I think—some of you may find this strange; others, perhaps not so much—I have found comfort in the horror genre. In many ways, for the beginning writer, it is a safe place to start. While one discovers one’s place in the writing universe—one’s “voice” it is sometimes called—and what one wishes to write, it is a genre that allows a lot of freedom with character and a means to explore internal emotional turmoil and themes that are universal, within us all, and understandably poignant at even a young age.
As my writing develops, I’ve found myself drawn inexorably toward the fantastic. I’ve always been drawn to works that explore the imagination, from my early days with C.S. Lewis and Tolkien, to later with China Mieville and Clive Barker, amongst others (I read George R.R. Martin before it was cool ;)), and I knew my own attempt at a novel set in a world completely of my fabrication was inevitable.
But, I have to be careful. Writing horror is very different from writing fantasy. It is true, they often overlap (as my own work has done), but horror—good horror, I think—is about restraint and subtlety. Fantastic elements in horror are often called “supernatural”, and for good reason. They are unexplainable and contrary to the natural workings of reality as it is usually perceived, thus the uncanny is achieved, thus horror.
Fantasy, in contrast, “goes off the deep end.” It no longer has use for the natural laws, other than as loose guidelines to be manipulated. It involves the writing of one’s own rules. It begs the imagination for possibilities, to reinvent not what is, but what could be. It’s a lot of work, and, as I’m finding, perhaps more difficult to write well than is horror.
I’m still in the early stages of the novel, so we’ll see how it goes, but I’d like to share a excerpt with you all soon, so be sure to check this space.
Oh, and don’t for a moment think of such things as swords and dungeons and wizards. And do NOT think I’d let myself become another Tolkien ripoff, or George R.R. Martin, or Robert Jordan, or anything like that. What I have so far, what I’ve been writing, looks to be a very different beast, a different experience, than anything else out there. And for my fans: don’t worry; my writing will always remain dark, violent, and disturbing. In fact, despite my claim to fantasy, my work may remain classified as horror, just like many of the works of such writers as Barker and King. ;)
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