Rants, Raves, & Random Thoughts

Shameless self-promotion of my writing skills or lack there of.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Human Monster

Whatever happened to my Transylvania Twist?

I’ve plunged myself into my next project. It is a story I’m doing by request and I’m enjoying it thoroughly. There’s something different about this story. It is different than anything else I’ve produced, save maybe a few shorts. There are no monsters, zombies, vampires or even demons. No, for this story I will be exploring the human monster, but there is nothing otherworldly about him. Can I make him scary without the assistance of beasties? Oddly enough, I think I can. For me there is nothing scarier than my fellow man. There is always a safety net when dealing with imaginary creatures, but when you’re reading about the actions of a man, well…it could really happen. These are the thoughts that would keep me up at night when I was younger.

I want you to think back over every scary story you’ve ever read. What character (or creature) affected you the most? Did you ever have a story that scared you so much you had to put the book in the freezer to keep the evil contained? If so, I want to know about it.



At 7:39 AM, Blogger lime said...

oh wow, a very good question!

well you know about the vampire comic book that kept me awake all night when i was 10. my mom had to carry it out to the trash can at the end of the property the next morning even though it was my brother's comic. it bothered me that much. he was less than happy with me. and you know how i reacted during the power outage after reading your novella (i am such a wimp, lol). you also know i tend to avoid scary movies and books (again the major wimp factor).

i am coming up empty for a specific character but the ones that chill me most now are the ones who are completely remorseless or who even derive really deep satisfaction at inflicting pain and suffering.

At 2:36 PM, Blogger James Goodman-Horror Writer said...

Oh, I couldn't agree more, Lime. The lack of remorse chills me to the bone every time. :D

At 4:15 AM, Blogger Bernita said...

I tended to avoid horror - my imagination made it all too real.
Think the thing that terrifies me the most is randomness - the coincidental, wrong-place-at-wrong-time factor - because no ordinary person can defend against that.

At 5:00 AM, Blogger James Goodman-Horror Writer said...

Oh, I like the way you think, Bernita. :D

At 11:30 AM, Blogger Angie said...

The one that got me was a short story, about a storm that created a breach in a weird top-secret scientific testing facility, which caused some sort of mist to roll out over all the land, relentlessly covering everything in a never-ending, soupy fog. It was the otherworldly creatures in the mist that scared me, though. Horrifying, ravaging, murderous beasts that were mostly blind, but tracked you by sound and scent. If you were inside a building, you were safe. If you went outside, you died horribly. The concept of the unseen monsters, and the isolation of not knowing when or where or how the mist will ever end, that was what scared me.

At 10:12 AM, Blogger Angie said...

[Here from Bernita's link. [wave]]

I don't actually get scared all that often, although there are a number of different kinds of things which can do it. Whether it works or not is a matter of the writer's (or movie maker's) execution; there's nothing that will always scare me no matter what.

Bernita's random horror can work, the idea that something terrible could happen to you for no particular reason, and there's no way to anticipate or avoid it. For this to work in a story you need enough time to recognize and anticipate. Random (or seemingly random) serial killers are especially frightening for this reason.

Horrible things happening slowly can also be very frightening; it's bad enough that you're about to be killed or maimed, but having it done a tiny bit at a time over a long period, while you're aware of what's going on, makes it much worse.

Being restrained, either mechanically or through some chemical paralytic or a serious injury or weakness or whatever, can also ramp up the fear. It might be the frustrated fight-or-flight instinct, where your body's pouring adrenaline into your system and you can't do anything with it. Or maybe it's the enforced helplessness, being unable to even try to fight or get away. Or both?

Looking back, I think the time factor is important for anything really scary. The sudden, random monster-jumping-out is more startling than scary, and at any rate the "Ack!" only lasts for a moment. Real fear takes time, both to build up and for the target to work on him- or herself. Something that gets your imagination going in horrific directions will do a better job, I think, than any clear picture, but that imagination and anticipation takes time.


At 4:12 PM, Blogger James Goodman-Horror Writer said...

Oh, fear of the unknown, Angie. Sometimes our imaginations can create far worse horrors if it they are allowed to run free. :D

Restraint, Angie. That one hits close to home. Being powerless, is one of my personal fears and it translates into a certain amount of empathy when I read about others in that situation.


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