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Thread: Week 58- Horror: The End

  1. StevenForbes Guest

    Week 58- Horror: The End

    Iím guessing itís Tuesday, so welcome back to another installment of Bolts & Nuts!

    This is it for the Horror segment weíve been going through. Seems like a long time, right? Think of this installment as cleanup duty, going over some final thoughts when it comes to horror and things you can do to help yourself when writing it.

    Most of the time, when writing horror, youíre more than likely going to want to tell the story from the point of view of the protagonist, or from the neutral position of the narrator. You rarely want to tell the story from the antagonist. You donít want to get into their head, for a few reasons.

    The first reason is that youíre losing the impact of the horror. If you tell the story from the antagonistís point of view [in effect, making them the protagonist], then you are telling the reason why theyíre doing what theyíre doing, instead of having the reader wonder right along with the protagonist. Whatís so scary about that? Not a thing. Not unless theyíre hurting themselves. Then you have an opportunity for horror.

    The second reason is what I said in a previous column: youíre writing snuff porn, and most people arenít going to want to read that. Take a popular character, like Freddy. Heís a child murderer, and was killed by the townsfolk, the parents of his victims. Now, think about telling the story from Freddyís point of view. Think about the excitement he must feel as he kills. Get into THAT mode, and then tell the story, and see what the reader reaction will be.

    It wonít be good. Youíre writing porn. Donít write porn. It wonít sell.

    The third reason is overexposure of the antagonist. Horror works well when the antagonist isnít often seen. They come in, they kill, and then they go away until its time to kill again. That is, until you get to the third act, when they have to be defeated. If you keep showing your antagonist, you lessen the impact of the story youíre trying to tell. Not good.

    If youíre going to write a story with the antagonist as the person youíre following around, I suggest doing it from a more neutral position as the narrator. This isnít getting into their psyche, so youíre not writing porn. I donít suggest it, but itís a method that can be used. I feel youíll still be lessening the impact of your story by overexposing your villain, but that would really be your call.

    Again, remember that the heavy lifting of the story is going to be done by the rest of the art team. Close-ups, weird camera angles, and possibly thicker, interestingly constructed panel borders/page layouts will be the staple of the artist doing horror stories. These would definitely be used when scary stuff happens, and not necessarily during the setup stages of the story. If your story is in a haunted house, thereís no use in calling for a close-up with a thick border without something scary happening. Itís a waste. Donít call for it, and your artist more than likely wonít do it.

    One of the big secrets of horror is to give the story an ending, but not actually resolving the issue.

    Letís look at a popular horror movie franchise: Halloween. (Again?!) [Yes, again and again! Itís cathartic.] In the first movie, you think Michaelís dead a couple of times, but not only is he not, heís still coming for Laurieís ass. (Thatís nasty. Thatís his sister!) [Get your mind out of the gutter for a while.] Then Dr. Loomis comes in and empties a revolver into him, and he falls backward off a second story balcony. When Loomis and Laurie go to lookóMichael is nowhere to be found. Scary, right? And thatís how the movie ends.

    So, the movieís done, but is the situation resolved? Not at all. Eight sequels later, theyíre still going strong. If youíre able to do that within the pages of your comics, youíd be doing well.

    Not resolving the issue can be difficult, though. Please, donít get me wrong about that. I understand that what Iím telling you is difficult. As Americans, we like to have resolutions, or at least the illusion of them. We like things in neat boxes that can be labeled. We like happy endings. Because of that, our natural inclination is to finish the story. Give a resolution to the situation. For horror comics, I feel this is a mistake. Think about how many sequels the people clamor for when it comes to horror movies. Sleepaway Camp had how many?

    One thing that most people donít discuss is the life of the characters after their ordeals. That can be horrific in itself, especially in todayís age where a doctorís prescription seems to be the cure-all for everything. Personally, Iíd find a story like that interesting, but then again, what do I know?

    Not resolving the issue, though, is a powerful tool to be used, and can leave you space to write a sequel to your storyóif you have one. If you donít, just leave it be. Trust me on this one.

    Now, lots of you have an Ďend of the worldí story to tell. You figured out a way to get rid of most of the population, and then you knew what story you wanted to tell with the survivors, and then, you threw your hands up and were pissed off when Robert Kirkmanís The Walking Dead hit. No, your story didnít involve zombies, but it was a story you felt was worth tellingóonly Kirkmanís doing it better than you are.

    End of the world stories have several things going for them. You get to play with isolationism of the characters, you get to throw all kinds of threats to them, you get to play with the simple things we take for granted every day. Pretty fun, right? And best of all, the stories are pretty sustainable. End of the world scenarios are obscenely sustainable, and can go on indefinitely. There is ALWAYS some new threat or different angle you can employ to shake things up for the characters. Always. And in the serialized realm of comics? As long as youíre telling a good story, you can tell that single story for the rest of your life. Kirkmanís doing it for you month in and month out, and is making a mint because of it. He doesnít have to tell another story if he doesnít want to. He can just go on telling tales of The Walking Dead for as long as he wishes. He could even do several spinoffs if he wanted to, and still be within that realm. Funtastic, right?

    The last thing I want you to realize, basically, the ONLY thing I want you to realize, is that horror is psychological. All of it. What scares you doesnít scare me, and vice versa. I personally know a Marine, 6í2Ē, over 200lbs, whoís terrified of spiders. It doesnít matter the size or type. As long as itís a spider, he canít kill it. He has to get someone else to come do it for him. Others are scared of snakes, some of crickets. Lots of children are scared of thunder and lightning.

    What is it that weíre really afraid of? How can a cricket hurt us? Or a worm? Generally, weíre bigger than most of the things weíre afraid of, and by taking a little care, the things that can truly harm us, wonít. But itís all in our head.

    Take the cockroach. The general consensus is that cockroaches are disgusting, and seeing one scamper when the lights are suddenly turned on gives us a visceral reaction like few others. We look at the roach, and we have a can of Raid, and we slowly hunt the little bastards, creeping up on it so that it doesnít scamper away somewhere. And then we pounce! Our arm flashes out, forefinger depressing the button, and we send aerosoled death their way. We then watch in triumph as the roach falls off the wall, legs twitching. Or, letís say you donít have any Raid. Letís say youíre trying to kill it by crushing it with some paper or a shoe. Youíre still going through the same actions, the same reactions.

    As a writer, your job is to get that across the page to your audience. You can only do what you can to instill that feeling of horrible dread, leaving the rest to the creative team, but you know that you must get it across. You have to get that psychological terror across to your reader and evoke a response in them. That is our first, last, and only job.

    Now, there are few unwritten rules when writing horror. Almost anything goes, and Iíve touched on them here and there, but I just wanted to put them all in one spot for easy reference.

    Weíve already talked about the snuff porn.

    Thou shalt not hurt children. Children, for some reason or another, are seen to be sacrosanct. They can be as evil as Damien Thorn, but you cannot hurt them. Youíll get more of an uproar hurting a young child than you will hurting a grandmother or stuffing your girlfriend in a fridge.

    Well, maybe I DO know why. I was thinking I donít, but maybe I do. And it was staring me in the face. [Told you Iím not smart.]

    We deal in both words AND pictures. And to most of us, seeing a child reminds us of innocence, and to see innocence hurt in such a brutal fashionóespecially in our imaginationóis something most of us wonít abide by. Lots of artists wonít draw it in graphic detail, and LOTS of readers donít want to see it. Most publishers wonít put it out. The easiest answer is just not to do it.

    No animals were hurt during the making of this comic. ĎNuff said.

    For the love of plush toys everywhere, BE GOOD! (Thatís cheap!) [No. Thatís truth.]

    Thatís going to do it for horror. Next week, weíll talk about knitting, and how incorporating comic characters into it is good for the soul and the colon.

  2. gwilliams Guest

    "Next week, we’ll talk about knitting, and how incorporating comic characters into it is good for the soul and the colon."

    So basically we're doing fantasy next week?

  3. MartinBrandt Guest

    Another solid article, I am sad this is the end of the Horror Journey.

    Though knowing we are going into knitting I am lit up with pure excitement. I have always wanted a Batman afghan.

    One thing, you said don't write as the antagonist, I feel I may have a counter point here.

    Say you write as the antagonist, you write from their point of view. Now there is some consensus that all intentions are pure(re:good) and that somewhere along the way things happen to twist and pervert them.

    With that rationalization you could see the good in almost anything if you went back to the bare basics of it.

    So what if we told the story of a antagonist from his/her perspective. In this narrative what he sees is normal to him and relates it in normal ways. The antagonist mind rationalizes it so that most people can relate to it. Due to the skewed perception of the antagonist we view the world through their eyes in their way. Since he/she is the main voice we take for granted and think this is the normal world and perhaps he is the protagonist.

    Come the end we give the reveal and show the true horror. This thing we were associating with, we were sympathizing with at times is the true monster.

    Now that could make some good horror in my opinion.
    Last edited by MartinBrandt; Tuesday, September 15, 2009 at 05:48 PM. Reason: can...could.... (grammar)

  4. StevenForbes Guest

    Hey, Were-lock, have you been reading this latest iteration of Captain America, by Brubaker? A wonderfully solid read, and he did something like what you're suggesting in it.

    The Lonesome Death of Jack Monroe was a sad, tragic affair. If you haven't read it, I suggest you do so.

    Even if you're going from the antagonist's pov, and they're deranged and looking at things strangely, in order to get the benefit of the horror of the story, it has to come through as real before the end of the story. You can have hints and such starting to show through the cracks, but before you get to the end, you're in the snuff porn section because that's where the horror lies. You have the lie of the fantasy juxtaposed with the truth of the horror being inflicted.

    It may be horrific, but like I said, I don't recommend it.

  5. StevenForbes Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by MartinBrandt View Post
    Though knowing we are going into knitting I am lit up with pure excitement. I have always wanted a Batman afghan.
    And, I'm actually going to have one, as soon as my co-worker finishes it. I may have to post a picture...

  6. MartinBrandt Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by StevenForbes View Post
    And, I'm actually going to have one, as soon as my co-worker finishes it. I may have to post a picture...

    That is not optional.

    Okay now back on topic.


  7. AdamH Guest

    There's something to be said for the those rare stories where the protagonist IS the antagonist. The awful remake of "My Bloody Valentine" comes to mind.

    All through your story your protagonist is trying to figure out along with everyone else who the killer is until the big reveal at the end where...DUN DUN DUN..THEY are the killer!

    Most time this reveal doesn't work for me. Because, right after the big reveal the writer(s) try to go back and show you how the killer did everything/went everywhere and was still everywhere the protagonist had to be. The explanations have to be plausible enough and rarely are.

    When they are plausible enough, the reason for the personality split never seems plausible enough for me.

    It's balancing act for sure, and one of those rare times when writing for one character is actually writing for two characters.

  8. Sliverbane Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by StevenForbes View Post

    It wonít be good. Youíre writing porn. Donít write porn. It wonít sell.
    Are you saying porn doesn't sell? [Insert guffaw here] You really must elaborate on this one!

    Thou shalt not hurt children. Children, for some reason or another, are seen to be sacrosanct. They can be as evil as Damien Thorn, but you cannot hurt them. Youíll get more of an uproar hurting a young child than you will hurting a grandmother or stuffing your girlfriend in a fridge.
    The stuff I read must be really twisted - but yes, they're novels and there are no pictures of beaten, maimed children.

    Again, with your advice I'm leaning towards taking my stories to Manga. Cause the 'antagonist view' and 'child-killer' concepts run rampant in Manga. Once again more limitations with American comics. Interesting.

  9. MartinBrandt Guest

    Well he did point out the limitation is American, not human.

  10. tiggerpete Guest

    you saying Americans aren't human? I may have to go get the orcs from the local National Guard post and have a few words with you.

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