Friday, January 26, 2007

Time Period and Horror

Since it has become one of the driving forces in all of my writing from the RPG material, to the horror short stories and novels, I thought that today I would talk about the affect of changing the time period in which the story takes place. For my first novel I started with a certain amount of work already done. The work was short and it was rough, but it was highly detailed. It was set in the modern day—at the time that was the early 90’s. When I sat down to turn this into a novel I asked myself a very important question. What can I do to really punch this story up and make it sing? Really crystallize the horror and heighten it.

The answer was to change the time period portion of the setting. I started with the idea that there was a man who, much like most monsters, was more than a match for the people who would try to stop him. Someone who can do great bodily harm, and has the will to do it in the most horribly imagined ways, is scary only up to a point. Then it becomes, yawn, yeah the guy can tear people limb from limb literally. So what! Similarly, there is only so much terror to be had from seeing innocent Joe Blow off the street get smeared. This lead to the decision that the big bad man had to go after people who were less than helpless, even people who were just as vicious.

Okay, that’s two factors changed. However I made the best of both of them, merging them together. I still have to believe that the time shift is the stronger change of the two. Now, we have a monster of a man versus trained, high-tech, warrior-types. This to me just screamed much nastier. Think of it in terms of the Aliens movie franchise. The first one has people with not much to defend themselves with and they are way over their heads. The second has soldiers with heavy-duty gear and they are still way over their heads. Ask yourself, what if in the second film there was still only one alien and things went just as badly?

Right there I made a large difference. Other factors may be involved but that is where my second novel, the one I’m working on currently, comes in as an example. It is set back in time around twenty years. Why? In this case I was first looking to remove certain elements from play, and second I needed a more gentle and innocent time. Imagine it, all of the terrible nasty news stories of the last how many years never happened yet. No Columbine Massacre, no 9/11, much less coverage of every crime in painstaking detail with hours of coverage. The setting also poses limitations like no cell phones and no Internet. The advantages are many and tailored to the kind of story I’m telling. That’s the key. It can’t just be for the sake of doing it. It has to affect the exact story you intend to tell.

Mood: tired.
Music: Gunslinger by Demons & Wizards and Time Will Tell by Royal Hunt.

Demons & Wizards: Touched By the Crimson King
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Royal Hunt: Paradox

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