I don’t write horror stories. Sure, I’ve written dark stories, but nothing I think anyone would consider horror. Recently my writing group, Hopefull Monsters, had a long discussion aimed at trying to define horror: What it is, and more importantly to me as a writer, what makes it tick?
That discussion spurred me to finish the draft of a story I had started several months ago, but abandoned because it wasn’t quite working and the subject matter disturbed me. It’s not a horror story per se, but it is horrific—terrible things happen to people, with terrible consequences. Now the story is bothering me. I woke up the other night, thinking about it. I might have been dreaming about it; I’m not sure. It’s stuck in my consciousness, like a rusty nail.
I think the story bothers me because I’m left wondering from what dark corner of my mind did it come. Why would I even think of such a thing? I told my wife about the story, and she gave me that sidelong glance usually reserved for leftovers gone bad. Unlike when I have talked about other stories, she just said (to paraphrase), “That’s messed up.”
Does that mean I have a good story on my hands? It’s not a good story yet, but I think it has real potential. It needs the usual revisions—it is a first draft afterall—but I’m not sure I want to work on it, at least not at this time. Maybe after I’ve gotten some distance from it…had a chance to think about where it came from…what it means…. Hmmm, it might be a while.
Interesting. I believe it can be hard to be totally honest in one’s writing. To completely open up, to access dark corners of ourselves that we may find hard to accept even exist, is a level of honesty that lays us bare and makes us extremely vulnerable. To turn this out for the scrutiny of the (sometimes unkind) public takes a level of confidence and a strength of nerve many people need years to cultivate.
But these, it cannot be denied, when combined with the rigorous discipline of genuine craft, are often the best of stories.
Good luck with it.
You are probably right. I’m sure there are dark corners in all of us, which would scare us if we took the time to seek them out. I guess this is what horror writers do every day. Thanks for the encouraging words.
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