Reflections on Writing Horror – As Fast As She Can Blog Tour
Reflections on Writing Horror
by E.F. Schraeder
Horror is a wonderfully broad genre with a scope that ranges from subtle and quiet scares to all imaginable extremes inflicted on the body, from gritty realism to every imaginable alternate world possibility. For someone starting to write a new horror project that kind of variation could be daunting. How much gore is too much? Are you going to emphasize one element like a monster; do you plan to focus on internal terror or on something happening in the external world? And if you’re sitting at the computer working on a first draft, how do you decide?
Many folks talk about the plotter-pantser divide, but I’m a both-and person. Whether I’m starting from a character idea or a story outline, early in a project, I find it helpful to think about the trajectory of the plot to reflect on the frequent tendencies of tales that fall into the category or categories I’m including. Once I know that, I do some pondering:
How can I work within and without of the expectations? What tropes are invoked in the setup? How can those expectations be met and transgressed to deliver something both familiar enough to be satisfying and original enough to be interesting?
In addition to sketching a rough outline, another thing I consider when starting a new project is the nature of the horror itself I’m imagining: what is the primary problem characters will face? This points me from a kernel to a process, revealing how the story might best be told, including what psychological, supernatural, or physical world challenges might lend themselves to the details. While horrors need not fit neatly into any single category, having a sense of the general direction can guide the choice of tensions a writer puts on the page.
I’m a fan of all stripes of this wildly diverse genre, and there are scenarios and varieties of mash ups that make for interesting connection points: gothic, sci-fi, weird, campy and comedic, occult, supernatural, folk, body horror, hauntings, slashers, creature features and classic monsters. Each sub-genre tends to work with some stylistic conventions, and these can function as a sort of roadmap in the development stage. Since the map you use can impact the destination, while I’m drafting (or if I’m stuck), one of my favorite things to do is to sketch how alternate styles might influence those directions. It’s helpful to imagine what your supernatural haunting might look like dressed up as a mystery, what your slasher story might look like with a folk horror lens, or how fantasy elements might influence a dystopian framework. While edits always lead to big changes from my initial ideas and outlines, I’ve found a sense of playfulness with genre in the drafting stage to be both fun and productive. Most importantly, whatever you’re working on, remember to know the rules, break the rules, and have fun.
E. F. Schraeder has a new lesbian horror / coming of age book out: As Fast As She Can.
Living in a quiet house on the outskirts of town, Ginger isn’t like the other girls.
When she wakes up and discovers the unthinkable about her adoptive parents, she runs away and goes on a rampage straight to the only friend she has. Can she control what they both become?
With a violent, growing hunger and more questions than answers, Ginger has nowhere to turn.
Two dozen camps dotted the acreage around the five-mile perimeter of the lake. The trails that linked the parcels were scarcely marked. Off season, only half of the cottages would have guests, and even fewer would have phones or cell coverage. The land was big enough and remote enough for the girls to stay lost.
Cory and Ginger approached the first camp they saw and crept outside, peering into the windows to see what awaited them. Cory tripped over a rusted canoe leaning against the side of the house. As it crashed to the ground, a light flared on in the back of the house, illuminating the fifteen feet to the shed behind the house.
Cory yelped. “Shit.”
“Shh,” Ginger whispered. She set a hand on Cory’s shoulder. “They’ll think it’s an animal.”
“It is.” Cory bared her teeth and snarled. Cory crouched, her small frame hunched against the peeling blue paint of the cottage. Her slender shoulders pulled up, and the heavy gray hood of her sweatshirt drooped over her head. A shadow across her face accentuated the wide-eyed expression.
“You’re sort of hot when you’re hunting,” Ginger said. She bit her lower lip, immediately regretting the admission. Urgent, warm hunger pressed in Ginger’s stomach. She returned a low growl. “Let’s go,” she whispered, her voice hoarse.
They crashed into the front door, lunged onto the scrawny old man in the kitchen before he had time to squeeze the trigger of his shotgun. They tore the patchy pajama shirt from his lean body and shredded him in seconds.
“That’s it?” Cory asked. A dribble of saliva clung to her mouth as she licked her lips.
“Guess he lives alone.” Ginger wiped her face clean on her sleeve. They kicked through the house, looking for anything interesting to take. “Need a flashlight?” Ginger swatted the heavy silver flashlight that swung from a looped handle on a nail.
“No, I can see in the dark.” Cory paused. “Hey, I can see in the dark. Is that, like, a thing for us?” She smiled, her pupils returned to normal now that she’d fed.
“I guess. I don’t know. Not like I had a course in zombification before I got to you.” Ginger laughed. “How many camps are up here?” she asked.
Cory shrugged. “Hope there’s a bigger family or something we can sink our teeth into.” She rummaged through the old man’s desk drawers. She tossed stacks of papers onto the floor, they scattered in heaps. “Ah ha!” She pulled out a slim, golden-handled hunting knife. “Now this, I like!”
Ginger grabbed the knife, sliced a ‘Z’ shape into the air. “Nice, but I don’t think we need weapons.”
“Whatever. It’s still badass.” Cory tucked the blade into its sheath and undid her belt, slipping the knife holster into position at her waist. “Cool, right?”
“Okay, it does look badass. You’ve got a whole burnout serial killer look happening now.” Ginger clicked off the back porch light. “It’s really working for you.” She opened the door and waved Cory ahead of her.
“Hot, huh?” Cory winked as she walked by, her arm brushed Ginger’s hip.
Ginger let out a quick gasp before she could stop herself. Embarrassed that Cory had heard her and a little curious. She sighed. She wondered if something was going on between them, something way better than eating campers. Ginger bit down on the inside of her mouth briefly and giggled.
“Still hungry?” Cory asked.
Somehow, the question struck Ginger as flirtatious. She didn’t know what to say. I’ve got to be imagining this, right? Ginger shrugged, chasing behind Cory as she ran ahead in search of the next cabin. I mean, we’re pretty messed up right now . . .
For three hours, Cory and Ginger ransacked camps, devouring everyone they found, dragging the residents into the moonlight one at a time. The small camps around the pond were spread out, sparse enough among the trees to conceal the screams. As they gorged they left only blood and destruction in their wake.
Crickets fell quiet as the girls ran over boulders along the water’s edge. Their movements were smooth and silent. Cory stopped abruptly, balancing on one leg in a karate pose.
“>Ginger, do ya’ think the cops are after us?”
“Duh, of course they are! Or will be. Why?”
“I don’t know. It’s kind of awesome, that’s all.”
“Which part?” Ginger smiled.
“Well, the whole ‘killed my mom and took to the woods’ part, mostly. You know? Or is that like total after school special bullshit?”
“No, it’s way worse than some crap about bulimia or underage drinking.” Ginger’s laughter came in spurts. She wiped her brow. “I mean, I think we’re in a whole different league of problem children.”
“Hey, Ginger,” Cory said after a few moments of silence. “Aren’t we supposed to be like, all ‘uugh, brains’ and shit?” She waved her arms in front of her in a classic Frankenstein pose.
Ginger chuckled. This is perfect. The two of us against the world. What could be better? “No, I mean, I don’t know. We’re pretty quick though, right?” She pushed her hair out of her face and smiled.
“Totally!” Cory squatted low on the stone and then sprang up, kicking out one leg. “I’m like, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Zombie.”
Ginger fell over laughing. It took her a minute to realize Cory had run ahead to another camp. She pushed herself up onto her elbows and ran to the house. Cory was already inside by the time Ginger arrived.
“Look at him!” Cory shrieked with pleasure tugging the long, wavy blonde hair of a thin teenage boy out the front door. He struggled while Cory dragged him easily into the grassy yard.
A motion activated security floodlight clicked on and shone white in their faces. The boy wiggled and winced, tried to yank himself away from her, but he only managed to rip the sleeve off his shirt. Cory sunk her fingers deep into the joint of his rotator cuff and pressed her face into the wound until she felt the dull thud of bone crack against her teeth. “He’s cute. Let’s keep him! Can we keep him?” she squealed.
The boy howled in agony, blood soaking his chest.
“He’s not a puppy, Cory. You can’t just decide to…” Ginger paused, watching Cory pull the boy back into her mouth. Ginger squinted at the boy and nodded. She pursed her lips like she was about to speak, but her expression went blank. She cocked her head to a distant noise. What was that? Voices? Ginger focused. There was nothing in the yard but corpses. Ginger tugged a tangle of auburn hair into a ponytail. She rested a hand on one hip then said, “If you like him, flip him.” She was surprised she felt so amicable to Cory’s idea, but maybe it made a certain sort of sense. Why not a third? Maybe three’s a charm.
The boy wriggled beneath Cory’s clutch for a few moments then the spasms settled. He groaned as if he knew the lucky ones died. Cory tore off the other sleeve of his blood-soaked shirt and gently wiped the mess from his shoulder.
Cory pulled out her hand from his shoulder muscles clenching a soft chunk of wet flesh. She lowered her lips to the fresh wound with a smile then pressed her teeth into him. A satisfying gush of blood spurted into her mouth. She moaned in satisfaction.
“Take it easy if you’re keeping him.” Ginger flung a dismembered hand from the boy’s father at Cory.
E.F. Schraeder is the author of the queer gothic novella Liar: Memoir of a Haunting (Omnium Gatherum, 2021), which was an Imadjinn Award finalist in 2022. Schraeder is also the author of a story collection and two poetry chapbooks.
Schraeder’s recent work has appeared in Lost Contact, Strange Horizons, The Feminist Wire, Birthing Monsters, Mobius: The Journal of Social Change, Mystery Weekly Magazine, Lavender Review, and other journals and anthologies. Schraeder’s nonfiction has been included in Vastarien: A Literary Journal; Radical Teacher; the American Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom blog, and elsewhere. Awarded first place in Crystal Lake Publishing’s 2021 Poetry Contest, E.F. Schraeder’s work also placed as a semi-finalist in Headmistress Press’ Charlotte Mew Contest (2019). Current creative projects a full length manuscript of poems and an unruly collection of essays. An ex-professor and youth librarian, Schraeder holds an interdisciplinary Ph.D. and advanced degree in Library Science. An Active Member in the Horror Writers Association and a Lifetime Member of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, E. F. Schraeder believes in ghosts, magic, and dogs.
Author Website: https://www.efschraeder.com
Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5989787.E_F_Schraeder?f
Author Liminal Fiction (LimFic.com): https://www.limfic.com/mbm-book-author/e-f-schraeder-2/
Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/E-F-Schraeder/e/B014YYIOK0?
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