Notes From Purgatory: My Story, My Soldier
As authors of fiction we often refer to our stories as our babies… and why not? We conceive a story idea, let it incubate and grow, give it our personality, and eventually settle on a name. Then the story gets sent out into the world to make us proud. It’s an apt metaphor, I agree, but I submit that dark fiction has a slightly different upbringing — in our twisted world, I believe our stories are our soldiers.
You see, a good soldier, like good dark fiction, must first be broken down before it can be built up. We must deconstruct an idea to get to its true heart. We must understand the potential of the story, what it could be, must be. Only then can true creation happen in the strange realm of our imaginations.
Much like a soldier, dark fiction must be whipped into shape through hard work (and hard words). Trial after trial, draft after draft, we are charged with commanding our stories and toughening them up. We discipline our troops with editing. We trim the fat with a strict regimen of revision. All the while we infuse the story with our own personal philosophies.
Then, when the soldier is ready, we unleash it upon the curious minds of the world. Through the creative process — the boot camp of ink and paper — we make our stories work for us. Our soldiers must do what we cannot: carry our messages through distance and time, acting in our stead.
Good wartime strategy helps our troops along, of course — a thorough marketing plan, a solid fan base, publication by an established press. But war doesn’t matter if the soldiers aren’t ready to deploy, so we must make sure we’ve done all we can to ensure victory.
Our stories must be disciplined enough to grab the reader’s attention from beginning to end. We need to craft stories so strong they invade her thoughts long after the last word has been read. If our soldiers have been properly trained — if a good horror story has been properly crafted — they will give us presence as authors of dark fiction in the very lives of our readers.
So conceive your idea, grow your story, and mold it with hands both tough and tender. Remember, though, that dark fiction is a tough world and to survive, you’ll need stories that defend your name and keep your honor. You need to ensure the reader that you’re in control so that when she’s in the trenches of your story, she knows you’re fighting for her. She needs to be sure you want to win her over so that when the last word has been read and the soldier has been reluctantly retired, all parties understand it’s been worth the time and effort for the greater good.
All together now: Left! Left! Left, Write, Left!
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Franklin Charles Murdock is a fiction writer from the Midwestern United States. Though most of his work is harvested from the vast landscapes of horror, fantasy, and science fiction, Franklin strives to spin tales outside the conventions of these genres.
His work has appeared in DarkFuse, Under the Bed Magazine, 69 Flavors of Paranoia, MicroHorror, Liquid Imagination, Yellow Mama, Heavy Hands Ink, WEIRDYEAR, Phantom Kangaroo, PrimalZine, and various other publications. Most recently, he’s been coauthoring the serial epic BEARD THE IMMORTAL on swordandportent.com.