I wanted to make sure that my co-conspirator got a chance to get in on the horror discussion! This post is by S.H. Roddey, a very talented author that you don’t want to meet in a dark alley <g>
The Subtle Approach
So I’ve been promising Selah a blog post for over a month. I’m slack…but I did at least get it to her in the month of February. I suppose if I’m going to be so late, it better be a good one, huh? Then let’s get started.
Last year I was on a panel at a convention where we discussed who was better at horror – men or women. It’s really an unfair question if you ask me. When it comes to writing, men and women, as with everything they do, approach the task very differently. Men tend to have a more in-your-face stance while women are a bit more understated. That’s not to say role reversal doesn’t often take place, because it does. What I mean is that women, complex creatures by their very nature, tend to lead with subtlety. We walk softly (and if you’re like Selah, carry a very large ass-beating stick). We’re nurturing individuals, capable of healing and great love. But we’re also capable of holding terrible grudges and inflicting great pain. We understand the psychology behind pain as well, which makes us even more dangerous weapons when pushed to our limits.
In the realm of horror, I look at it like this: men are going to go for the initial kill. They’re going to freak the reader out and build on the terror. Look at what Stephen King did in Gerald’s Game. He chained Jessie to the bed and killed her husband in the first thirty pages of the book. Then he compounded that terror with every imaginable nightmare for the next two hundred pages.
Us ladies…we don’t play that game. We start slow, describing the setting and letting our readers get to know our characters. Then we might talk about some seemingly insignificant detail from the main character’s past or how she’s trying so valiantly to get past a horrible event from her childhood. The air is going to have an unnatural chill. Silence will dominate where sound should prevail. Characters will feel sadness in ways most well-adjusted people will never know. Then as the story progresses, we’ll likely start talking about an old folktale about Old Man Death and his predisposition to walk behind a man on his left side. Our hero will then spend the remainder of the book fearing the day when Death places that bony hand on his shoulder and beckons him to the next realm.
The carnage that ensues will be the least of his worries because he’ll know that just behind him, death walks with that ever-reaching hand. And no matter how bad his life gets, he will know that his time will not come until he feels those spindly fingers chilling his skin. Ultimately the point won’t be the end of the poor soul’s life, but the creeping terror that fills his bones from waking until sleep.
See what I mean? Subtle. I know, right now you’re thinking that the concept isn’t that scary and girls just don’t get it when horror is on the table. If that’s the case, that’s all well and good. The subtle approach won’t necessarily scare everyone.
But I dare you to turn around and look over your left shoulder.
“The Devil is a busy man.”
Lydia St. Clair was seventeen when she made her first deal with The Devil. Now twenty-one years old and a professional bounty hunter, Lydia possesses a unique set of skills that make her valuable to Lucifer’s grand plans. In the four years since that fateful night she has come full-circle, and now her nemesis has come back to collect on that debt.
Unfortunately for Lydia, He has leverage that will leave her questioning her own humanity.
The Devil is a sneaky bastard and he knows how to play upon the weak. He twists lies just enough to make them true, and when his victims are confused,he strikes. That’s how he got me. My name is Lydia St. Clair and I murdered my father.
Don’t look at me that way. It wasn’t like I signed up to be one of his henchmen. Not consciously, anyway. I didn’t understand what I was getting myself into. I was young and sloppy and didn’t know anything at all. Kids never do, but part of being a kid is that you can’t tell the little buggers anything at all.
My problem was that I was a little wild…okay, so I was a lot wild. My Daddy did his best with me, but I was one of those lost causes from the start. Stable suburban childhood. Supportive, God-fearing parents. Successful, intelligent older brother who was a complete suck-up.
Me? I was a bad egg.
I smoked. I snorted. I tripped. I drank. And yeah, I drove around a lot while doing all of those things. I was invincible, after all.
My story starts the night my life ended. I’m still alive, but this life isn’t mine anymore. I gave up my rights to it in a drunken stupor on my seventeenth birthday.
As usual, I was out far too late and I was so messed up I couldn’t make heads or tails of the world. And I was driving. It was 2 a.m. and I’d just dropped my boyfriend off outside his apartment. Kellen was twenty-five, by the way. And yeah, my parents hated him. But he has nothing to do with this story.
The inside of my car still smelled of pot, sex and vodka. My vision was blurry because I was drunk and high and still tripping in the afterglow. Heavy metal blasted from my speakers and I was too busy sucking on the cancer-stick between my lips to pay much attention to my surroundings.
I tore through the sleeping neighborhood at about sixty miles an hour and wheeled my car into the driveway before ever consciously thinking to hit the brakes. A lot happened in the next thirty seconds but it wasn’t until the following morning that I processed any of it. And it went something like this:
I hit the brakes but I’d already put the car through the garage door. When I stumbled out, stunned by the impact, I heard a voice. Pinned between the front of the car and the overturned lawnmower was my Mom’s favorite lawn chair.
And my father.
He’d decided to camp out in the driveway and wait for me to show that they knew what I was out doing and that I was sneaking in late, not that much sneaking ever went on. I ended up taking him, the garage door, the lawnmower and the lawn chair out in one fell swoop. Totaled all four.
At some point I sobered up enough to focus on his voice and found him draped over the hood of my car, crushed, unconscious and bleeding, but still alive. I think I screamed. I know I started sobbing as I tried to pull him free. Each tug raked my knuckles against the mangled grille of the car, but I didn’t feel it. All I felt was the tiny pieces of my heart breaking loose as my Daddy drew nearer and nearer to death. The whole time I apologized and begged him not to die.
It was about then that time stopped. The steam from the ruined engine paused mid-air and hung there like a heavy cloud. My Daddy stopped moving. I stumbled a little because the earth stopped moving, too. A rank, burning smell filled my nose and made the bile rise in my throat. I wobbled a second time, and not because of the sudden stillness.
And then he was just there. A beautiful, blond man in a crisp, white suit and shiny, black shoes. He carried a black fedora with a long, white feather in its buckle in his left hand and an obsidian cane in his right. His blue eyes burned like hellfire. He smiled, and a chill ran up my spine.
“He’s dead,” He said, and the tears ran down my face like rivers.
Before she could read, Susan liked to make up stories. To hear her mother talk, those little squiggles all over every scrap of paper in the house were real words, and she could tell anyone who asked exactly what they said. She has always lived in another dimension, far apart from the real world and the boredom it holds.
From a very early age she found herself drawn into dark worlds filled with mystery and intrigue. By age ten she was reading every horror novel she could steal from her brothers, and in high school she was rarely the life of the party with her terrifying tales that left her peers sleeping with the lights on for weeks at a time.
And not much has changed since then. Left to her own devices, she plots interesting ways to seduce, frighten, and destroy. Her first story, Haunted, is available through No Boundaries Press, and she has many, many things planned for the upcoming year.
She writes other things under other names, but those names choose to keep themselves anonymous for fear that bad things might befall them.
For more information on Susan, her imagination, and the things she writes, look for her in these places:
Facebook Author Page: http://www.facebook.com/AuthorSHRoddey
Punk You Horror Blog: http://splatterpunkyou.blogspot.com