Monday, September 21, 2015

Being a Horror Writer - "Oh, This Is Gross. Check It Out!"

Greetings, WYMOP fans!
All of you probably know I’m a writer—look, here’s a blog, I’m writing it—and most of you may know that, when I’m working on fiction, much of it is horror. Now, for some reason, being a horror writer isn’t like being any other kind of writer. People look at you differently, or make assumptions about you that they may not make about other kinds of writers.
I don’t know why this is, I just know that it is.
From time to time here at While You’re Making Other Plans, I’ve decided to tell you about some of the odd things that happen to me as a confessed horror writer. A lot of them strike me as a little funny; maybe they’ll strike you that way, too.
And away we go . . .
What people say:
“Oh, this is gross. Check this out—it’s right up your alley!”
“Hey, look at this disgusting picture of a guy who lost his face in a weird fondue accident—you’re into this stuff, right?”
“Here, try these. They’re potato chips that are supposed to taste like human flesh, but I don’t know . . . you could tell me if they really do, right?”
The reality (at least from my perspective):
No, that’s gross, disgusting, and insane, respectively. You keep whatever it is way over there, thank you very much. In most horror fiction, the horrible, awful, sometimes gory stuff is what the characters are trying to avoid, right? I mean, that’s the whole story, isn’t it? Suppose a serial killer knocks on a door, knife in hand, and says “Hey, buddy, I was strolling by and saw you through the window there, and what with it being a full moon, and I’m off my meds, and I just listened to a Beatles song backwards, I was wondering if you’d mind if I cut off your skin to start making myself a human suit. You look about my size—whaddaya say?” What kind of a story would it be if the guy answering the door said, “Well, uh . . .  I wasn’t really doing anything anyway, so sure. Why not?”
Short. It would be a very short story. More a scene, or a vignette, really. There’s no conflict there, you see, and what we’re really writing about is the conflict, not the consequence: I want to write about the lengths that man will go to trying to avoid becoming a size forty, long. Much like people who write action/adventure stories focus on (for example) all the effort to stop the mad bomber from blowing up the school bus filled with dwarf paralyzed nuns, rather than just documenting the big boom and trying to calculate how far two pounds of C-4 will throw a limp, three-foot-tall, wife of Christ. In romances, too, the focus is usually on the chase, or the buildup of sexual tension and play between the characters for a couple hundred pages, before the bodice-ripping, passionate, rumpy bumpy.
So why is it all right to assume horror writers are really into the worst, most visceral parts of their stories, but not everyone else? Why do people bring or send horror writers skulls and bones, or show them the pictures they took at that roadside accident they passed a week earlier, or tell them stories about their best friend’s cousin’s step-father’s uncle, whose testicles were pecked off in a bizarre pigeon-feeding gone wrong, in terrific detail, right down to the screaming? Yes, sometimes it’s cool, but come on, people, enough is enough. No one treats other kinds of writers like that, do they?
But I have a plan. I hope you’ll join me in it.
Rather than try to tamp down the love we horror writers feel from our fans, I say we share the love! If you’re a fan of romance, the next time you go to see a romance writer at a reading or book signing, don’t just bounce slightly with excitement as you ask for their autograph. I want you to slap down a copy of Hustler, Penthouse, Swank, or some other magazine that’s all about the beautiful, physical part of love and romance—the end product, or “money shot,” if you will—and ask if they’ll autograph it for you. Better yet, slide a DVD of Debbie Does Dallas, Romancing the Bone, or maybe one of the Anal Annie series across the table with a wink and a knowing nod. When they look up at you, their expression horrified and indignant, simply repeat the nod with a “You’re into romance, right?” See how far it gets you.
By the same token, the next time your favorite action/adventure author is in town, don’t just walk up to him with a book to sign. Run right at the man and throw a cross-body tackle! Whip out some kung-fu, shotokan, ju-jitsu, or some other word you don’t really know the meaning of. When security comes to politely escort you to the door, rip open your coat to show them the home-made suicide vest you’re wearing—they’ll never notice at a glance that the “dynamite” wired to your torso is really just candlesticks tied together with yarn. Have a little fun! Give them a little action!
And when SWAT responds to your fake bomb scare, remember to stay loose when they take you down; tightening up will only make it hurt more. BONUS: the same advice works well for your cavity search during processing.
In either of these scenarios, if you could please remember to have a friend standing by with a mobile phone in hand, ready to document the whole thing for trial . . . I mean, to share with me the next time we meet, I’d count it as a personal favor. I’d also count it as a solid if you could . . . uh . . . not mention my name during questioning? Thanks.
Mystery authors, shoot someone and try to get away with it. Western writers, shoot someone and steal their land. Fantasy writers, stab someone, then steal and marry their daughter. This is what they’re into, right? Let’s see if we can’t spread the strange love horror fans show their heroes across every genre. I just want to level the playing field.
Don’t you?
 . . . and again, if we could please just keep my name out of it?

Talk to you later.

P.S.—In case you were wondering, yes, I'm still receiving ads for burial insurance. 

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