While I’m sitting here writing this post, some asshole with a haircut twenty years younger than his face is chatting inanities about his kids. He’s not talking to me – I burnt that bridge around Christmas time – however, he’s projecting his voice to a cluster of bored accountants who are pretending to give a shit.
‘My oldest daughter…’ blah blah.
Does he not understand I’m writing? Silence!
I persevere nonetheless.
So. Editing. The first third is pretty much sorted. I’ve brutally chopped scenes and rearranged characters.
Scrivener has been invaluable. The ability switch around scenes, lay them out on a corkboard, track when your characters appear in is wonderful. If you’re struggling with the structure of your novel, buy Scrivener. Or at least try it out for the 30 day trial. Like all good software, it simply works.
For every pass at a scene, I feel I’m adding flesh to the bone. However, something has come to light during this process: I was surprised at how much my influences have snuck in.
My novel is, essentially, a futuristic, political thriller. I guess. I hate to pigeonhole anything, but that’s probably the best description for it (although by the time I’ve finished editing, it’ll probably be a medieval love story). Anyway, imagine my surprise (and delight) when I realised how much horror had crept in there.
My first memory of being overtly scared by fiction – I was nine – was from a novel called ‘The Scarecrows’, which was written by Robert Westall. Brief synopsis: A kid lives in a house by a field that contains a bunch of scarecrows. The scarecrows move gradually closer to the kid’s house.
It was fucking petrifying.
And it’s still worth a read today, if you’re into that sort of thing.
I’m twelve years old and my brother is ten, we’re sitting in the living room of our suburban, redbrick house and it’s Saturday, around 2pm. It’s raining (#England) and we’re bored (#Kids). But luckily, I’ve recorded Alien and The Omen from BBC2 the week before. That’ll while away the afternoon…
I put the tape in the machine and push play.
Cue two hours of sheer terror as Sigourney Weaver runs, sweating around a dark spaceship from an indestructible monster. I was enthralled. And if that wasn’t enough, we follow it with two hours of a sinister smiling kid and ‘accidents’ orchestrated by Satan.
I was sold.
My brother spent the next year in therapy.
And then, even though I had never seen A Nightmare On Elm Street, a friend of mine owned the videos. The artwork was enough. His face. Oh Jesus, his face. My teenage years were littered with dreams of Freddy Krueger. And we all know that dreaming of Freddy is the worst thing you can do, because that is how he kills you.
It was only in my twenties, when I was bed-ridden for a week from an operation, that I plucked up the courage to watch A Nightmare On Elm Street. Following that, I devoured the boxed set in two days. The third movie was a personal favourite.
There’s also the aptly named Stephen King. Well, you know there are some folk who say they don’t trust people who dislike dogs? I don’t trust people who dislike Stephen King.
Pet Sematary or Christine. They’re the two that really got me. The former, bleak and horrible; the latter a superb allegory on obsession and love.
And if you’re feeling brave try Richard Matheson’s Hell House. Go on. I dare you.
But not all horror appeals to me. Dean Koontz is pretty much Dean Kuntz as far as I’m concerned. The Hostel and Saw gorefests strike me as pointless exercises in shock. And many, many horror movies I find distasteful for their misogyny. The role of the female is to get naked, scream and then die.
Beret-wearing ‘70s budget horror director: ‘Get your tits out, love. There’s a good girl. Now let’s throw some blood on ‘em. Nice. Beautiful. Scream a little louder, darlin’ That’s it.’
Ah fuck off.
From my lofty position as thirty-something white, western, middle-class male, I’m probably not best placed to comment on these sort of things. But really, you have to be some sort of fucking idiot a) not to notice gender inequality is still a huge problem, or b) be cool with it. Latent or otherwise, misogyny in any form always leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
Perhaps as a reaction to the female role in horror, my favourite book/film in the genre is Clive Barker’s The Forbidden, which was later filmed as Candyman. I love ‘em both. The protagonist is a smart, savvy woman. The villain is threatening, partly due to his absence of screen/page time and partly because he guts people with a hook. It also has lashings of sadness to it. It’s really a very beautiful story once you get past the razorblades in the sweets and the disembowelments.
And the bees. Never forget the bees…
So yeah, I love horror. I love being scared. If you delve into the psychology of it (which I won’t do here), there are some very interesting theories as to why it’s so popular. Personally, I liken it to the rush I get from spicy food. Without it, a meal can often seem bland.
So if I ever finish this novel and if you are kind enough to read it, there might be the odd scary moment.
A little pepper with your sugar everyone in a while.