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  • Writer's pictureR Cipolletta

e13: On Writing Horror

Writing & Fiction Research 06.10.20

A Handbook by the Horror Writers Association

In typical 'me' fashion, I began by attempting to read this book cover-to-cover - a strategy that I know is time consuming and ineffective for research purposes but that I always stubbornly plough ahead with whenever I get a new book to read.

It's clear that for this project, and most time-sensitive situations, I cannot do this and expect to do sufficient research as to supplement my knowledge gap on the subject, so I quickly switched to the more effective 'find what you need in the table of contents and start there' approach

Insights gleaned from this are as follows:

21 Book Checklist:

Within this engaging collection of essays, informative passages, and transcribed pages, there is a list of twenty-one books that anyone who wants to write horror should read. For me personally this is a hail Mary pass as I have been dying to put together a well-informed book checklist to help educate me on the context of the horror genre for literal years. Feeling like there was far too much information for me to trudge through had always left me demotivated and miserable, ultimately leading to me giving up and prioritising other things that didn't feel so impossible.

This list is exactly what I needed both personally and for this module!

Said this, though the list is concise, informative, and mainly consisting of shorter titles, I do not feel I have the time to go through every single item for application to this project. Instead, I decided while reading the short descriptions under each listed item that I would choose only the books that have similar themes to the ones I have outlined in my Detective iterations.

These books, and the relevant theme I chose them for are as follows:

  • Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg ---- supernatural horror & private eye genres

  • I am Legend and Other Stories by Richard Matheson

  • Fear by L. Ron Hubbard

The Acting Method:

Not part of the aforementioned checklist, but not necessarily exempt from being listed there is Constantin Stanislavsky's An Actor Prepares which I believe deserves its own section in this entry because of how curiously it applies to my situation.

In my own early-stage works, I struggled with creative writing specifically, because I personally feel incredulous of the situations I was proposing. This is mostly because, as a child, I spent a lot of time indoors under the supervision of parents or teachers and didn't have any 'real life' experiences to draw from. As an adult, my gallery of real-world experiences has expanded but I wouldn't say it's nearly enough to supplement an entire adventure story arc, especially not a horror one at that. Therefore, learning how to twist my otherwise mundane memories and experiences into something I could harness for creative purposes would be the equivalent of uncovering a treasure trove where there ought not to be one.

Iain McCaig repeatedly emphasised the importance of using oneself as a reference when working as an artist. Typically recommending use of a mirror, facial expressions, and a handful of poses to convey real life emotion. The idea of an applicational technique derived from acting for using real-life memories to inform creative decisions sounds exactly like the kind of thing that could pair nicely with McCaig's suggestions and polish off my ability to bring to life not only my story beat writing for the Detective, but also my artistic execution on the concept art for the characters.

A very exciting notion indeed.

- R Cipolletta



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