This week the prompt at Wicked Writers was: Five things that we would like to see in the genre that we write in. Since my debut novel is a Christian/Horror crossover, and aimed more for a PG-13 type of rating, I am commenting today somewhere between thrillers and horror. And no, this is not C.J.’s post, I was simply looking for something sensational to entitle the thing with. If you were looking for something else, you might try Everything Erotic on Kindle. Shameless plug for C.J., I know (smiles).
Before I begin, please allow me to fill you in on what it is that I like.
[caption id="attachment_3337" align="alignright" width="196" caption="The novel"][/caption]One of the first novels that I ever read was The Amityville Horror, by Jay Anson. I am not here today to debate with you whether or not George and Kathleen Lutz concocted their story. I will leave that to others. There are plenty of sites on the web devoted to which side of the fence one might reside on with regards to this subject. If nothing else, it is simply one of the scariest “haunted house” stories that you will ever read. And you must read it at night, alone, while the rest of your household is quiet, if you want the best effect.
I think I like haunted house stories or ghost stories, if you will, due to the fact that it is something that every one of us can relate to. We all live in buildings that make noises in the middle of the night, and at some point or another every one of us have been alone in one…in the dark.
Serial killer stories are another of my favorites. Of course I refer to the fictionalized versions! I don't like it at all when it is real and being reported in the newspaper or on the evening news. What I love is the intrigue, the criminology work that must be done and the chase as the authorities close in. On the other hand, part of the reason that we can believe these stories, unfortunately, is due to the fact that these killers really are in the news every year.
Now that I have explained a bit of the “what”, I would like to explain the “why”. What I enjoy is the sitting on the edge of my seat kind of stories. I am not interested in crazed lunatics with chain saws, running around tirelessly, hacking up everyone that they can find into indescribable pieces. Nor am I interested in Saw XXIII or whatever number the filmmakers are on. I want to be thrilled by dark material, but not shocked, revolted or disgusted by torture porn and the like.
Having said all of that, the following are five things that I would like to see different. I will weave between print and film to help better illustrate some of the points.
1) Something new. Since much has been done before, it simply makes it that much more challenging to come up with new ideas or fresh twists. M. Night Shyamalan hit the first pitch that he ever saw for a grand slam with The Sixth Sense. Unfortunately, he has only managed a few weak singles and a double since then, but I like him, so I wish him well. The thing was that his idea was totally fresh, and it invigorated the genre. Of course, we then saw a lot of folks simply coming up with a great reveal for the end of their film or book, with little but a weak story to get us there, as if we cared by then.
[caption id="attachment_3338" align="alignleft" width="160" caption="A scene from The Sixth Sense"][/caption]
2) Stop showing us. When I was in high school I once heard that a poll conducted with prisoners revealed that they would much rather have a Sears catalogue then a playboy magazine. Less was actually more. I thought the notion ridiculous at the time, but I was a teenager who could only think about women, so what did I know? One of the reasons why the film, Jaws was so successful was apparently by accident. The mechanical shark, Bruce, named after Mr. Spielberg’s then-lawyer, did not work often enough, so they did the best that they could under the circumstances and it ended up making everyone involved look brilliant. The reason why the original Friday the 13th part 1 & 2 were good was due to the fact that the audience was rarely given any glimpse of either Mrs. Voorhees or eventually her son, Jason. In these cases, what we received mostly was the expectation of the killer. My good friend, Carole Gill, who recently blogged here made a very good point of this on her own blog. You should look her up if you have yet to do so. We're hoping to enlist her talents here soon on a more permanent basis. She's the real horror writer.
[caption id="attachment_3339" align="alignright" width="160" caption="Where's that bigger boat?"][/caption]
3) About Length. I know, I know; stop it already. The point here would be that the most important aspect is for the author to tell their story. I would hope that market concerns would not be the driving factor. Stephen King’s The Stand was far too long for a newer author, so the publisher had him trim it down. It was very good; however, when his name became so much bigger than any of theirs’, he was allowed to put back all of the pages that he had trimmed. What is key is that each chapter, every paragraph, and ultimately even the shortest of sentences be necessary. If it takes longer to give the reader the proper back-story, then make it longer. If it’s too short, don’t give us filler simply to stretch it out. The story is what it is. Thankfully, Mr. Jackson gave us additional footage for the dvds because there were times in all three Lord of the Rings films, and especially in Return of the King where I felt rushed through the original theatrical release. I recall Clive Barker’s Nightbreed making me feel that way, too.
4) Unnecessary murder. Why does each of Dirty Harry’s partners end up dead or physically incapacitated? I would have thought that once would have been enough. I have killed off a few characters in my writing, but am conscious of the fact that others feel the same about this subject. Let’s not erase someone simply because they are in the way, or in order to give the lead character the motivation necessary to kill every deviant that comes there way, ala Charles Bronson in Deathwish. What about this 70's idea that every sex-starved teenager should die, leaving only one left to survive. Did those screenwriters think that it made it a fairer fight? My 16 year old and I were watching Predator recently. Thankfully, the woman survived and was helicoptered out of the forest with Arnold the Governator, otherwise it’s not a great story any more as it is a star turn for the leading man. How about killing off the lead somewhere near the end of the movie? How’s that for original? I know it’s been done before, but so infrequently that only John Wayne in Sands of Iwo Jima comes to mind or Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan.
[caption id="attachment_3340" align="alignright" width="106" caption=""I 'ain't got time to bleed!""][/caption]
5) Too many twists. I love twists and turns and surprise endings that you never saw coming, just as much as the next person; however, not all at the same time. In The Dark Knight, although a very good film, I doubted that Batman would actually ever catch Heath Ledger's masterful Joker, when he had made him look so pathetic for the entire film. I thought Dan Brown's Angels and Demons was a terrific book until three-quarters of the way through when it took one twist too many for my believability.
Perhaps I am being too picky, making much ado about nothing. Perhaps not.
What do you say? I'd love to hear what you think. Did I miss anything? Did I go too far?
What about the rest of the panel for this week? We would love to hear your comments. If nothing else, have a great long weekend. Just not here...
[caption id="attachment_3341" align="aligncenter" width="220" caption="112 Ocean Avenue, Amityville, Long Island "][/caption]