Thursday, November 03, 2005

The Horror! The Horror!

I've been thinking about narrative style recently.

That's not exactly the kind of opening gambit to get everyone sitting up and salivating, so I won't go on about it. Suffice to say I'm writing a novel in the third person, and the previous three have been first person... and the wrench from 1 to 3 is giving me a nice little challenge. I'm thinking about all these things you can do with the third person voice that you couldn't do with the first. I'm thinking about it as if I've never done it before. And then I remembered...

I have done this before.

Prior to writing DEADFOLK, I wrote a novel called MISERIMUS (sounds like a bag of laughs, eh?) I wrote it in the third person, and do you know what? I didn't even think about how I did it. The whole thing came naturally, which is probably how it's meant to come. Either that, or I didn't know what the hell I was doing, back then. This might be the reason why it never got published. Another reason for that is the genre.

See, it's horror.

Whisper that word, lest a publishing type overhears you and throws their lunch. Yes, horror is a publishing taboo these days, and has been for years (so long that it's more or less a publishing axiom: "Horror Don't Sell"). When was the last time you saw a new horror author come through? I don't mean an established author tinkering with the format (eg: the very excellent Chuck Pahlaniuk, or however you spell it), but a full-on, balls-out horror guy/gal exloding very viscerally into the world, a la Stephen King. Horror novels just do not get published any more, except by horror publishers. There may well be a renaissance of horror in cinema, but the books world ain't buying. The reason for that is probably the glut of terrible horror novels* it churned out in the 80's, riding the wave of King for all it was worth. This basically led punters to the notion that horror was rubbish after all, so they turned off it big time. And now we're left (in the publishing world at least) with the lingering notion that horror don't sell.


I still want to write horror. One day, no matter how public tastes change or otherwise, I'll come round to it again. I'm not one for adhering to genres, but there are certain things (feelings, styles, ideas, images) in horror fiction that I just dig, big time. Maybe I'll get around to tidying up MISERIMUS and sending it out there again. Maybe not. I love the story, but in many ways it's the prototype for the Mangel books, and therefore doesn't really move them on in any way. It's clearly the same place as Mangel (in all but name), and has the same "you can't leave" theme of imprisonment. But all the characters are different, and there aren't so many laughs.

A nod to Jenny D for getting me thinking about horror.

* Anyone want to sell me a copy of CHAINSAW TERROR by Nick Blake (pseudonym of a rather more (in)famous author)?


Jim Winter said...

Way back when, during my wannabe days (or, as Mr. Goldberg might call it, "The Evil Days"), I wrote just about everything in 3, multiple viewpoint.

I've written four novels now, all in first person, so going back the third is a big jolt.

For one thing, I have to remember not to stay inside a character's head too much. First is, by definition, a monologue. Third is, Get in, get out, and show the reader what's happening.

It's like weight lifting, and yes, those muscles are sore.

Jenny D said...

Charlie, I am SO ready to team up with you & some others and write books that show everybody why horror is a great, great genre and due for a rebirth! Once I finish the revisions (long overdue) on my new novel (also written in the third person, with much difficulty; I even last week found myself contemplating a first-person rewrite, then rejected it as a bad idea, but think I might try rewriting a few scenes as an exercise to see what happens) I am going to write an outrageous New York horror novel with lots of sex. And it's going to be funny. And nobody is going to want to publish it, but I don't care.

Ray said...

I don't know much about third, other than I'm not keen on it (done it a few times and it always feels self-consciously "authorish"). But the horror thing, I completely empathise with. Me, I always wanted to write a scary-as-fuck zombie novel (being a bit of a zombie geek and reckoning the braaaaaaains-devouring undead are due a makeover) with a dash of post-apocalyptic insanity. Dunno, might do it one day. And Christ knows why it doesn't sell - between the ages of 9 and 14, it was about the only thing I read.

Charlie Williams said...

There are some great horror novels published recently, but they're published by small presses andthey just don't get the attention. One good author is Tim Lebbon, and Ray - he's done a couple of superb zombie books. THE NAMING OF PARTS is great stuff.

The third person is starting to sound like a scary older kid who we steer clear of on the way to school. Let's not let it dictate our movements, guys. Let's kick the fucker in the bollocks and slip him a bolo as he buckles.

Sarah said...

Jenny, I know I'd read that book in a flash. (would that be Poppy Z Brite takes Manhattan??)

And Charlie, horror is back but now it's called "dark fantasy" or "paranormal." Or "supernatural thriller."

Anonymous said...

Sarah - it's no good, I want the word "horror" back. The horror section in most bookshops is like a forgotten ghetto of sleazy, deranged care in the community patients. A bit like Mangel.

Jenny D said...

Oh, and Charlie, I am just reading Charlie Huston's "Already Dead,"I think you must get it and read it! It's got a very good zombies scene in the opening, and it's horror cunningly masked as noir...

Charlie Williams said...

Jenny - that book intrigues me. I like cunning disguises.