On Writing Horror: A Handbook by the Horror Writer's of America - Mort Castle
The Madness of Art - Joyce Carol Oates

This piece itself gets bogged down into semantics of just what "horror" really means, and then we get a strange tangent regarding visual art.

Brilliant, Miss Oates.


The three bits that I could suss out as having any worth in this piece is that horror has worth in the fact that it is entertaining and is unashamed of being entertaining. Even if her opinion is interesting, I cannot help but feel as though her way of speaking/writing feels exactly like the patronizingly educated tone that my least favorite professors have had, when they spoke. Just say "weakness" or "flatness" of character, instead of saying "verisimilitude" and then following it up with "weakness" and "flatness" anyway.

Damn woman.

Acceptance Speech - Stephen King

[b:Carrie|10592|Carrie|Stephen King|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1166254258s/10592.jpg|1552134] and [b:Pet Sematary|10583|Pet Sematary|Stephen King|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1308894674s/10583.jpg|150017] warped my mind as a teenager. [b:On Writing|10569|On Writing|Stephen King|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1348431774s/10569.jpg|150292] not only gave me the confidence to be a writer, but also to be a person capable of living in the real world, and, to some extent, being able to tolerate continuing going to school. If there is anyone who inspires that whole hero-worship thing in me, then King stands tall, a sort of part inspiration to me and a mold of writing/consistently producing work that I wish that I could be.

Among all of the other contributors, even though this piece was not written expressly to provide guidance, it doesn't stink of bull**** and ego-stroking. It is among the pieces that smells the least in this collection.

The first three pages of the piece deal with the motivation to be a writer, and the rest tries to push for the benefits of being true to yourself as a writer and true to your subject matter - "Folks are far more apt to go out with a surprised ejaculation, however, than an expiring abjuration like, "Marry her, Jake. Bible says it ain't good for a man to be alone." If I happened to be a writer of such a deathbed scene, I'd choose, "Son of a bitch" over "Marry her, Jake", every time."

Hey, King?

Damn straight.

Why We Write Horror - Michael McCarty

This comprises of a collection (huh. A collection WITHIN a collection?) of explanations of why some authors believe that they write horror. Sometimes the "explanations" of why these authors believe they write horror is more along the lines of random shit that has nothing to do with anything than an actual "explanation", such as strange vignettes regarding childhood experiences . We get authors, such as Peter Straub and Ray Bradbury, who provide decent insight, but then we get people like Michael Romney who bring preposterous bull**** with them.

I will make a note to not read anything from that crack-head.

What You Are Meant to Know - Robert Weinberg

This guy seems to be of the belief that he knows what EVERYONE should be reading - an type of opinion that I usually like to stay away from on the grounds that these type of people have severe egotism in them. Indeed, to be ORIGINAL and GOOD, you should abide by his Commandments and forsake all other opinions as garbage.

I also do not give much credence to anyone who can say, with absolute sincerity and no self-consciousness, that [b:Dracula|17245|Dracula|Bram Stoker|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1347251549s/17245.jpg|3165724] provides an invaluable direction as to how to write a modern horror piece.


Avoiding What's Been Done to Death - Ramsey Campbell

Campbell provides sane and intelligent advice when he tells writers to read outside of their own genres, in a sense crossbreeding their creativity with the end result of better works of writing. Imitation is also not crucified here by Campbell - at least, not for a beginning writer. As someone who began her writing with [b:Holes|38709|Holes (Holes, #1)|Louis Sachar|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1327781893s/38709.jpg|1679789] and [b:Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone|3|Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter, #1)|J.K. Rowling|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1361572757s/3.jpg|4640799] Mary Sue self-insert fanfiction, it is nice to hear sense out of other writers for a change.

He also talks about the importance of being leery of cliches, generally staying away from what has been done to death as well as being aware of newer cliches as they appear. All in all, perennial advice, but it's perennial for a very good reason.

Workshops of Horror - Tom Monteleane

I really don't even want to justify this entry as though it is actually a piece of advice meant for an aspiring writer and not a totally offensive ad for the c***s who run these conferences and get-away vacations/seminars that they scam wannabe writers out of every damn year. F*** you a**holes and shame on you for trying to promote an industry that steals money from the naive and hopeful audience who thinks that just because someone has been in print then they are a viable hope to believe in.

If you want a vacation, then go to Disneyworld or on a cruise, don't give money to these leeches.



Tom, I think I hate your guts.

Degrees of Dread - Michael A. Arnzen

I feel, personally, like I got scammed out of over 5 years of my life in the belief that going to school would, somehow, make me a better writer. Do you know what makes a better writer?


Going to college only adds debt to your life and adds money to the pockets of the greedy bastards who push the false opinion that higher education is, somehow, better for someone in the arts than if they just researched or worked on their own.

This pieces pushes that insane belief that earning a degree of some sort will magically transform you into a not-sucky writer.

Oh my god.


How much money can you people make off of the naive before Satan rises up from hell and admits that you have accomplished much more than even he thought possible?

A World of Dark and Disturbing Ideas - J. N. Williamson

Provides an interesting insight on the creative side of the conception of creative ideas. It does get a bit strange, however - especially in the author's belief that his ideas truly do come to him in his dreams.

Let's see, the last dream I had involved me at work and had something to do with my mother being disappointed with me, with my deadbeat biological father doing something or another in the background, vaguely. I wonder if I should turn this idea into a series or just a 1,000 page novel. Who the f*** knows.

Mirror, Mirror - Wayne Allen Sallee

An interesting POV from a writer, with some sometimes interesting advice that differentiates itself from some other ideas that you may have heard before. Not much to say outside of that - it is a thankfully nice entry in a book full of filler or just plain crap.

Getting There - Michael Marano

Yet another piece that goes into the theories of what horror is (what, Joyce Carol Oates' insane blathering wasn't enough for you?), then gives the advice that a horror writer should try to write what scares them. Sort of boring and vanilla advice that I've heard a million times before... and I liked it best when I was reading it in [b:On Writing|10569|On Writing|Stephen King|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1348431774s/10569.jpg|150292].

"You can indirectly describe what frightens you by what surrounds it."

Honest Lies and Darker Truths - Richard Gilliam

The piece brings up the surprisingly relevant question of just how accurate you have to be while writing fiction about something that actually exists or has existed in reality. Accuracy in things that have actually happened in the course of history is touched on. For a moment I felt as though I was actually learning something.

Whoa, book, what are you trying to do - educate me?


Such Horrible People - Tina Jens

Jens states that she believes that writers are not meant to be "puppeteers" - in utter and complete control, either real or imagined, writers are not supposed to be trying to continuously make their characters conform to the binds that a writer may try to create for them. Jens subscribes to the belief that I have heard once before - that characters are initally created by their writers, but are, hopefully, soon able to cut a path for theirselves from out of their stiff, two-dimensional initial character sketches.

Jens states her opinion well when she says, "Writing with three dimensional characters is kind of like herding ducks. You can guide them in the general direction, but they're basically going to go wherever they want to go." She also says that horror itself is about how people react when they encounter the plot.

A Hand on the Shoulder - Joe R. Landsdale

In this piece, Lansdale argues that all writers are, in fact, regional writers in all of their genuine writing. To go against this logic, Lansdale states, is to hurt your writing and to betray your true voice as a writer. This regional flavor in any person's writing is most apparent in the voice in which it is written.

Eerie Events and Horrible Happenings - Nicholas Kaufmann

In this piece Kaufmann explains that plot means two completely different things to the two different people who have to do with fiction - to readers, plot infers the movement from A to B and to C, while for a writer, plot refers more to the mechanics of fiction - the who, the why and the where, so to speak. Some of ths build-up of his theory seems to drag on until it becomes tiresome to read.

"A build-up of suspense is one of the most important elements in horror fiction."

Some of Kaufmann's advice on editing is right on the nose or is downright insightful. He also asks for writers to consider the type of character who would benefit or be hurt the worst in any given situation.

"In order for it (the ending)to be satisfying, the end absolutely must grow out of the min conflict."

Reality and the Waking Nightmare - Mort Castle

"Good fiction, by definition, is credible. It is a lie that can be believed."

In this piece, Castle offers up the advice that, despite what writers would generally believe, readers actually provide a great deal of the benefit of a doubt, given that the story is worthwhile to give the benefit of the doubt to. Credibility is like currency and when there is a deficit there exists little with which to allow the reader to stay with a story. And then Castle trots out that old chestnut of writing what you know.


"He Said?" She Asked - David Morrell

In this piece Morrell makes the point that horror is like any other genre of writing, with the exception of the fact that horror must be written in such a way that it has less melodrama in it than in any other genre of writing. Unlike anyone who I have ever heard give advice on writing, Morrell advises writers to pay attention to how characters converse with one another to make sure that it does not sound stilted. Also watch out for using any other term for a character speaking that is not some variation of "said". In such a way, Morrell advocates for the use of severe economy in the creation of sentences.

Keeping it Moving, Maniacs - Jay R. Bonansinga

Bonansinga waxes on about the internal rhythm of a piece in this inclusion in the collection, especially when dealing with action scenes. He also talks about the thin line between horror and slapstick. He offers a multitude of other pieces of good advice, seeming to make up for the very real lack of good advice throughout the rest of the advice. There's not much else to say about this entry, except that it may very well be the reason to read this book at all - Bonansinga is a master of putting into words the natural and what should be blatantly obvious, yet is not.

The Dark Enchantment of Style - Bruce Holland Rogers

In this piece, Rogers makes a passionate argument for ignoring the mainstay advice for beginning writers - that they should desperately search for their own voice before they get too far into their own writing. In fact, Rogers makes the argument that a writer should not be looking for a voice, but rather a collection of voices to be used at their disposal. In order to get these voices, Rogers says that a writer should read a lot, absorb a lot and write slowly. He also suggests that the act of translation between two different languages will foster an ability to read and write more slowly, to become more in-tune with the flow of the language itself.

Innovation in Horror - Jeanne Cavelos

In this piece, Cavelos starts out with the opinion that creativity does not equal innovation - that too many writers are of the belief that their ideas are unique, fully new. Cavelos believes that having an understanding of as much of what has been done is crucial to understanding what can be done in the future, without stepping into cliches. Cavelos also believes that absorbing as much material as possible will make it impossible to be unconsciously "copying" from any one specific writer at any time.

Depth of Field - Nick Mamatas

Goes into the differences between "literary" fiction versus horror and attempts to draw comparisons between the two. Worth a read, if only for the deep level of thought that Mamatas put into the sub-genres of literary fiction.

Splat Goes the Hero - Jack Ketchum

A writer of great interest to me, Ketchum gives this collection a piece on the nature of close-up violence - an emphasis on the term, "close-up". Ketchum offers up the same advice that the legendary director Akira Kurosawa gave - that the role of the artist is to not look away.

Bad, writer, says Ketchum, have found, at some point, every way under the sun of looking away from pain. What, then, does a good writer do?

"Darkness Absolute: Standards of Excellence in Horror Fiction - Douglas E. Winter

And, after a good streak of pieces that are not, while always a breath of fresh air, decent reading, we go right into the hole that started this book to begin with.


Boring, tepid and very generalizing, this piece rehashes a lot of what has already been said in this collection - and said better. "Horror is not a genre, but an emotion." Sorry, what?

The only real advice of any importance that this author gives is that it is important to deal with the taboo in this genre. The author then regresses into his shitty opinion of the "tawdriness" of what is being produced today.


On Horror - Richard Gilliam

Essentially a Q & A with Ellison, the first two pages are only worth reading if you are a big fan of Harlan Ellison's work.

No More Silver Mirrors - Karen E. Taylor

In this piece Taylor talks about the importance of sophisticated premises and explanations, to think about the crucial change in the audience of horror fiction. Change is indeed the main focus in this piece, with Taylor speaking of the need to reinvent/reinvirogate wherever possible. She also rehashes on the importance of strong characterization. The rest of this piece is generally dull and boring.

Fresh Blood from Old Wounds - Joseph Curtin

This contributor spends this piece waxing on about his own personal beliefs and thoughts, dipping into bull**** the further it goes on. Very little of it is informative and some of it is entertaining.

More Simply Human - Tracy Knight

Advice is offered, in this piece, on character creation. The main focus of character creation in this is the art of creating characters who suffer from mental illnesses. A surprisingly deep wealth of information on this specific topic.

The Possibility of the Impossible - Tom Piccirilli

In this piece Piccirilli babbles on about what "style" really means in a downtright scintillating muddling into semantics. He then makes a big show of how different his advice - that horror needs to break new ground - is a real "show stopper".

The Spectered Isle - Steven Savile

In this addition to the collection, Savil adds some information on certain aspects of the horror genre. While not exactly educational, some of this piece does prove to be entertaining.

New Horrors - Joe Nassise

A Q & A of multiple writers in the field. Among the few other worthwhile entries in this collection there is also this one to add to that handful of entries. A lot of interesting advice - if only all of this book had been built like this!

Archetype and Fearful Allure - Nancy Kilpatrick

With the introduction of this piece in the book comes a wave of extremely niche pieces that, while not necessarily uninteresting or uninformative, usually proves to be of little use to a writer not interested in the area that the piece focuses on. This piece, for example, focuses on erotic horror. I personally found little in this entry to be of any use to me, but I believe that part of my disinterest in this piece is due to the fact that I feel as though some of the information is outdated and I am not overly interested in the subject matter of this piece.

Following this piece we get into a multitude of niche pieces that deal with YA horror, comic books, plays and comic books. Some of it is more informative and entertaining than others (the comic book piece), while others prove to be both outdated in its information as well as boring.

After the niche pieces of advice we get to pieces that are utterly outdated and therefore not worth the energy to read.

Past the rabbit holes of worthless information we reach an almost bizarre and satisfying piece of short fiction, supplied by the always amazing Harlan Ellison.

Quiet Lies the Locust Tells is a disquieting, sad and horrifying piece of fiction that comes like a fresh torrent of cold rain after a long walk through the desert. Reminding me of [b:Anthem|667|Anthem|Ayn Rand|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1347504856s/667.jpg|287946] with some sharper teeth to it, I think that I will more than likely re-read this piece far more than I would to read anything else in this book.

Redundant, outdated and often unappealing to read, I think that if an updated version were to be released, then 75% of this would need to be burned.