Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Trust and Betrayal

For any writer of dark fiction or anything that depends on suspense, trust and betrayal are 2 of the most essential tools available. Every writer knows about the necessity of getting the reader's trust. Coleridge's "willing suspension of disbelief" depends on that trust. The reader must feel comfortable with the story, enough so to lay aside worries and distractions and place himself into the writ er's hands. Stephen King is a master at this. His books start with normal characters in a normal world, a world we feel comfortable in and are willing to fall into. Then he unleashes the monsters.

That's part of the betrayal. Only part of it? Oh, yes. For the danger to be real to the reader, the writer has to make the reader believes that he has placed himself into the hands of a madman and that nobody and nothing is safe. In Tamara Siler Jones's Threads of Malice, there is a scene early on that drives home the point that the danger is very real. There is also a scene later in the book that calls the safety of all the characters into question, a point where she puts fear for the characters into the reader's heart. Richard Laymon was also very good at this.

Establishing rapport with readers is hard. Very hard. It's one of the first things that distinguishes a good writer from the rest. Turning around and betraying the trust you have worked so hard to build is even harder. This is one reason why good horror fiction is so hard to find. A lot of people write horror, but not many have the guts to push the reader off the cliff. I think the reason for that is that, in order to do so, the writer must first jump off the cliff himself. That's what is really hard.

You cannot writer good horror and feel safe at the same time. It's just not possible. If you're not on the verge of tears (or actually weeping) and twitching at every tiny noise, your story is going to leave the reader felling flat and dissatisfied. I realize that this is the biggest reason I have so many unfinished stories lying around. When it comes time to jump off the cliff, I start looking for and easier way down, and the story dies. I realized earlier today what "What Dreams May Come" needs in order to come to a conclusion. I'm not sure I have the strength to face that. Nevertheless, I have to. If I don't, that will be one of those roads not taken that lead to regret and unhappiness. If I close my eyes and get a running start...

5 Comments:

At 3:20 PM, Blogger jason evans said...

You cannot writer good horror and feel safe at the same time.

That's a great point. Probably why the best topics/motifs are ones which are first terrifying to you.

 
At 5:29 PM, Blogger Carter said...

"WRITE good horror" Ack! There are some advantages to proof-reading, I guess. :)

 
At 10:47 AM, Blogger jason evans said...

And I just copied it like a knob. LOL!

 
At 11:17 AM, Blogger Mama Rose said...

Andi and June call it "kissing monsters". Being able to kiss your monsters is one of the keys to writing memorable fiction. Good luck learning to kiss your monsters and taking your stories to that next level. Go ahead, Carter. Jump! I dare you. ;

Linda

 
At 4:20 PM, Blogger Carter said...

"Kissing monsters". I like that. This is my biggest obstacle right now. Here I gooooooooooo...

 

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