Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Anatomy of a Horror Setting #4-4: After All, A Small World

Perspective bears a relationship with scale in regards to the setting when considering the story’s location as the specific setting compared to the overall setting. To clarify, the places in which the story takes place are an important factor in horror beyond the world-building concerns of the setting. The creation of a fantasy horror story or setting can hinge on the change from the overview perspective to the immediate perspective of the characters involved. The key word to consider is immediate, immediacy. Horror can only benefit from a sense of immediacy, of urgency. Certainly it begins with and even capitalises on foreboding and a sense of impending doom, but without a follow through it plays itself out. This is where the line between setting and location comes in.

The following is an example of using the location to determine localised setting conditions. A village’s viceroy sends word to the capital that a monster is killing his people. The King dispatches some knights to deal with the menace, but it is winter and a snowstorm blocks the only pass that leads to the village/province. The local setting goes far enough to set up part of the plot in this example. The location portion of the setting involves details such as terrain, weather, and the types--or lack of--of characters available. The setting’s influence on characters, and those limitations are the bread and butter of the horror. Those pesky knights will be limited to the local garrison, which could be as few as three knights, locally trained, and of little experience. They are also likely to be the first to fall.

The example also demonstrates one factor that is new to the discussion--but not limited to the fantasy setting per se. It is the factor of time that is determined by the setting. The menace carries on from the first attack through the long couriering of the message to the capital, on through the extensive wait for the King’s knights. Isolation is a strong factor in a horror fantasy setting. To keep this so take instant magical communication off of the table. On the flip side consider prophetic dreams and the factors discussed for clairvoyance in the psychic horror setting. They need not be psychic powers, but can be the visions of priests and oracles, or the fodder of prophecies. The information gleaned from these visions can have timing that is faster or slower than the regular channels as needed.

Music: Mountain Song by Jane's Addiction and Limelight by Rush.

Jane's Addiction: Nothing's Shocking
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Rush: Moving Pictures
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