“What on earth makes you write such horrible things?”
As an author, don’t you just hate that?
This quote really resonated with me. While I’m not a horror writer per se, I have dark and disturbing themes, and supposed-to-be chilling and at times downright frightening scenes in my stories. Depending on which work you look at I may write about abuse, torture, slavery, horrible deaths, human sacrifices… I think you get it. While it’s not particularly often, I have people wonder “Why do you write about [insert something]?”
However, this book isn’t about why (horror) writers write what they write. Nor is it about the what. It’s about the how.
Yes, this is a book on how to write fiction and things related to being a writer. A bit of a behind-the-scenes, if you wish, for the fiction you may or may not read.
Naturally, it is as important to know how to write good horror stories with powerful, effective scenes, realistic flowing dialogue and relatable characters as it is to be truly masterful in the art without resorting to clichéd jump scares and other all too well-worn gimmicks.
This is, as mentioned previously, a book about writing (horror), rather than actually fiction. It’s a really interesting book, but I found it a heavy read. I needed a lot of time to digest what I had read between each session and I really, really, really tried to finish it before the review, but I just couldn’t. So this review is based on the first third of it.
Have you ever had a near-death experience? It changes you. I don’t necessarily mean a permanent and drastic change in character—we’re far too stubborn for that. I mean a different outlook. Whether you’re living the experience yourself of investing in hours of reading about someone else going through it, you will walk away learning something—a lesson from fictional experience without physically going through the turmoil yourself.
It has a lot of interesting essays and interviews. But I have to admit that I haven’t read much contemporary horror. I had to actually Google the names. H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King and Anne Rice were some of the ones I knew, which is not surprising anyone, and they were only mentioned. I’m embarrassed to say that despite my interest in literary science, classics and horror, I haven’t yet read Lovecraft. Yet. I’ll get to it. I swear. I just got… everything… else. King I’ve read… once. Anne Rice I’ve stayed away from.
Like I said, I don’t read much contemporary horror.
Nonetheless, it’s really interesting! At least to a writer such as myself. It’s just the kind of book that needs some time. It did make me interested in several of the authors that took part and I could relate to a lot of it. It brings up writing aspects, but also things that are practical around it as how to survive as an indie author.
(…) it is most definitely not for the muggles who deem it acceptable to ask, “What on earth makes you write such terrible things?”
My favourite essay was Five years in the Horror Market by Kevin J. Kennedy because it was so full of great advice, while I learnt about the author (and publisher). It gave me a sense that the advice came from experience since I knew what path Kennedy had taken. I could also relate to some of the advice as similar to the ones I give or how I think about writing. For instance “Write something, then write something else. You’ll get better with every story you write.” is very similar to what I often say: “Write. Just write. It doesn’t matter what you write; every single thing you write gives you experience.”
I was also fond of the interview with Steve Rasnic Tem, as it resonated with my way of thinking around characters. I believe that you need to live your characters. Think about their pasts, think about their futures, really consider how you would react if you were them, with their personality, thoughts, feelings and experiences.
Would I recommend this book? Yes! Even only a third in, so much yes! It had a lot of good advice about writing not just horror fiction, but fiction in general. This is, though, mainly targeted to horror writers or those who wish to become one. But I do think that all writers benefit from knowing how to write horror, as fear, anxiety and suspense is part of life, no matter where we go.
No affiliate links, once again, as the publisher, Hellbound Books, so if you liked this review, consider giving me a coffee, or subscribe to my Patreon. The link’s at the bottom, as always, though to Amazon.
I need to see more folks buying through my links before I dare to try using Amazon again, as I didn’t get enough sales in the past. Lol.
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