Oh the (lack of) horror!!!

I think it’s pretty much official; I am no longer comfortable calling myself a horror writer.  I think, at this point, saying that I am a writer of dark fiction might even be a stretch.  Slipstream might work.  I don’t know.  Since when did literary genres become as befuddled as musical genres anyway?

Here’s where I’m coming from:

The past year has been spent working primarily on Broken Skies which has supernatural elements galore, but it is not by any stretch of the imagination a horrorstory.  The same can be said of the abandoned NaNo project, The Masks of Our Fathers; while it is quite dark at heart, it is not a real horror story.

In trying to write something for the Devil’s Food anthology, I began to realize that the elements of horror aren’t coming as easily as they used to.  While The Bleeding Room is still unpublished (and yes, still in a final reading stage at one certain publishing house), it is by far the work that I am the most proud of.  And it is an out and out horror novel.  The same can be said about the few victories I have had in 2008.  Every short story I  sold and published was, at its heart, a horror story (Tricks of Shadow and Light, included in It Came From Planet Mars was dangerously close to sci-fi, but eh).

Anyway, this led me to take a look at the short stories that I currently have in progress or done and looking for a home.  As I checked them over, I realized that while they all have some degree of the supernatural to them, only 3 out of the 12 are strictly horror.  The one I am writing for the Devil’s Food anthology is obviously horror and the sad thing is that, to me, the idea seems pretty contrived and stupid.  (Anyone want to read what I have so far and let me know what they think?)

Then there is the story idea that came to me the other day.  I started tinkering with the first draft last night and got 950 words into it.  Again, there are supernatural themes to it, but it’s looking to be an almost literary peice.  And if it comes out the way I want it to, it stands to be one of the best stories I’ve written to date (in my humble opinion).  It’s one of those stories where everything is falling into place beautifully.  Titles are generally the hardest part of a story for me, but I had the title for this one after only 300 words in: Riding in Trucks With Ghosts.

So the question: for writers of the darker stuff, where does the horror persona end and the simple storyteller part of us begin?  Do the two sides need to duke it out so that one can be the dominant force on the playground or do they need to learn to co-exist?…to become co-workers in the same office, working with the same goal in mind but from different departments?  (Sounds like the office Christmas party would be a blast)!

As always, please leave your thoughts and opinions.

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5 comments

  1. A. I would be honored to read what you have so far for Devil’s food. You have my email address if you want me to try it. I don’t have anything going on this afternoon (or much of this weekend for that matter)
    B. Much of what I write is not horror as well. I have delegated power to the story at this point and I don’t try to fight it. (All of it is dark, but not much pure horror (try the Yellow Mama story I have out right now for an example))

  2. I’m not a horror writer, but I play one on TV.

    Really, folks have called me horror, I’m an affiliate in the HWA, and most of what I write is dark, but I reject the wholesale “horror writer” moniker. Dark fantasy–yes. Dark magical realism–yes. Pure horror? Probably not.

    I feel a post coming on.

    To answer your question, in a way, story must come first. (in that way, I agree with B above)

  3. I can read the story if you want! As for writing, I often have to be very stern with myself in order to stay “on point.” I am a horror writer, but sometimes i find myself wanting to write something that’s not scary or just plain weird. I have to step back and ask myself if it’s a story worth telling, or a daydream that should stay that way. If it’s the former, I remind myself that there are plenty of markets besides horror to choose from on Duotrope ; )

    I also go through phases. Recently I wrote a lot of funny horror stories. Now I want to go back to the kind of stuff that makes my mother wonder what is wrong with me.

  4. I like Natalie’s answer.

    I’m nearly always speculative, but some things are darker than others in life, and if art imitates it, we can guess where it’s going. I’ve read in a lot of places that genre jumping is inadvisable to a young starting-out author but is it really a choice? No horror ideas working, but a ton of mainstream/literary, and you’re going to sit there and not write just to be stubborn?

    But when I look at storytellers I admire (and by admire I mean pretty much worship), I realize they’ve all done it. I read the stuff in the Vonnegut collection “Welcome to the Monkey House” and I think, how could he not have gone to all these places? It’s what storytellers naturally want to do, no matter what they have to call themselves. Even the very, very best of them. It makes a hack like me feel a little better.

    Phases are a natural part of being human, interests wax and wane. If we try to fake it, it will be feel contrived and stupid, like you say.

  5. Good comments, all. I think Katey is right about the PHASES though. Perhpas that is what is happening to me as of late. I want my stuff to seem more important than it really is…

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