Wind in a dark night. Moonlight on an empty path. These small miscellanies are what make up a horror piece. Fiction structures almost no boundaries — descriptions go on and on and on only restrained by the paper’s white edges. But poetry is less forgiving. There are so few words and so little time. How then, should one create poetry with horror as muse? In The Highwayman by Alfred Noyles, the chilling atmosphere of the gallops leading up and away from the old inn, of watching your lover by the moonlight, of glass windows shattering from gunshots in the middle of the night are all attributed to the development of one thing -- setting.
Author’s note: This is part two of a yet-to-be-named series of narrative essays, this time focusing on villains. Hope you enjoy it!
Phonecall with the felon
“Good evening, you’ve reached Writer’s Aid, how may we help you today?” a man’s voice answered my call.
“I was told you could redirect the call to a character of mine?”
“Sure thing, tell us your name and the name of your manuscript, please,” he said, and I replied obediently. “Thank you. Now please press one to contact the protagonist, two to contact the antagonist, three for the love interest, and four for any side character. You have five minutes. Thanks for choosing us!”
— Contains spoiler of a character arc in The Way of Kings
Fear has kept us alive since we’ve existed. The feelings of fight or flight are great motivators when faced with a large predator or the final exam next week. But how does this apply to your characters? Here’s how fear can make your characters stronger and your plot more satisfying.
Trigger warning for use and reclamation of the word “queer”
The word “Gothic” probably evokes different images depending on who you are. Maybe it makes you think of the Gothic architecture movement, or the music and fashion subculture that involves dark clothes and a lot of eyeliner. Or maybe it makes you think of the Gothic horror genre. A genre filled with creepy houses, love, death, and drama.
When thinking of horror in terms of poetry, it’s natural to recount the works of Edgar Allan Poe. But other poems fall into this genre as well. A personal favorite is My Last Duchess by Robert Browning.
At first glance, it seems like a straightforward ekphrasis: a rich nobleman describes a newly painted portrait of his deceased wife. It’s written in rhyming couplets of iambic pentameter, with only one long stanza that serves as a sort of monologue. The narrator (presumably a Duke) speaks directly to the reader and refers to them as “sir”, showing that the Duke assumes the reader to be a male of similar status.
CW: witches, death
The Crucible, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Vampire Diaries, American Horror Story season three, at least a dozen documentaries and horror movies, an abundant amount of historical books, even video games are obsessed with one topic: the Salem witch trials.
Until this year, I didn’t know as much as I would have liked to about the Salem Witch Trials. I didn’t realize how short the period in which the trials took place was or how they were fueled by repression. And now, having done the research and started The Crucible in class, I find there is so much to know about them outside this media, and I find it even more unsettling than witchy horror.
Fair warning, much of this article will be American-centric because the Puritan community that perpetuated these trials was so important to founding America.
So you want to solve a crime. Welcome to the world of detective novels. Here, you are free to make as many crazy theories as you want, but the answers may be hidden in plain sight. When you can pretend to be the felon, the hero, and the morally grey detective at the same time.
I wouldn’t be a writer if it wasn’t for detective novels. Before picking up The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, I had the popular (and heavily mistaken) prejudice that reading was awfully boring. I had no idea how much I would come to enjoy this genre. When I started reading, I couldn’t seem to find a way to stop. Soon my first bookshelf was filled with Christie, Poe, and more works of Doyle.
Lately, the line between horror, mystery, and crime fiction genres can get blurry. As literature progresses and new, innovative pieces come out, it’s normal for genres to overlap. But for now, I’ll focus solely on classic detective novels.
Trigger Warning: Mentions of death and dying
Picture this: it’s a cold, dark, stormy night. You’ve gone on vacation to some cabin in the middle of nowhere, when all of a sudden you hear something creaking, scratching, coming closer. You reach for your phone, only to realize that you don’t get service all the way out here. Now it’s just you and whatever lies out there in the dark...
It’s the end of the week, and after a long day of hard work, you’re preparing for the weekend. You can finally put all your worries away and just relax for a moment. There’s so many things you could do to unwind, but you choose to watch a movie. And what movie do you put on? A horror movie. You turn off all the lights and close all the windows. You bundle up in your sheets and turn on the movie, and once it’s done you’re terrified. You’ll spend the next few nights jumping at shadows, waking up in cold sweats and sleeping with the hallway light on...and the best part is that you’ll do it all again at the end of next week. Being filled with fear, flinching every time the final girl makes a move and screaming when the killer finally reveals themself. It’s fun, right?
The only question is: why?
Different veins of terror exist within the horror genre. You have your slashers, your paranormals, your aliens, your monsters, and hundreds of other subgenres to get your heartrate up. Even the words “terror” and “horror” are up for debate as to what exactly they entail. One of my favorites is the “body horror” category.
Body horror encapsulates movies like The Fly, The Thing, Videodrome, and Eraserhead. Body horror books include Uzumaki and Tomie by Junji Ito, The Troop and The Deep by Nick Cutter, and so on and so forth. This subgenre intentionally shows the human body being broken down, often through mutilation or transformation. Due to the gory nature of these narratives, they admittedly aren’t for everyone.