Sunday, October 16, 2011

Linkup and Flicker of Inspiration Prompt #21: The Indescribable Horror

Time to share your results from last week's prompt! As you'll recall, the theme was "By the Light of Day" - we're getting closer to Halloween, but you didn't really have to be "scary" if you didn't want to.
Scary things are scary enough in the dark, partly because you can't really see them. Sometimes, it's just a shirt you hung on a chair, but sometimes when you turn the light on and see what it really is, it's a hundred times worse. In reality, it's usually the shirt; in fiction, it's usually the "worse".

Link up below and share your "By the Light of Day" posts! The linkup is active until Wednesday night. Be sure to link back here with a (free!) button, available on the sidebar. Last week had a lot of great participation, so let's keep that up by reading as many posts as we can and commenting as much as possible - try and make at least three comments, but more is always better! We'll probably be getting more posts between now and Wednesday, so check back once in a while and see what's new.

For next Sunday: Flicker of Inspiration Prompt #21: The Indescribable Horror

The world is full of things, and some of them are scary. Many of these things are familiar, though still scary. Car accidents, for example; we understand all the factors, though we might not fully understand the motivations behind them (seriously, how is it even possible to text and drive? Who thinks they can do that?). This understanding makes these scares a little softer.

Sometimes we're fairly familiar with something but understand it less; serial killers are part of our general cultural consciousness, but most of us don't really get what could drive a person that far. We can say "insanity" but we don't, in general, really understand what that means. These types of fears are the bread-and-butter of the "thriller" genre.

Horror, on the other hand, relies on fears that go beyond our understanding entirely. You can't just tell people that it's scary to be buried alive - they know it would be scary, but Poe brings us right into it and shows how and why it's so scary. We don't know what it's like to be haunted by inhuman spirits and monsters, but by seeing characters in that situation, we're able to understand just enough to be frightened by proxy. Direct, clear descriptions tend to detract from a thing's mystery, and our imaginations can do so much more than words on a page ever could. For example, people who have seen Cloverfield can attest to the drop in the scary factor once we actually see the monster.

So that's your challenge: the central piece of your story, the main source of conflict, can be described indirectly or not at all. Help us understand something completely unfamiliar through your characters' reactions and other indirect description. Don't tell us what the problem is; show the problem through the characters. Don't give any more direct description to the source of conflict than is absolutely necessary, but try and make it clear by the end without resorting to explicitly saying what it is.

It's challenging! It's supposed to be, at least; I've read a lot of posts on previous linkups that actually fit this prompt, so it might in fact be easy. In any case, indirect description and "show don't tell" are great techniques to use, I hear. It might pay to use a few extra words in this one, but in the interest of keeping things short and simple I'll suggest a word limit of 750 words. Good luck, and happy writing!