Thursday, December 23, 2010

Opposites Attract: Horror and Christmas

One of the best lessons I've learned about writing is to put two unlikely things together. For my novella CINDERS I turned a normally innocent and happy Cinderella into an unhappy, ungrateful woman. For my novel MONARCH I mixed together guns and butterflies. In my novel THE BREAKAWAY my main protagonist is kidnapped, but for her it ends up being something she wants.

Not only do I do this with the main idea of a story, but I also carry it down to different levels in the story, sometimes even down to the sentence level. Conflicting emotions in characters creates delicious tension. Two ideas which seem opposite at first, but are slowly revealed to have ties, creates enormous surprises.

Christmas is no different. Think of A Christmas Carol, one of the most spooky, but also most popular Christmas stories ever told. Something about the combination works. In that same vein, Loren Eaton is holding his annual Advent Ghosts Shared Storytelling Event. Loren hosts the I Saw Lightning Fall blog. He says:

Every year, this blog hosts a round of Advent-themed storytelling, a time for us to gather around the dying fire and share tales as the cold wind moans outside. These aren't long stories, just 100 words each, and it's open to anyone and everyone who'd like participate. Why not read some of last year's selections?

Smashing horror with Christmas is a spooky, spectacularly fun event! You should join in. It's only 100 words. All stories will be posted tomorrow and linked from Loren's blog. Have fun!

And while we're at it, I'd like to know what opposites you smash together in your stories! Do share.


  1. In my next horror novel, I "smash" together politics and integrity. It'll blow your mind!

  2. My local writing group ( which has disbanded) had a tradition of getting together around Christmas time and each sharing a horror story. One year, when someone was reading his work, something in the kitchen (I forget what) suddenly shattered. It had quite an effect.

    As what what smashes together in my story, I'll have to think about that.

  3. More and more I find myself combining realist things with really bizarre things. I try to find the most mundane details I can, the ones that most people don't even notice anymore, and then I throw in something dark or other-worldly. I've been feeling like a one-trick pony in a sense, but I'm also having fun doing it!

  4. I've been combining comedy and brutal violence. It works for me.

    But it's a lot of work. I'm revising "Cocke & Bull" and I didn't realize how unrelentingly grim the first draft was. The narrative is valiantly resisting my attempts to make it less solidly dark. I feel like I'm prying the walls of a cave apart to let some sunlight in. It's slow going though I think that last night I found a sort of key to making it work in this book.

  5. Justus: That is clever indeed!

    Yat-Yee: Oh, wow, that's something you don't forget! You should write a little story about your experience and post it tomorrow for Loren's party.

    Domey: I think it's brilliant what you do, and I'm sure it's working great! I would think you're a multiple-trick pony. You're never going to run out of tricks. :)

    Scott: Comedy and brutal violence is a great combination. I know it's something I couldn't possibly get away with. One day, maybe, I'll be able to write something comedic. I admire anyone who even attempts it and pulls it off in the slightest. As for C&B, is there a reason unrelentingly grim is so terrible. I like unrelentingly grim... :)

  6. Michelle: typically it takes me a long time to come up with anything, but I may take this up as a challenge. *looking at lunch dishes, dusty stairs, pile of dirty laundry...*

  7. Thanks for the permission, Domey. When someone starts making dust art on it, I'll get to it then.

  8. Chores schmores. I have 8 loads of laundry piled in my laundry room right now...I've ignored it for 5 days. I'm going to ignore it today, too. I have THIRDS revisions to complete. Priorities! :)

  9. For my 100-word short, I smashed together my infant's first experience with a mall Santa (scary enough as is!) with something ... lurking beneath the surface of Santa's suit.

    Postscript: Many thanks for the plug! This is shaping up to be a really good one this year.

  10. On Christmas, I read The Stupidest Angel, by the same author as Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal, and it combines humor, horror and Christmas miracles.

  11. Tara: Biff was one of the books that stayed with me a lot more than I'd expected. Is Stupidest Angel good?


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