THE ARTFUL EDGE OF FRIGHT
by Lori R. Lopez
I have never consciously approached writing Horror as a woman. I consider myself an author of varied genres, with my own sense of style, and Horror happens to be one of my favorites. I prefer suspense and psychological terrors to gore, but that certainly is not a gender trait as there are female horror writers (and readers) who enjoy the messier side of it, just as there are male authors who prefer to dish out quiet horror. What distinguishes writing is the writer, and hopefully that will one day be the primary consideration. I’m proud to be a female horror author, nonetheless. It isn’t a science (unless verging upon Science Fiction). There is an artistic edge to conveying fright, whether creating monsters or realistic scenes that go awry. Mary Shelley and Shirley Jackson were masters of the artform, crafting tales that stand among the very best works. There are many women now who write Horror, and the list keeps growing. I hope a number of us will be remembered with similar respect. Males of the genre possess no superior skill or talent merely for being male, and lingering prejudice against women who dare to write it needs to die a quick and forceful death.
Chop, chop, chop!
Getting back to fright being art . . . voice is an important device, like an artist’s medium: oils, watercolors, acrylics, pastels, markers, pencil, charcoal, clay, wood. A literary voice sets the tone of the story and should not be underestimated. I listen for it to speak.
I don’t wish to tell anyone how to write. Part of that develops from reading extensively. Part of it from writing. A lot. Formulas and too many rigid rules about writing may hinder creativity. I tend to experiment a bit, mix it up, blend genres. Being original is imperative. One must never imitate, unless it is for a reason. As a child I imitated for a while, because I was learning. I wrote a story about a kid whitewashing a fence. I wrote a Spaghetti Western play, a werewolf play, a “great race” play inspired by movies. I painted a man in a turban that I had seen in a photograph. And drew a surfer on a wave that I had seen in another photo. I also created things that weren’t from anything; they came from within. As an adult, I spent many years molding a unique style, which can vary according to the project but remains (I hope) recognizably my own. And sometimes I will go for humor above frights, amusing rather than scaring the reader. To do the latter effectively is one of the greatest challenges in literature, akin to making the reader cry.
The art to it, I’ve found, is in recognizing one’s own vision, one’s unique perspective. Therein lies the voice, the style, the elements that combine into a memorable composition. Finding that particular point of view might involve sticking your thumb in the air; it might entail shaping your hands into a frame and inspecting what’s in front of your nose. I prefer to do neither, allowing my inner eye to examine an experience or idea and speculate up some fiction. For me it’s a mental process, hidden from sight. But some people are more physical, more hands-on. Whatever works.
In case you’re taking notes, be sure to jot down that I do encourage exploring the real world some of the time and drawing upon experiences large or small. Warp them, wrestle them to fit the plot. Keep it fresh, unexpected. Let it flap in the breeze. If you nail down everything, there will be no details left to add in a last-minute stroke of genius.
So that’s about all there is to say on the subject. Focus is essential, without going into a trance. I like to pinch myself, in case I’m dreaming. I keep hoping I might be possessed, but so far I haven’t been, it just seems that way. Oh, are you still here? I thought we were done. Hopefully I’ve inspired you to write something that nobody else has written. You’d better get on with it, before somebody else does! And if you’re a reader, I challenge you to read what nobody else has read. Unknown authors can use the support.
About Lori R. Lopez
Lori R. Lopez wears many hats as an author, artist, poet, and songwriter. She dips her pen in Speculative Fiction, Horror, Fantasy, Dark and Humorous Verse, and much more. She is an artist, musician, actress, filmmaker, tree-hugger, vegan, and animal-lover. Lori unapologetically takes pride in creatively bending and reshaping the rules of writing when it suits her style.
Her books include THE DARK MISTER SNARK, THE STRANGE TAIL OF ODDZILLA, LEERY LANE, ODDS AND ENDS: A DARK COLLECTION, CHOCOLATE-COVERED EYES, THE MACABRE MIND OF LORI R. LOPEZ, AN ILL WIND BLOWS, THE FAIRY FLY, OUT-OF-MIND EXPERIENCES, DANCE OF THE CHUPACABRAS, POETIC REFLECTIONS I and II: KEEP THE HEART OF A CHILD and THE QUEEN OF HATS.
Stories and verse have appeared on Hellnotes, Servante Of Darkness, and Halloween Forevermore; in WEIRDBOOK, THE HORROR ZINE MAGAZINE, THE SIRENS CALL E-Zine, and anthologies such as JOURNALS OF HORROR: FOUND FICTION, DEAD HARVEST, HWA POETRY SHOWCASE VOLUMES II and III, TERROR TRAIN I and II, GREY MATTER MONSTERS: TAKERS OF SOULS, TOYS IN THE ATTIC: A COLLECTION OF EVIL PLAYTHINGS, CELLAR DOOR III: ANIMALS (Editor’s Choice Award winner), UNDEAD LEGACY, BONES II, GHOSTS: REVENGE, MIRAGES: TALES FROM AUTHORS OF THE MACABRE, MASTERS OF HORROR: DAMNED IF YOU DON’T, I BELIEVE IN WEREWOLVES, THIRSTY ARE THE DAMNED, and SCARE PACKAGE: 14 TALES OF TERROR. Fifteen of Lori’s poems were published for an anthology titled IN DARKNESS WE PLAY.