Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The Monsters Inside

Holly wrote yesterday about finding the villain inside. As a horror writer, I can identify with her feelings of revulsion and fear when she discovered this monster. I get this feeling a lot. It's not that I like this feeling. I didn't choose to write horror. In fact, I spent a lot of years trying to force myself to write other things. Always, though, those stories would bend into the darkness, and the monsters would rise. Eventually, I was forced to face reality and give myself over to the dark side.

We all carry monsters inside us. Many of us just don't acknowledge them. Let me assure you, ignoring them won't make them go away. These monsters feed and grow in the darkness, gradually, eroding us from the inside. Facing them, exposing them to the light, is our only defense. That is not pleasant or easy. They bite. Bringing my monsters out is painful and often depressing, but it is necessary for my survival.

As a horror writer, I often have to deal with things I would really rather not think about. As I said, though, I have no choice. I must write about these things or face slow, agonizing death at their hands. There are too many of them; I have to get some of them out. In the light, they are usually not as menacing or evil as I feared they would be. Sometimes they vanish in a puff of smoke and ash. Always, though, I have to acknowledge that these things, these oily, evil things, are part of me. They live in my psyche and feed on my dreams.

Holly, I sympathize. It's not pleasant when some black, slimy, reeking slug crawls out and plops onto the keyboard. Knowing this thing was living inside you all these years is dreadful. Looking at it straight on is frightening and sickening. But...

But...you can turn this into a real positive. The best villains come out of the deepest reaches of our minds. The best writing is the most painful. Those stories that shriek and moan and rattle their chains in the night are the ones that will reach into your readers' heads and find their brothers and sisters living there. Those are the ones that resonate and stay with a reader the rest of his life. Those are the ones that lift people above themselves and show them glory. That's art.

Art has a price, a heavy price, but it's necessary. Writers often focus almost exclusively on craft, and I'm not denying that's a good thing. Without craft, art is without form and void. On the other hand, craft without art is dead.

PiroEyes and I had a brief discussion about this the other day because of the question I asked her: "Which is more important to you: art or craft?" I say art. Craft is difficult, but learnable. Art is inborn. You either have it or you don't. If you don't, you can't learn it. Craft allows us to communicate with other people. Art gives meaning to that communication. Without art, a story is just words. With art, it's a living being, unique unto itself, with its own message and meaning.

That's what I believe today, anyway. All opinions subject to change without notice.


At 7:13 PM, Blogger Jean said...

I'm amazed at the things that crawl out of my mind and go "plop" on the keyboard. "Where did YOU come from is a common question?"

At 8:22 PM, Blogger Carter said...

I used to react the same way. Now, I just shrug and run with it. I guess you can get used to anything.


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