Lately, I’ve been fully immerse in the Starz show Black Sails, the 4-season prequel to R.L. Stevenson’s Treasure Island which tells the story of Captain Flint, Billy Bones and Long John Silver in a terrifyingly realistic historical setting. There be dragons? Oh yes!
Beyond the swashbuckling, so much of this show resonates with what I care about as a storyteller that I even re-watch it in binge sessions. Don’t worry. I will spare you harping on about my admiration for the storytelling, the characters, the actors, the set and essentially everything else that is brilliant about this production.
Except this bit where Captain Flint (Toby Stephens), dead-tired of fighting against “civilised society”, proceeds to take the words right out of my mouth [no spoilers]:
They paint the world full of shadows, and then tell their children to stay close to the light. Their light. Their reasons, their judgements. Because in the darkness, there be dragons.
But it isn’t true. We can prove that it isn’t true.
In the dark, there is discovery. There is possibility. There is freedom…in the dark. Once someone has illuminated it.
Fear is the essence of horror. So as a writer of horror fiction, naturally I’m an expert fear manager, right?
On paper, yes. In reality, I’m always more or less terrified of one thing in particular. And so are you, whether you realise it or not.
The Commonest Fear
Extreme fear is high profile. The list of phobias is endless. But the most common everyday fear is as insidious as is it crippling. Everyone suffers from it. “Not me!” you say? Think again. Think of…
…failure. Nobody wants to be a failure. No one wants people laughing at them. You may not call it fear, but your shoulders tense. You feel queasy and your palms become sweaty. All at the mere thought of failing to… …
Hot off the press! A nice new publication is coming up, because Transmundane’s latest short story anthology includes my short story The Thin Blue Breadcrumb Trail!
After The Happily Ever After
The curtain doesn’t fall once love is recognized or evil is vanquished. Wicked stepsisters, malevolent rulers, and hideous creatures still have lives after their sinister roles play out; heroes, lovers, and dreamers often find their victories lead to more troubles.
Within these pages are more than seventy continuations, retellings, and eldritch stories that explore the dark forests, magical castles, and grotesque monsters After the Happily Ever After.
Once a month I permit myself to discuss the challenges of being a (self-published) author. In this month’s post:
To horror or not to horror?
So, I’m a horror writer.
The ‘horror’ adjective implies fear dripping off the pages and you dreading to read another sentence. But when did I last feel such a fright while reading? I can recall a few times, but those stories were not classified as horror.
Books that scare me are few and far between. Stephen King? His books tend to bore me to tears. Edgar Allen Poe? Interesting, but not frightening. And they are considered the founding fathers and masters of the genre.
This is a very interesting article in BBC News about the 19th century tradition of having (family) photographs taken of deceased loved ones. While macabre, it is also touching. Today’s society shuns death, but when this was popular, death – especially the death of children – was exceedingly common.
We would do well to remember that time, and remember that we all must die: memento mori.
And it isn’t just Hollywood. The effect is most noticeable on screen, where we actually hear the characters talk. But accents and foreign languages feature in books, too. How to treat them is a different cup of tea, if only because there are various ways to go.
Spelling It Out
Some writers drive home a character’s accent by spelling it out. Phonetically: “Ah had a feelin’ yous be comin’ ’round t’day.”
The result may be accurate, but it’s painful on the eyes. A more accomplished (or less ‘edgy’) writer will limit the phonetics to the occasional dropped letter and colloqial but well-known contractions, like “I dunno” instead of “I don’t know”.
Alternatively, a certain choice of words and the removal of even the most common contractions can be used to suggest the written equivalent of BBC English.