Do you want to write horror fiction? Part II
Rather than jumping right into a 120 thousand word novel, I think it is important to hone your craft in the short story format. When you get good at that, you can scale it up to novella, then to novel formats. If you can’t write, finish, get published, and get people to read a short story, what makes you think you’ll be able to do all that with a novel?
Besides, having the monumental task of writing a novel is daunting. Most people quit because they feel they will never get through it. Some people don’t even start because the idea of writing a novel is overwhelming.
Let’s start from the start. Everyone has a story to tell. Men have stories that they tell the guys down at the corner bar or in the break-room at work. Women have stories they tell to girlfriends on the phone or at the hair-stylist and nail salon.
Not all stories can be turned into publishable or saleable fiction. Some of them can. In fact, I think everyone has at least one story in them that is publishable fiction.
The only reason to tell a story in a fiction setting is to demonstrate a change in a particular character. The character learns a lesson, they change their view on a subject, they turn their life around for better… or for worse. And, if successful, the readers learn something from the story and expand their understanding of the real world and the people in it.
Every good storyteller knows this even if it’s only on a subconscious level. Listen to your uncle, father or grandfather tell a story. It always ends with an epiphany; “That is why I will never eat fish from Lake Michigan ever again.” That’s the change! Your Grandpa might call it “the point of the story.”
So, ideally a short story should start right before the event that causes the main character’s change. How far before depends on how much back story is needed for character development and plot details.
So, from all this you should be able to grasp the first lesson:
A proper story is all about the main character – not the monster, not the haunted house, not the action, not the place it is happening. The character is going to be forced into a change and forced to change himself/herself. The process and struggle to change is the story.
Words – so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them. ~Nathaniel Hawthorne