The literature of fear

Exploring the literature of fear
There’s a special thrill when you experience something for the first time. For me, it was conducting my first writing workshop (“Short and scary – dark flash fiction”) – with the girls from St. Mary’s school at their creative writing camp down in Jarrahdale. For them, it was that moment, that dawning realisation, of the emotional power of dark fiction … but more on that shortly.

The morning started with the chill of the Darling Scarp at the ungodly hour of 8.30. However, it was all good from there. The workshop went brilliantly (I thought), with the girls engaging with various aspect of horror fiction: discussing what they thought it was, and then writing a paragraph on their protoganist, their fear (the vital ingredient!), their antagonist, and the setting/landscape. The minds of teenage girls are very, very scary places indeed – and they were enthusiastic about sharing their creations! Who could forget water filled with “leeches, piranhas, and invisible sharks” or a “clown that abducts you, takes you out to the middle of the ocean at night, and then cuts off his finger to attract sharks.” The take home message is sharks + clowns = very scary! My next story should feature a shark dressed as a clown – a guaranteed winner!

I moved onto word conservation and sensory description – the latter particularly emphasised as I see its lack in most stories I read these days (published and unpublished). Again, I won’t forget a vivid description of “rotting cookies”. Ah, the memories!

As I was wrapping up the workshop, the girls asked me to read a story from the Book of Shadows Volume 1, which I had conveniently on hand. I chose one of the shorter pieces (“Asking Questions” by Charles Richard Laing), knowing any horror in it was inferred and not explicit. This particular story is a great example of flash, with a particularly nasty twist in the tail. When I read the last line, there was that glorious moment that every writer of dark fiction hopes for: the stunned silence, followed by the realisation of what the story was *really* about. It was a powerful moment. It was also the best way to finish the workshop.

I left the girls with a copy of my story Dread Seasons Quartet: Rainbow-Speckled Field, as another example, and I’ve encouraged them (with their parents’ permission) to try their hand at flash fiction and to submit the results to Black Box. Here’s hoping a new generation of writers (all of whom have tremendous potential) will embrace the literature of fear.

Road philosophy
The road trip produced some entertaining conversation. Angela came up with a couple of gems worth repeating (or at least paraphrasing):

(In reference to promoting books but applies to all walks of life) When you deliberately attempt to raise controversy, people will stop by to window shop, but they’re not there to buy.

There was another one about moving roadside crosses on straights, but on second thought, it probably doesn’t bear repeating.

Year’s Bests
Aside from today’s high of teaching the workshop, I’ve received word from the ever-industrious Jason Sizemore that my story “Genesis Six” (from Apex Digest #8) has been selected to appear in his annual Best of Apex anthology. I probably should also mention that my story “The Garden Shed Pact” (from Borderlands #7) was selected for Australian Dark Fantasy & Horror 2007 edition (now that I’m not co-editing the series).

Now, I’m back to work on finishing my overdue Lovecraftian Mythos adventure, and to looking over some Black Box subs.

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