…some sweet lovin’.
Just kidding. I’m talking about writing. Specifically, I’m talking about writing horror.
I used to think I didn’t write a massive amount of horror, but over half of my published short stories are horror, or at least contain elements of it. (And now that October is right around the corner, I’m feeling the desire to put some of the other stuff I’m working on on hold and finish a ghost story novelette I’ve been working on since the time of the dinosaurs.)
Contrary to what some of the critics might claim, horror is very difficult to write, and extremely difficult to write well.
For me, well, let’s just say I’m a real diva when it comes to writing horror. Here’s a list of my needs when I write a horror story:
1. The right music. Usually something new age, but always something instrumental. But not Tubular Bells; that would be scary.
2. The right lighting. It must be dark, but not too dark; that would be scary.
3. No interruptions. I can’t be disturbed by phones, friends, or family. But I can’t be alone in the house; that would be scary.
4. The right location. I can’t have my back to the door. But I can’t have my front to a window. Or a mirror; that would be scary.
5. And we’re better off not even bringing up all the mannequins in the house.
So once I have everything in place, what does it take to write horror? Well, that’s the hard part. To be a great horror writer, I believe you have to find something that scares you and be able to convince your readers that it scares them as well.
I think that in order to do that well, you need to scare yourself while you write. If you’re feeling a bit frightened or creeped out, it will bleed through into the words you write. Your story will be convincing. In the same way, if you’re happy, your words will be happy. If you’re angry, your words will be angry.
I always disagree with other writers who say that writing is “lying” because I feel that it’s the opposite of that. A good writer might be able to “lie” to their readers, but a great writer tells the truth. It doesn’t matter if the story you’re telling isn’t “real.” It’s the emotions that are. If they are real, then so is your story. And you can’t fake that.
So when I want to write a horror story, I dim the lights. But I don’t start working on the story until what I’m writing makes me want to turn them back on again.
Because then I know it’s real.
How do you set the mood to write certain genres? Leave a comment and let us know!