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This week: Love and HorrorEdited by: LJPC - the tortoise
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This newsletter reveals the forerunners of the Horror genre and how inserting a love-interest can affect the stakes of a story or novel.
"The beginning of love is a horror of emptiness."
~ Robert Bly
"Mine first--mine last--mine even in the grave!"
~ Louisa May Alcott
"There is hardly anyone whose sexual life, if it were broadcast,
would not fill the world at large with surprise and horror."
~ William Somerset Maugham
"Last night you were, unhinged. You were like some
desperate, howling demon. You frightened me...Do it again."
~ Morticia Addams
Love and Horror
Romance Gave Birth to Horror
Admit it, Horror lovers -- when you tramp through the bookstore, searching for something chilling to buy, you give the Romance section a wide berth. In fact, you secretly sneer at the people flipping through the 'bodice rippers.' But here's the hard truth: our genre started out as Romance. Yup. Long before the success of the Paranormal Romance genre (such as Twilight, Vampire Diaries, True Blood), the Gothic Romances of the 1700s were darkened and twisted to give birth to the Horror novel.
In the late 1700s, writers grew tired of the syrupy sweetness of the Romance novels of the time. They wanted to inject reality and modern worries into a genre they felt had become stale. The very first Horror novel was The Castle of Otranto, A Gothic Story, written by Horace Walpole in 1764, containing an ancestral curse, a brooding mansion, secret passages, supernatural phenomena, and a fainting heroine, who could've come straight from a typical Romance novel of the time.
In 1816, successful Romance poets Lord Byron and Percy Shelly, along with John William Polidori and Mary Godwin (later Mary Shelley), congregated at a country estate, determined to create something new and more exciting than what was on the current fiction market. They also wanted to explore social problems and alternative morality without the corseted limitations of classical romance ideals. Mary Shelly created Frankenstein (1818), and Polidori created The Vampyre (1819), the very first vampire story written in English. These novels are responsible for the modern Horror books of today.
Love = Stakes
(not the vampire-killing stakes )
The reason love is so important to Horror (or any genre) is because it creates the stakes, the reason why success is so important to the character. The fact the Main Character (MC) must kill the monster to save the world or dismantle the villain's bomb to save the classroom of schoolkids is all well and good, but what's in it for him? If it's merely to save his own life, or he's just an moral do-gooder, that won't give the story/novel the emotion or passion it needs to make the reader care about him and the outcome of the story.
You need more -- You need LOVE.
You need to give the MC a personal goal to fight for -- someone they love. Whether it's a romantic interest, a kid sister, a BFF, or a frail grandmother, the MC must have someone to protect, worry about, and ultimately save. When the stakes are personal for the MC, you'll be able to highlight the emotion and terror he/she feels, and that will keep the reader on the edge of their seat.
How to Use Love in Horror Writing
Establish the emotional attachment for the MC.
This can be done by showing the MC and the love-interest interact; show the love, trust, and affection that define their relationship. Or, if the relationship is only a goal not a reality yet, you can introduce it by seeding the beginning with the MC's inner thoughts. For example: How much he wants to travel home and reunite with a long-lost love. How much he desperately wants the popular girl to notice him. How much he wishes he could find a cure and save his sick brother.
Let the MC get closer to his goal.
Give the MC a taste of success. For example: Have him revel in anticipation when he buys the ticket for home. Have him tremble with delight as he finally manages to impress the popular girl. Have him find out there's a medical breakthrough that could save his brother. These emotional turning points will help your reader identify with the MC -- and give him something to lose.
Put the love interest in jeopardy.
When you're sure the reader knows how much the love-interest means to the MC -- take it away from him! For example: The MC arrives home to find the town (and his long-lost love) menaced by a monster; the popular girl is kidnapped by a serial killer; the doctor with the cure is a mad scientist who's experiments become zombies. Eeeek!!
Leave the MC floundering in a sea of disappointment and fear. Play up the excruciating emotions he feels as he considers life without his loved one. Make him twice as determined to triumph no matter what the obstacles.
Now you have a strong goal the reader will identify with and that will keep them rooting for the MC's success.
Until next time: Let the horror bleed onto the pages with every word!
Some great stories (and a poem) combining Horror and Romance. Enjoy!
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To my delight, some writers took the time to comment on my last newsletter!
Early - Great job on the newsletter! Even though you included my piece as one of the suggested readings, I only recently noticed and corrected my overuse of adjectives and adverbs. It's still a struggle. I think this is a really important revision tip, and one that can be difficult to explain to writers who have had teachers and professors telling them to add more description and imagery. I think the real message in their advice is often lost. Anyway, thanks so much for the awesome examples!
Thanks for the feedback. Adjectives are hard for all of us. It takes time to learn how to make scenes pop with interesting details and sensory descriptions without overusing adjectives. However, the more you edit your stories, the more the lessons will stick with you, and it will get easier -- I promise!
Taniuska - Spot on Laura, in particular for action and suspense scenes. Too many adjectives will slow the pace and take away from the intensity. Use sparingly is great advice:) Really enjoying your newsletters.
Thanks! You never slow the pace of your action--it just keeps on going!
Nicki <3's Mara!! - You used strong examples to illustrate the points in this NL. They were fun to read! Great tips here!!
I blush to admit I got help on the examples from some crit partners. Adjectives are my downfall, too!
Adriana Noir - Great NL, Laura! I am a huge fan of descriptive writing, but you are so very right. It has its time and place. In the middle of a tense action scene is not one of them!
Horror would be dry without great description, but self-editing is key. You write great (and scary!) descriptions.
Danger Mouse - A great newsletter.
You've given some very good advice.
You're welcome. I hope it helps you and others -- that's what I aim to do.
Vampyr14 - Great newsletter! Adjective abuse can ruin otherwise great writing, so it's important to pick and choose when and how to use them wisely...
Yeah, I'm a recovering 'Adjective Abuser'!
billwilcox - It's not MY fault! The very word 'adjective' has the word 'add' right there at the beginning. I don't know about you but I've always been taught that if it says 'add' I'm supposed to add it.
So true. I adjectives, but 1+2+3= Too many of the darn things!
BIG BAD WOLF - Submits: "Eggnog and Werewolves Part 1" And writes: One does what they can.
Yes, one can only try.
dejavu_BIG computerprobs - LJPC, Another great Newsletter, you've now made the Horror Newsletter my very favorite to read each month! As a fellow adjective addict, this one is being printed off for my writing info file. You give great and very helpful examples, I do believe one has sparked a new story.
Thanks so much for this comment. I hope your inspiration brought you a great story!
Soulhaven - This was a useful newsletter on adjectives. So often I read "cut them, cut them, cut them", so it is nice to read HOW to use them effectively.
Yes, it's easy to take them out, but harder to decide on the right ones to use. Thanks for commenting!
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