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What We Look For A Horror Fiction Guide

Does your writing elicit an emotional response?

We want …

Terror!

Terror is defined as extreme fear; a person, or a thing, that causes extreme fear. Terror is when a text plays a trick, not on the body, but on the mind, when you are made to stay awake into the early morning hours long after reading one of our stories. It is the curse of the idea, one that lingers, there to grab at your ankles as you try to get out of bed for a glass of water, your throat seeming to always be dry.
Terror is defined as extreme fear; a person, or a thing, that causes extreme fear. Terror is when a text plays a trick, not on the body, but on the mind, when you are made to stay awake into the early morning hours long after reading one of our stories. It is the curse of the idea, one that lingers, there to grab at your ankles as you try to get out of bed for a glass of water, your throat seeming to always be dry.

Horror!

Horror is defined as an intense feeling of fear, shock, or disgust; a person, or a thing, that causes said intense feeling. Horror is often a knee-jerk reaction to a text, one that sends shock ripples up the neurons of the arms and legs to the brain. It can exist first in the mind, to be transferred to the body, or it can be of the body, only to then enter the mind. It doesn't haunt your waking hours, but when you come across a dose of horror, you'll wish you hadn't.
Horror is defined as an intense feeling of fear, shock, or disgust; a person, or a thing, that causes said intense feeling. Horror is often a knee-jerk reaction to a text, one that sends shock ripples up the neurons of the arms and legs to the brain. It can exist first in the mind, to be transferred to the body, or it can be of the body, only to then enter the mind. It doesn’t haunt your waking hours, but when you come across a dose of horror, you’ll wish you hadn’t.

Repulsion!

Repulsion is defined as a feeling of intense distaste or disgust; this is what's known as the 'gross-out'. Reading a piece with this emotion in mind can cause naseau, sweating, shoulder shivers, and, yes, even vomiting - if done correctly. It may cause you to close the covers on your book for the evening ... or forever. But, we hope the latter is not the case!
Repulsion is defined as a feeling of intense distaste or disgust; this is what’s known as the ‘gross-out’. Reading a piece with this emotion in mind can cause naseau, sweating, shoulder shivers, and, yes, even vomiting – if done correctly. It may cause you to close the covers on your book for the evening … or forever. But, we hope the latter is not the case!

NOTE:  You may find that your writing has elements of all of the main three emotional responses in Horror Fiction, and that’s okay by us – but here’s a good quote to keep in mind:

“I recognize terror as the finest emotion and so I will try to terrorize the reader. But if I find that I cannot terrify, I will try to horrify, and if I find that I cannot horrify, I’ll go for the gross-out. I’m not proud.”

Stephen King, Danse Macabre

 

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In what mode shall you write in?

We want …

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In this mode, “… stories of aberrant human psychology embodied metaphorically, may be either purely supernatural, such as Dracula, or purely psychological, such as Robert Bloch’s Psycho. What characterizes [these stories] as a group is the monster at the center, from the monster of Frankenstein, to Carmilla, to the chain-saw murderer,[leatherface]-an overtly abnormal human creature, from whose acts and on account of whose being the horror arises.” 
                                                                                                         

– David G. Hartwell, The Dark Descent

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In this mode, the stories “… are characteristically supernatural fiction, most usually about the intrusion of supernatural evil into consensus reality, most often about the horrid and colorful special effects of evil. These are the stories of children possessed by demons, of hauntings by evil ghosts from the past (most ghost stories), stories of bad places (where evil persists from past times), of witchcraft and Satanism.” And “… the moral allegory has its significant extra-literary appeal in itself to the large audience that desires the attribution of a moral calculus, deriving from ultimate and metaphysical forms of good and evil behind events in an everyday reality.

– David G. Hartwell, The Dark Descent

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In this mode, stories “… have at their center ambiguity as to the nature of reality, and it is this very ambiguity that generates the horrific effects. Often there is an overtly supernatural (or certainly abnormal) occurance, but we know of it only by allusion.” And, these stories “… lack any explanation that makes sense in everyday reality-we don’t know, and that doubt disturbs us, horrifies us …” because “… it blends indistinguishably with magical realism, the surreal, the absurd, all the fictions that confront reality through paradoxical difference.”

 – David G. Hartwell, The Dark Descent

Note: You may find that your writing varies between modes; perhaps you’re writing a psychological metaphor about a vampire, but you use atmosphere that delves into the fantastic mode. That’s alright! Know that the generalizations are there, and then tell your story. Look:

“It’s all on the table, every bit of it, and you should use anything that improves the quality of your writing and doesn’t get in the way of your story.” Because, “Both the modern and traditional are available to you. Shit, write upside down if you want to, or do it in Crayola pictographs.”

– Stephen King, On Writing

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Are you writing in with certain techniques in mind?

We want …

In the Realistic Technique, "... the highest aim of the realistic horror writer is to prove, in realistic terms, that the unreal is real. The question is: "Can this be done?" The answer is: "Of course not." One would look silly attempting such a thing. Consequently, the realistic horror writer, wielding the hollow proofs and premises of his art, must settle for merely seeming to smooth out the ultimate paradox. In order to achieve this effect, the supernatural realist must really know the normal world, and deeply take for granted its reality. (It helps if he himself is normal and real.) Only then can the unreal, the abnormal,  the supernatural, be smuggled in as a plain brown package marked Hope, Love, or Fortune Cookies, and postmarked: the Edge of the Unknown."           

 - Thomas Ligotti, Notes on the Writing of Horror: A Story
In the Realistic Technique, “… the highest aim of the realistic horror writer is to prove, in realistic terms, that the unreal is real. The question is: “Can this be done?” The answer is: “Of course not.” One would look silly attempting such a thing. Consequently, the realistic horror writer, wielding the hollow proofs and premises of his art, must settle for merely seeming to smooth out the ultimate paradox. In order to achieve this effect, the supernatural realist must really know the normal world, and deeply take for granted its reality. (It helps if he himself is normal and real.) Only then can the unreal, the abnormal, the supernatural, be smuggled in as a plain brown package marked Hope, Love, or Fortune Cookies, and postmarked: the Edge of the Unknown.” – Thomas Ligotti, Notes on the Writing of Horror: A Story
The Gothic Technique is a fun one, because "... the advantages of the traditional gothic technique, even for the contemporary writer, are two. One, isolated supernatural incidents don't look as silly in a Gothic tale as they do in a realistic one, since the latter obeys the hard-knocking school of reality while the former recognizes only the University of Dreams." And, "... two, a Gothic tale gets under the reader's skin and stays there far more consistantly than other kinds of stories." This is because "... the world of the Gothic tale is fundamentally unreal and abnormal, harboring essences which are magical, timeless, and profound in a way the [realist] never dreams. So to do right by a Gothic tale, let's be frank, requires that the author be a militant romantic who relates the action of his narratives in the dreamy and more than unusually emotive language." - Thomas Ligotti, Notes On The Writing of Horror: A Story
The Gothic Technique is a fun one, because “… the advantages of the traditional gothic technique, even for the contemporary writer, are two. One, isolated supernatural incidents don’t look as silly in a Gothic tale as they do in a realistic one, since the latter obeys the hard-knocking school of reality while the former recognizes only the University of Dreams.” And, “… two, a Gothic tale gets under the reader’s skin and stays there far more consistantly than other kinds of stories.” This is because “… the world of the Gothic tale is fundamentally unreal and abnormal, harboring essences which are magical, timeless, and profound in a way the [realist] never dreams. So to do right by a Gothic tale, let’s be frank, requires that the author be a militant romantic who relates the action of his narratives in the dreamy and more than unusually emotive language.” – Thomas Ligotti, Notes On The Writing of Horror: A Story
The Experimental Technique is cool, too, because "... every story needs to be told in just the right way. And sometimes that way is puzzling to the public. In the business of storytelling there's really no such thing as experimentalism in its trial-and-error sense. A story is not an experiment, an experiment is an experiment. True. The "experimental" writer, then, is simply following the story's commands to tell it in the right way, puzzling or not. The writer is not the story, the story is the story, see?" - Thomas Ligotti,  Notes On The Writing of Horror: A Story
The Experimental Technique is cool, too, because “… every story needs to be told in just the right way. And sometimes that way is puzzling to the public. In the business of storytelling there’s really no such thing as experimentalism in its trial-and-error sense. A story is not an experiment, an experiment is an experiment. True. The “experimental” writer, then, is simply following the story’s commands to tell it in the right way, puzzling or not. The writer is not the story, the story is the story, see?” – Thomas Ligotti, Notes On The Writing of Horror: A Story

Note: If only writing were as clean and neat as thus described, we would have it easy. But your fiction is likely to mix-up and blend-in to where the story leads you. Remember:

“All the styles we have just examined have been simplified for the purposes of instruction, haven’t they? Each is a purified example of its kind, let’s not kid ourselves. In the real world of horror fiction, however, the above three techniques often get entangled with one another in hopelessly strange ways, almost to the point of rendering my previous discussion of them useless for all practical purposes.”

– Thomas Ligotti, Notes On The Writing of Horror: A Story

About
About

So, with all that said and done, what does it mean, in terms of a magazine publication? How do we take what we want and translate that into a selection of stories that may or may not be grand?

Our goal is to publish one short story with each of the above themes in mind. This is an ambitious, if not an altogether lofty, goal. However, we find ourselves excited to explore each and every facet of Horror Fiction. Flash Fiction and Poetry can be any of the above mentioned ‘wants’ – so scare us. There are just so many ways you can do so!

 

WHO WE ARE …

David M. Wilson
 
C.E.O. / E.I.C. / HORROR FAN
David M. Wilson
C.E.O. / E.I.C. / HORROR FAN

 

 

 

 

 

David M. Wilson,  C.E.O. and E.I.C. of DeadLights Horror Fiction Magazine, leads a team of free-lance editors, copywriters, proof-readers, college students, and volunteers who all love Horror Fiction  and have dedicated their considerable talents to making this publication a success. If you, or someone you know, is interested in contributing mad skills, feel free to get ahold of us!

 

 

WHO WE ARE …