaps an incident you witness in the street. Who knows? The more you travel, the more you see of life, and fiction is but an extension of reality. Truth can be a good starting place for your proposed novel. As well as a notebook, I always carry a small loaded pocket camera. Mostly I use it for research but it is handy to snap something you may witness.
It is always far easier to compile your idea from a photograph than from memory. Perhaps a location gives a hint of an idea but you are not sure exactly what. A detailed photograph will always aid a fertile imagination. Imagination Your imagination is a valuable asset, don't be afraid to let it run riot.
I still have one of my school reports dating back to when I was about ten years of age. In the 'comments' column, my English teacher had written 'writes good English but lacks imagination'! I did not actually lack imagination but I was too inhibited to put it down on paper. I guess I saved it all up until I left school. It was my mother who encouraged me and nurtured my boyhood imagination.
She was a pre-war historical novelist and undoubtedly understood when others scoffed. Between the ages of ten and fourteen I was fascinated by the weekly comics and boys' story papers which were on sale. There was a wealth of well-written stories in the latter, as opposed to comic strips in the former, tales of piracy, adven- Expanding an idea 21 hire, westerns, detective and even horror! I well recall the story of a giant mole that existed deep in a maze of tunnels in a coal mine.
Such was my fascination that I did gardening chores for neighbours to earn enough money to download around a dozen papers a week, as well as paying for my twice-weekly cinema visits. My father and my headmaster poured scorn upon the 'rubbish' I was reading, I was forbidden to take any of these publications to school.
My mother thought otherwise but didn't dare say so. She suggested that I produce a weekly comic of my own and she would download it off me for sixpence old money, of course! I did just that, I wrote and illustrated a comic every week it ran to 52 issues without a break. She gave them all back to me years later. Those boyhood ideas were all spawned from the comics and story papers I read, not plagiarised, I hasten to add, but the heroes of those days were stereotyped and I did not have much difficulty in creating my own similar characterization.
The plots were all my own but, there again, cowboys, pirates, highwaymen and the like all had very similar adventures. I cannot stress too strongly the benefits from just sitting down and writing. Make your first effort a 'trial run'. I wrote a few horror stories in my comics, I was learning with every one I wrote. My amateur apprenticeship served me well.
I allowed my imagination to run riot in the full knowledge that nobody apart from my mother would read what I had written. It is well worth a try before you make your first serious attempt to submit your work to a publisher. Furthermore, those initial ideas may well develop later. Just an idea When a film company downloads the film rights of a book, it is the idea which they are downloading; the movie often bears little resemblance to the original novel.
That puts the value of an idea into perspective. Ideas are the essence of any book you propose to write but it is how they are used that matters. Thousands of superb ideas have been wasted by authors over the years simply because they have not thought them through thoroughly. Consequently, those manuscripts have never progressed further than the editorial desk.
Find an idea, jot it down and then think about it, exploring every variation. If you go for the first plot that springs to mind you will probably end up with a wad of rejection slips.
That original idea might only be the nucleus of something that will launch you into full-time writing. Don't rush to start your book.
A few weeks, even months, will not make any difference.
Far rather success later than failure now. It seemed that the storyline was all important and it was sufficient just to have silhouettes flitting through the pages with few, if any, distinguishing features. Or else other well-known fictional characters were imitated; there is one such instance, during the years when Edgar Rice Burroughs' 'Tarzan of the Apes' became a cult figure, when a publisher launched a similar series entitled 'Azan the Apeman'.
No subtlety was used, no attempt made to disguise the fact that the copycat books were a deliberate 'rip-off. As a result Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc. It is interesting to note, though, that nowadays those Azan books have become much sought after collectors' items. A lesson is there to be learned, though.
Don't base your characters so obviously on somebody else's. In fact, it is better not to be influenced by other fictional characters because the copy will always live in the shadow of the original. Create your own! Some of the pulps, described in Chapter 1, did create characters that lasted. The Shadow' is one that springs instantly to mind; Walter Brown Gibson Maxwell Grant was a prolific writer during the 'pulp era'.
He was commissioned to write novels featuring The Shadow', who was already popular on radio in America in the s. His first book was The Living Shadow Maxwell went on to write innumerable paperbacks about the masked figure of death striking down criminals, as many as 24 books a year. The Shadow' was also featured in a pulp magazine, comics and annuals. A blockbuster film The Shadow was released in Thus, a character created today may well become famous half a century hence.
Your characters are as important as your idea and your plot, make no mistake about that. As I have already mentioned, the 'Man in the Black Fedora' featured in two novels, without him there Characterization 23 would have been none at all.
The Cadaver would not have existed but for my nightmares. Good characterization gives a novel credibility; poor characterization can detract from an excellent plot, no matter how well your book is written. The reader must be made to feel that he knows the characters personally, that if he saw one across the street tomorrow he would recognize him. Obviously, the characters must fit the plot and respond accordingly. Having worked out your storyline, try to imagine what kind of people fit into it naturally, whether your main character is to be male or female, and from what walk of life.
Readers like to identify with characters so it is a good idea to make your heroes or heroines ordinary people. That way we can empathize with them. In horror fiction generally, the early novels concentrated mostly on middle or upper class characters, principally because in those days it was basically only people from those classes who read books.
It was necessary then, as it is nowadays, for the reader to identify with the people in the stories; today, readers come from all walks of life. There is no hard and fast rule, the writer must have a 'feel' for his characters, and if he is comfortable with them then in all probability he has got it right. So how does one go about creating the right kind of characters to suit a particular book? It depends upon the type of horror you are writing. Pulp-type horror does not generally feature intellectuals except maybe for a scientist to create or destroy some hideous monster.
Psychological books are generally interwoven with more sophisticated people. These categories are by no means absolute, they are just to give you an idea.
Characters from scratch Creating characters from scratch is both difficult and uncertain. They need characteristics and idiosyncrasies. Can you create these with credibility? If so, fine. You deserve to be a published author. Sometimes, though, this has to be done with the minor characters 24 Writing Horror Fiction in your book.
Perhaps you introduce somebody fleetingly in a chapter, someone who may not appear again, a bartender in a pub where your hero has just called in, possibly he has just arrived at the village where all the horrors have taken place.
Even then, don't stereotype your bartender, and don't just pass him off as a nonentity. One little bit of detail here will add authenticity to your book. For example: A well built man limped from a doorway behind the bar, steadied himself against the counter, regarded the stranger briefly, then lowered his gaze. A picture has been created in those few sentences of a man with some deformity and who is clearly nervous, perhaps fearful. Far better to describe him and his physical handicap briefly, incorporating some hint of fear, than to give a detailed physical description and state that the man seemed afraid of something.
Let us suppose that the leading character has come to the village to investigate some strange happenings that have terrified the locals.
The landlord of the pub is an ideal subject to mirror the fear experienced by his customers. Possibly he does not wish to discuss it with a stranger but by describing the meeting thus you have conveyed in a subtle way that there is something amiss around here. If that character is shown just once then enough has been written to interest the reader. Charles Dickens was a master at creating characters.
In this example we will look at one which he built up in a little known supernatural story The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain: Who could have observed his manner - taciturn, thoughtful, gloomy, shadowed by habitual reserve, retiring always and jocund never, with a distraught air of reverting to a bygone place and time, or of listening to some old echoes in his mind but might have said it was the manner of a haunted man?
This, surely, is a classical characterization that creates a 'haunted man'. Likewise, minor characters should have mannerisms that are incorporated into any dialogue. It allows the reader to visualize a person, perhaps in his own imagination, identify with somebody he Characterization 25 knows.
In this way credibility is added to the story because 'real' people are being created rather than faceless figures. For example, Harry Clements' eccentricities had become obsessions as adolescence merged into manhood.
A doctor had once diagnosed his compulsion with having everything in neat piles or straight lines as 'symmetrical neurosis', an illness which had turned him into a recluse and set him apart from his fellow men, made him the subject of their ridicule although he was totally impervious to the remarks of those around him.
Here we have a mannerism, albeit an obsession, which is all part of a character build up. As the book unfolds Mania by Guy N. Smith many other eccentricities are added to Harry Clements' obsession with having everything in neat piles. His near-emaciated body giving him rounded shoulders and a shuffling, unsteady walk, his 'ration' of two cigarettes a day, the way he divides his evening meal into two halves and takes one back up to his room to eat later.
We have a picture, not just of an eccentric, but of a miser. Base your characters on real people The best way of building up a character for your book is by basing him or her on somebody you know. This can be dangerous if you make the character too recognizable, particularly if he is the villain of the story.
The easiest way round this is to change a few mannerisms and give a different physical description from that of your acquaintance. Mannerisms and idiosyncrasies are sometimes quite difficult to invent from cold. You can describe a character quite differently from his or her appearance in real life but, in the actual writing of the book, they are that person as far as you are concerned. This often makes writing much easier and adds an extra dimension for the author.
Somebody you dislike can meet a sticky end and only you will know about it! I 'collect' people's idiosyncrasies! One comes across so many in a variety of situations that, for a writer, it is wasteful to ignore them. You can observe people and their habits anywhere; in restaurants, on trains and buses, almost everywhere in public life.
I make notes of what I observe, otherwise they are soon forgotten, and I know that a mixture of strange habits will all be put to good use eventually. Some years ago we used to have a business associate who sometimes came to stay for a few days; his lifestyle was eccentric in the extreme. By the third day on one particular stay he was driving my 26 Writing Horror Fiction wife and myself to distraction.
He seemed oblivious of the family life that went on all around him and he used to come into my office and expound at great length on my working routine, how it could be changed for the better, and all manner of trivialities concerning himself. In addition, he had many, many strange and very annoying habits. As I have stated, he seemed totally unaware of whatever I was doing and, in order to keep my sanity, I decided to treat him as a research subject.
I put a sheet of paper in the typewriter and, during his constant chattering aand distractions, I typed out a comprehensive list of his eccentricities. He had no idea what I was doing. In fact, without the use of his magnifying glass he would have been unable to read it, anyway! All of the material I gathered that day was used at some time or other in a number of books, spread amongst a variety of characters. They certainly brought my characters to life!
There are people who want to believe that they have been used as a character in an author's book. Likewise, there are those who are almost phobic in case they have been portrayed in a work of fiction. They will study every sentence of the printed pages, maybe even convince themselves that a certain character is based on themselves even if it is not the case.
Where I have used real places as settings for my novels, people have asked me, hoping for a reply in the affirmative, That is me in the book, isn't it? It may well not be them but if they choose to think it is, fair enough. The latter clearly do not want to be portrayed in a novel, so I reassure them accordingly. Take a middle course, a mixture of people you know combined with various characteristics which you have picked up from various sources.
You don't have to give a detailed physical description of a character, just a framework for the reader to build upon. All my life I have compiled my own image of fictional characters in the books I've read. All too often when I've gone to see a film of a book my conception of a favourite character has been ruined. Much of the pleasure derived from reading is in using your imagination alongside whatever the writer tells you. Give a good description of important physical features and leave the rest to the reader.
Limit the number of characters in your book. If you introduce too many characters who do not play an important role in the story, then the novel becomes confusing for both writer and reader; neither of you will be able to remember who is who and who has done what. Characterization 27 The setting of your book is a guide to what type of characters to use and how they will behave. If it is a down-trodden area of a town then middle class residents will be totally out of place.
In a rural area you will expect to find farmers and country dwellers. Dialogue must be used accordingly. Whatever your setting, it is best if you familiarize yourself with a similar area.
Go and spend time in the country or downtown. Note the type of people you see, how they dress and speak. These are the characters you will need to use in your book. Don't make people act out of character and try to avoid stereotypes; everybody is different, even in books. Don't go for what you consider to be the obvious just because you have read it elsewhere. Females do not always become hysterical, males do not always charge to the rescue of a damsel in distress, heedless of their own danger.
Try to strike a balance. Basing a character on yourself Of course, you can always base a character on yourself. I have done this on more than one occasion. My first book Werewolf by Moonlight is set in the area in which we now live and which, prior to our move, I visited most weekends. So the leading character just had to be the tenant who visited at weekends for shooting! He fitted the storyline and the setting fitted him. In a scattered community such as this, where everybody knows everybody else, it was the safest bet; nobody could accuse me of basing Gordon Hall on any of the locals.
You can have a lot of fun basing a character on yourself and it will also make the writing of the book that much easier.
You won't have any difficulty thinking up idioms and neither will you run the risk of offending anybody. It is a good opportunity for a selfanalysis! And you can allow your ego to run riot! To a lesser extent I based my 'Sabat' series on myself.
I wrote Sabat's CV at the beginning of one of the books and used my own. Series characters I would advise the beginner to keep a file on each character from the very beginning. Note every detail, physical appearance, habits, eccentricities, age, any relatives' names.
It will save a lot of time during the writing of the book as you will not have to keep looking back to check on a reference to a particular detail. Also, there is a possibility that you might use the same charac- 28 Writing Horror Fiction ter s in a future book.
If you become a successful writer then there could be a follow-up book to your first one or it may even develop into a series. Where a series is concerned, having a file on each character is essential. You can easily make a mistake which a reader will pick up, maybe even write in to the press and destroy the credibility of your series. Do Vvot forget to update the file. If you kill off a character, mark the reference clearly.
Characters returning from the grave unintentionally are an acute embarrassment! If one marries, record whom he or she weds and when.
Time sequences and relationships are an integral part of any series and they can become quite complicated in a long-running one. Adopt a methodical approach to your characterization right from the very beginning. Political correctness There are no hard and fast rules concerning 'political correctness'.
I don't really understand it and I doubt whether many other people do. It is so open to individual interpretation. The essence of it all is not to cause offence to anybody, but in many cases it has been taken to the extreme and that which we used to take for granted in the past has become unacceptable to some sections of society who are looking to protest at anything and everything. I once had to change the sex of a dog in one of my children's books simply to 'maintain a balance of the sexes'.
On another occasion I was asked to make an elderly male vet female. Overall, it made not one jot of difference to the story, it simply created unnecessary work. In this latter case I had to create a new character which meant going back to the early part of the novel where the vet first appeared and ensuring that every 'he' became a 'she'.
Where possible it is best to try to maintain a balance of the sexes throughout the book but the writer must ensure that the characters slot naturally into the narrative.
It all becomes very difficult if your novel happens to be set in the past. Characters must behave in books as they would be expected to do in real life, so a novel set before political correctness reared its head can present difficulties if you submit it to a publisher whose editor is a political correctness supporter.
It seems that you are walking on eggshells whatever you write and a book might be rejected simply because you have, in all inno- Characterization 29 cence, offended a publisher. Unfortunately, there are no guidelines laid down and using your commonsense is not always the answer.
All I can advise is that you ensure, to the best of your knowledge that there is nothing blatantly racist, sexist, ageist or any other 'ist' you can think of. You will have to be prepared to carry out revisions and pander to seemingly pointless suggestions. Otherwise you will not be published. Policical correctness poses more problems in the creation of characters than it does in the writing of a story.
In the text you can avoid anything that might be offensive but in a real world there are people who are definitely 'ists', and you cannot pretend that they do not exist. Your characters should evolve from the plot, background and location eg inner city. You must not try to make them something they are not merely to comply with political correctness. On the other hand, do not highlight anything that might be considered offensive just for the sake of it.
There are good and bad people all around us; they are there to be written about. If you create the right characters for your novel then that is a major step towards publication. At the outset, though, you have to have a 'feel' for everything that you have done so far; if you don't really like your characters or you are not really inspired by the idea, then what follows from hereon will not make much impact. If you become bored with the book, then that will be passed on to the editor who reads it.
You have to convince yourself that this is a book which people will read avidly; without that motivation you may as well go back to the beginning and start looking for another idea and creating new characters. Don't delude yourself. If you are not sure it is right, begin again. It is frustrating but it is preferable to get it right at the beginning. At this stage you should know into which horror category your novel is going to slot.
Roughly there are four types of horror novel and you will need to write your book with your prospective readership in mind: 1. The Silence of the Lambs did this to great effect, although I prefer to categorize serial killer books as police procedural novels, 4. Again, the dividing line between crime fiction, science fiction and horror is a debatable one. Your fiction may even be based on true-life horror.
These are merely guidelines to give you some idea of the market at which you are aiming. The narrative is a priority from now on. There is a common belief that a book has to The plot 31 be divided into three sections: the beginning, the middle and the end and that things go from bad to worse until finally everything comes right.
That was fine for books written thirty or forty years ago, but today's readers do not like predictability. Nowadays you need to have a beginning but where you go from there is entirely up to you. Agreed, the book must end sometime but it does not necessarily have to come to a definite conclusion. Good does not necessarily have to triumph over evil and make everything nice and cosy.
You could try letting the baddies win for once. If the reader is disappointed he will remember the book; at least if you generate frustration it means the reader sympathizes with the characters. But whatever you decide upon, your book must be thoroughly thought out before you even pick up the pen or begin tapping on the keyboard otherwise you will create all kinds of problems for yourself. Make a start with those characters you have created, type out a list of names and alongside them list what they look like, how old they are and any mannerisms they have.
At this stage you will only be able to compile the major characters, minor ones will materialize as you continue writing. Add them to your list, too; you never know when they will appear again. It all saves time. Now you are ready to slot the characters into a plot. Type out a synopsis of your book in as much detail as possible at this stage.
I always compile mine chapter by chapter as this enables me to 'pace' the book; you do not want to discover that you have used up the bulk of your storyline in the first few chapters. Neither do you want to over-write as this tends to make a book very 'padded'. If you realize that you are doing this, you must look back on what you have written. A beginner is sometimes apt to go into too much irrelevant detail; you don't need a detailed account of a character's journey from A to B if nothing of interest has happened en route.
Aim to cover around twenty chapters in your initial story outline. You will find that during the course of writing, one chapter runs to two or, alternatively, two proposed chapters can be covered in one. You do not have to stick rigidly to your chapter breakdown, you must be flexible.
There is no guidance as to chapter wordage. Some are longer than others, they should end naturally, either on a cliffhanger or when a particular episode is concluded for the moment. But in plotting a book of 20 chapters, very roughly look at each chapter being words in length. That will help you to pace the finished book. As the story unfolds, you will think of additional happenings. An editor once told me that I submit the most detailed synopses which she has ever received, mostly writers send in a couple of pages of a basic storyline in the hope of receiving a commission to write their book.
I like to know exactly where I am going when I type Chapter One; invariably, I make changes as I go along but it is a comfort to know that I have the entire plot to refer to.Michael Whitehouse Bedtime "The most frightening story I have ever read" - NoSleep English Words Ages 14 and up "The most frightening story I have ever read", "Terrifying", "I never want to sleep alone again", "The first time I have read a story which has made my heart race", "Brilliantly written", "Honestly the most gripping story I've read in a long time, from the very first line t Then an old acquaintance sends her on a mercy gig to interview a famously reclusive photographer who lives on an island in Maine.
But some of my best ideas have come to me when I've been driving on a long journey on my own. A crazed murderer preys on people who come to his door and another picks on the clergy among many others. Collect articles now and they are there for when you need them.
Above all else, Hodgson's work is an example of how first hand research is the making of a book. Charles Dickens was a master at creating characters. It was necessary then, as it is nowadays, for the reader to identify with the people in the stories; today, readers come from all walks of life.