Archive for May, 2012


Write What You Know, Even in Horror

“Losing is not an option and winning holds a horror all its own.”

Budding authors, looking for pointers, are likely to find the sage advice “Write what you know” sprinkled liberally throughout books, blogs and other sources of such information. As wise as this sounds, its really common sense. You can’t write about anything of which you have NO knowledge. Take for example, the Civil War. Yes, we all studied it in school, but if I were to write a piece of historical fiction set during the Civil War, I would need to do some research if I planned to make it historically accurate. Someone who was a huge Civil War buff might be able to go on their knowledge alone. So let’s edit our saying to “Write what you know, or what you are able to learn”.

So how does that apply to someone like me? I write horror, paranormal and sci-fi. I can assure you I have never had any of the experiences about which I write. Some of them aren’t even possible (other planets for example) and I’ve certainly never been a serial killer. So how can I write about such subjects? In addition to having a rather twisted imagination, most of my stories are inspired by some kernel of truth. “The GAME” is a novella in which I wrote about a life or death game of Texas Hold Em poker. After writing, poker is one of my favorite pastimes. All of the characters in that story are inspired by poker pros I have watched on TV. The game itself is simply the mechanics of knowing the different hands and how they are played. The rest is (twisted) imagination. I couldn’t have written that story if I had never played the game and hadn’t spent hours watching games played on TV. I wrote what I knew.

Master horror writer Stephen King’s first novel is “Carrie”. It’s about a high school girl who is severely bullied by her classmates (in case you’ve really never read the book or seen the movie). Much to their dismay (and demise) Carrie has telekinetic powers and she takes out the lot of them at the prom. I don’t know if Mr. King was bullied in school. I’m guessing the chances are fifty-fifty, but it’s a safe bet he was never subjected to the horrible treatment he inflicted on Carrie. Even if he wasn’t bullied, I’m sure he witnessed it happening to someone else. The rest is just writer’s imagination taking a situation and making it larger than life.

Let’s say your hobby is gardening. Pretty innocuous pastime. But what if your plants started talking to you, demanding more food and attention? Set it to music and you get “The Little Shop of Horrors”. You can take the simplest things and turn them into story ideas. Just ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Then write it down. What would make your skin crawl in a given situation? I even used something as simple as riding a commuter train and turned it into a horror short story. “The Quiet Car” in my upcoming collection “Nightmares and Body Parts Vol. 1” (shameless self promotion) was inspired by my commute back and forth to Los Angeles. Simple idea + the worst that can happen. Write what you know and make up the rest. When it starts creeping you out, you’re on the right track.


May 2012
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