Do you want to be a horror fiction writer? – Part IV
Know your Genre
Why is it important to read stories in the genre you wish to write?
In order to present your story in an original way, you must know what has come before in that particular genre. Did you ever have a friend that knew nothing about a genre come to you with a great idea for a story?
Mike, I got this great idea for a horror story. See, there’s this real estate planner and he’s living in this new area in the mid-west with all new homes, but what he doesn’t know is there was a cemetery there and they moved the headstones but never moved the bodies – so now all the dead spirits are angry…
Apparently, Jerry has never seen Poltergeist.
On the other hand, just because it has been done already, doesn’t mean you can’t make it your own. Before Chucky, there was Talking Tina. Before “Christine” there was “The Car” and before that there was “Duel” and the Twilight Zone episode, “You Drive“. Your life experiences are unique and are going to make your characters, point of view and your presentation of the story different than another person. The only thing is – you have to know what has come before, so you don’t write it the same way others have and people don’t think you’re just copying another author. You need that ripple, you need that twist, you need that different angle, or people are going to give your story the ‘yawn’ and dismiss it.
An important clue is often found in the submission guidelines to publications and e-zines you plan to submit to. I had recently read on a submissions page: We’ve seen way to many zombie love stories lately…” Who knew there were dozens of zombie love stories published in the past 5 years? Horror fiction is usually on the cutting edge. If all you do is watch horror movies, be aware that the films market is usually about 10 years behind the horror fiction market.
So, it is important to read. It is important to read stories in the same genre that you are going to write about. If you are going to write a ghost story, read a bunch of ghost stories – from the classics to new and underground writers. If your going to write Lovecraftian horror, read all the Lovecraft disciples – the Lovecraft inspired anthologies and the Cthulhu Mythos collections. If you’re going to write a comedy novel, read a bunch of comedy novels. A Western? Read westerns. Got something really bizarre, read Bizarro fiction!
There’s a good chance your totally unique idea has been used already, more than once. You will have to rely less on ‘the gimmick’ and concentrate on the hard work – interesting characters, strong plot, and engaging dialogue – to carry your story.
“Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any.” – Orson Scott Card