My Monster Mayhem and NaNoWriMo

Posted: 10/12/2011 in Fiction, Horror, Writing
Tags: , , , , , ,

Some days the best I can say for myself as a writer is that I am consistent. 

At least stylistically and in terms of narrative voice, I am consistently me, regardless of if I am penning a bit of flash, a short story, or even plugging away at the ground war that on good days I like to refer to as a novel.  Part of what I love about my favorite authors are their unique voices; often immediately recognizable, comfortable, and familiar.  Take Stephen King, for example.  I suspect that he could write a technical manual for assembling a swingset, or for wiring a do-it-yourself death ray using common household objects for under $50, and I would know it was him.  I want to continue honing and refining my own narrative voice, but I am pleased to have developed some degree of consistency in that area over the years. 

On the other hand, sometimes I am frustrated by how my writing always wants to gravitate toward zombies.  It is as if the ravenous undead have some sort of bizarre tractor beam aimed at my temporal lobe, forcing me to helplessly spew out page after page of horror that tastes like braaiinssss.  I appreciate zombies for their metaphorical power, and also for their capacity to horrify.  What could be worse than an existence predicated on a continuous, base hunger for human flesh while you slowly decay into a puddle of putrefaction and tattered clothing, retaining nothing of your former self or of our collective humanity?  But I do sometimes wonder if it is also a bit of cognitive laziness on my part, a way of writing about what I already know (so to speak) and not stretching myself in terms of subject matter.  I have little doubt that I will remain firmly entrenched in the world of genre horror – it’s what I love and I certainly do not have a romance or sordid mystery in me – but I wonder what would happen if I tangoed with some new partners?

This November, as I take on National Novel Writing Month, I am going to challenge myself to engage in a little monstrous diversification.  That is, I will be giving up the oh-so-hungry, cannibalistic reanimates for Thanksgiving.  Part of me wants to take a crack at putting the ferocity and evil back into vampire literature, although I would be equally excited to toy with a few shapeshifters or spirits.  Vengeful, angry spirits.  It may even be fun to poke around and find out what unknown and unnamed horrors lurk in the recesses of my mind.  I’d guess that something is already hiding in a dark corner, scuttling away when I creep around in there with a flashlight and a clipboard.  Throughout October, I am going to be thinking a lot about monsters old and new, and this year, when I trot out a tale for NaNoWriMo, something other than a horde of ravenous zombies will be shambling around beside me.

I’d love to hear your thoughts!  What are your favorite traditional monsters?  How do you keep them fresh (in your writing, not in your refrigerator)?  What elements are you looking for in a truly terrifying denizen of the darkness?

  1. A.B.Jeter says:

    In my opinion, The best monsters are regular human beings. Humans that take their innermost dark thoughts, and longings, and turn them into reality. Take Hannible Lectre for example. Dr. Lectre is not a zombie, walking around with blood all over his clothes, and groaning like a zombies so often do. He’s a sofisticated being with an amazingly immaginative dark side. The only zombie like quality he holds is his ravenous hunger for human flesh, brains, what have u.. I feel that hannibal is more frightening than a zombie because of his humanity. Humanity which is deeply horrifying. a humanity which lives in all of us, inthe deepest darkest recesses of our psyche. Any of us could be a Hannibal Lectre if we chose to. Thats pretty Terrifying.

    That being said, you seem like a very interesting person, and i would like to read some of your work. I am a writer myself(unpublished). And I have a new horror novel i have been working on which i think you would find delightful to your gory sensibility. I am new to the blogger world, so im still trying to figure out the ins and outs of it all. but please check out my blog. im trying to get people to comment on my own works, one of which i have spat a little segment of in my recent post. Please commentme with some feedback. i would greatly appreciate it. im going to read all of your posts, and continue to follow u, because i findyou very interesting. and if ur interested in readaing the first few chapters ofmy horror/thriller novel (save us from us) i would love to post them for you to view. Thank you Hope.

    • blackalchemy says:

      You make such a great point! I totally agree, there is something far more frightening about the Silence of the Lambs because of his overt sophistication, education, and appearance of “normalcy.” It also reminds us that real monsters can, and sometimes are, walking beside us. I love these reframing perspectives! I welcome any writing that appeals to my gory sensibility, and I am always glad to read new materials, discuss, and share. I’ll be sure to check out your blog! We writers of the dark, creepy stuff gotta stick together! Take care and keep writing!

  2. I have to agree… The only thing that truly frightens me is the evil that people are capable of… or that they do. And perhaps that is my grown-up brain realizing that “there is no such thing as monsters” in the traditional sense? I dunno, I still love a good monster movie though.
    And please, can we get back to scary vampires? I get the whole penetration archetype, I really do, but this fascination for paranormal boyfriends is getting really old.

    • blackalchemy says:

      I’m with you on both counts! That quote “reality is stranger than fiction” rings true, even in terms of horror – the realities of everyday life and the human capacity for evil far exceeds the horror of a zombie, or a werewolf, or even a vampire for me, particularly as I grow older. Unless, of course, I lived in Racoon City or ‘Salem’s Lot. And we need to drive a stake through the heart of those romanticized vampires, and drag their corpses into the light of the sun where they decay into moldering piles of decayed flesh. Give me a sick, twisted, malevolent, insatiable Nosferatu that stinks of the grave and has gore smeared across his chin anyday!

  3. Dave Farmer says:

    In agreement there, humans have that capacity to be more frightening than any other beast. Look at serial killers for example like Hannibal Lecter. I have a soft spot for zombies too to the point where I set aside 2 works in progress to write a story loosely based around zombies.

    I’m taking a similar approach to NaNo and taking a side step away from the horror genre, my passion, to write something of a more fantasy based novel. The trouble is that whilst thinking of plots, characters, scenes etc I can’t help but wonder how I can squeeze in a few zombies!

    • blackalchemy says:

      Dave, your comment made me grin! I love that you actually set aside a couple of other projects to get some quality zombie lit time! I find that writing genre horror, especially zombie fiction, offers a nice reprieve and a bit of escapism. I might have some real life challenges that I can do little about, but when I write zombies, I can at least control those outcomes and give the protagonist a coupla shotguns and a ton of ammo!

      It sounds cool what you are going to experiment with for NaNo – I have never written fantasy before, sounds fun! I wonder if some genre mashup is possible – fantasy with zombies? Revenants summoned by an evil mage? 🙂

  4. Wren Andre says:

    I do love me a good zombie tale…but I know what you mean when you talk about trying to stretch yourself as a writer. I have found myself with that same predilection that you have for zombies when it comes to vampires and aliens. So I am trying to break out of my monster rut by writing about an evil djinn for NaNoWriMo – this will entail some lore research and so on. Maybe that’s why we tend to stick to the same ones? Research done – been there, done that. Can now concentrate on actual writing. Rinse and repeat.
    And Stephen King rules.

    • blackalchemy says:

      Wow. I think you are absolutely right – it is so much easier to get into the flow of writing a story when you write what you know. For us zombie aficionados we’ve got the imagery and verbiage down and it allows the story to flow as we write. All the zombie movies and books I’ve devoured and collected over the decades really was a kind of research (suddenly I am feeling better about this obsession)! I am already catching myself weaseling a bit as I conceptually prepare for NaNo – I catch myself building a storyline around a new monster (I was thinking giving vampires a try) but the plot elements want to revert back to the same sandbox I play in with zombies. Beleagured, decimated population. The reluctant hero. Lots of headshots. I need a t-shirt that says “in the end, it’s always about zombies.” 🙂

      Your story about an evil djinn sounds awesome for NaNo! I wish you all the best in writing it, what a nice, unique offering in the horror genre! I think fans of horror are hungry for new takes and fresh ideas, so that sounds perfect! Keep writing, and you have an excellent blog – can’t wait to read more!

      • Wren Andre says:

        Thanks – you too! Let’s cheer each other on for NaNoWriMo. We can do it! 😉

      • blackalchemy says:

        About a week away from NaNo! How goes your planning?! 🙂

        I think my idea finally emerged yesterday (better late than never) but I still have a lot of conceptualizing left to do…

      • Wren Andre says:

        Just go with it. My idea was fairly recent too – but I have a basic outline and some characters. I’d like to really get into my character’s back story before this shindig begins – I took some time off a couple days before it begins so that I can prep!

  5. Erik G says:

    I will have to track you down on NaNoWriMo! I am doing it again this year too. I have been working on characters and an outline for a couple weeks now! Pretty pumped up!

    I plan on revealing a new monster for my book this year!

    • blackalchemy says:

      Hi, Erik, NaNo is rapidly approaching, I am excited to hear about you launching a new monster and I can’t wait to find out more as you breathe life into it through November! 🙂

  6. Maybe you were a zombie in a former life??
    My favorite is the werewolf. I’ve always been fascinated by wolves, thus the natural segue to the monster version. I love Robert McCammon’s werewolf novels, because he has a differnet way of presenting them, in the sense they seem more human and normal until they change. Kind of a “The Hulk” thing only werewolf style.
    As for the writing, I normaly write in “my” voice, but do have the ability (?) to wander as to different styles and topics. I write anything from comedy to romance to horror, and do so in a variety of styles.
    Very cool to read what you and some of the other writers have to say on the subject!

    • blackalchemy says:

      I think I would much rather be a werewolf or a vampire, rather than a zombie. The loss of cognition and fine motor skills that accompanies the undead just seems less fun. Now, a werewolf who was a writer by day and stalked prey by the light of the full moon – oh the stories that could be told! 🙂

      Robert McCammon is one of my favorites, but I didn’t know he had werewolf novels – I am excited you told me about this, because I will definitely check it out! I am a huge fan of strongly drawn characters and it sounds like he’s got a cool take on the lycanthropes.

      I enjoyed your writing very much, and admire your vesatility – I have never written anything except horror. I don’t know how to write anything else. Romance and comedy would be especially out of the question for me; somehow something would end up clawing its way out of a moldering grave, and that is altogether way to creepy. I’m glad we crossed paths, and I’ll be following your blog!

  7. lambskinny says:

    BlackAlchemy, thanks for subscribing to Metal Man Walking: a novel. This is my first attempt at NaNoWriMo.

    Good luck to you!

    I actually agree with that first comment — people, ordinary people, are the ‘best’ and ‘worst’ of the monsters out there.


    • blackalchemy says:

      Hi, Carley, good luck with NaNoWriMo! It is like a rollercoaster, isn’t it – breakneck pace, not time to think, just full throttle and hang on! I hope it is going well for you! I am very much interested in your Metal Man Walking – keep posting, I look forward to it! May the right word always materialize when we need it! 🙂

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