Don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of Mr. King and consider him a master of horror in his older, shorter works. And, he’s certainly not the only author who’s written a looonnngggg horror novel I didn’t enjoy. I’m also a huge fan of Clive Barker, but after suffering through The Great and Secret Show, I won’t pick up another one of his longer novels.
I read and write horror for the shock and gore factor. Isn’t that the point of the genre? To make the reader squirm? Over four-hundred pages of background details, character development, subplots, and love stories are just a waste of time if everyone is going to die a gruesome and tormented death in the end.
Looking back at my reading history, I remember a specific childhood trip to the library, where I happened upon collections of short ghost stories for young adults. I sat with the first book, eyes glued to the pages, start to finish, frightened to the bone. I read through every book in the collection with equal fervor. Those books fed my addiction to horror, and ever since, I’ve sought out short fiction that‘s equally chilling. Poe was one of my favorites as a teen and today my favorite short horror author is Ramsey Campbell, but there are so many other collections by various authors I can’t resist. Unfortunately, more often than not, you end up with an anthology of the really good with the really bad.
Thanks to my freshman high school English teacher, I later found myself addicted to writing horror. Amazing woman put up with my horrific short stories. While everyone else wrote about their lovely Christmas holidays, I handed in a short story about Mrs. Clause beating Santa to death with a frozen turkey, after he arrived home late to Christmas dinner. It wasn’t exactly an original idea if you remember an old Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode, Lamb to the Slaughter. In the show, the wife kills her husband with a frozen leg of lamb, then feeds the cooked lamb to the police officers investigating his murder. Hey, we all gotta start writing somewhere.
I still write a lot of short horror stories. I especially like to take a break from a novel, during the onset of an over-thinking rut, to torture a few people in a flash fiction tale. Or, take a step back and write my entire novel in 50 words, a little trick I learned from Gaynor Stenson, the publisher I interviewed here a couple weeks ago. Over at Vamplit Writers, she challenged us to write horrific fifty word stories. Here’s the one I wrote for The Courier.
- Unable to hold down a job, Barry acquiesces to serve Satan for a lifelong paycheck. Soon overcome with remorse, he seeks a way to resign, but the only possible escape is through the lesser of two evils. In the end, he’s still held accountable.
It’s a constant work in progress. I spent a half hour updating it just to present it here, and still hate it. Reads too much like a pitch.
So I challenge you to warm up for the short story contest by leaving a 50 word story in the comments here today. Doesn't have to be horror.