March 6 2017

Writing Horror


Playing the villain

Ask many actors about those characters they’ve most enjoyed playing or those types of roles they prefer, and I can guarantee that a hefty percentage will tell you that they most enjoy playing the villain.

I’ll go further. I can almost guarantee that during the explanation as to why the villainous roles are those most favoured, the phrase ‘performance I can get my teeth into’ will crop up at some point in the conversation. I assume it has something to do with ‘bad-boy’ roles providing that extra buzz that ensures delivery of a top-class performance.

I also guess it’s a similar thing for writers.

For a fiction writer, the joy comes from simply writing fiction. No-one would argue with that one. I know I enjoy it – otherwise I wouldn’t do it. But I’m sure I’m not the first to declare, of all those elements in a story, those which I take particular pleasure in are the action scenes.

Upping the tempo

If the sheer pleasure of writing is what keeps this writer’s heart beating, it’s the action scenes which deliver the extra cardio workout that prevent furring-up of the arteries. Or, to quote Jay Bonansinga’s piece on writing action scenes in horror fiction:

The action scene is a rabid animal, the pit bull in horror’s back-yard. It’s the mongrel tearing at the cyclone fence, straining the envelope of taste and time-tested technique.

Terrific stuff. Of all the (incredibly useful) chapters in ‘Writing Horror’, a Writers’ Digest book edited by Mort Castle, it’s that one I’ve referred to most often over the years. I may have even checked it out for good  measure when I wrote the following scene, taken from my book, ‘The Door to Caellfyon’.

The book was aimed at the 9-11 year market so I had to write it accordingly but an action scene is an action scene, whatever the intended age-group. Of the fight scenes in my book – and there are a few – the one I’ve chosen is, I think, my favourite. I’ll set things up for you.

First of all, read my book blurb page for an overview:

Got it?

Okay, Levi – now in Caellfyon – has been receiving instruction from his mentor, a wily fox named Deepdale. And yes, by that I mean he is a fox – the russet, furry eared variety. In the scene, Levi has embarked on his first mission. It was to be an easy one. A scouting mission to the Wormwich marshes to snoop on the activities of a suspected traitor. What could possibly go wrong?

A chase ensues

All is indeed going well until Levi, along with Deepdale and another scout – a savvy stoat called Lapblud – are spotted by their enemy. A chase ensues:

Click on the image to enlarge the text

Recommended reading

Thanks for reading. If you’d like to comment, please feel free. And if you are a writer who, like me, also enjoy those scenes that help transport you to ‘the zone’ in which your fingers can fly effortlessly over the keyboard, as though running on instinct alone, you may be interested in the book I mentioned at the top of this page. Here’s the details:

‘Writing Horror – A Handbook by the Horror Writers Association’ Edited by Mort Castle
ISBN 0-89879-798-5