There’s an old adage that says that writers should write what they read. In other words, those who read fantasy novels should be creating their own worlds. And those who love a good chilling horror tale should breathe life into their own creepy-crawlies.
I don’t necessarily agree with this. I’ve certainly met plenty of successful authors who do exactly the opposite. At one conference, legendary horror writer John Saul was asked which horror writers he liked to read. He laughed and said, “Oh God, I couldn’t read horror! It would scare me to death!”
That said, I do understand the logic behind the adage. Those who read mystery novels voraciously should have a better idea of the mechanics of a good mystery than those who have never strayed from the world of science fiction. But maybe not. Maybe a die hard reader of literary period fiction will wake up one day with the makings of a perfect mystery running round her brain…you never know.
I tend to write the type of books that I’d love to read–if I could find them. I adore a good eerie tale, but one where the spooky stuff is at least partly left up to the imagination. Was it a ghost, or was it just a bad guy messing with her mind? Those are the books I love, but they’re very hard to find.
< Warning: Spoilers for the move “Sixth Sense” below!>
I’m always looking for something–be it book or movie–that will scare me. That will genuinely unnerve me, or make a shiver cross my spine days later. The Sixth Sense was that type of movie. Yes, the ghosts in that flick were very much in-your-face, but the fact that Malcolm Crowe was dead and would never have a chance to patch things up with his wife haunted me for days. Even though the thrill of the twist ending is over, I still enjoy watching that movie. It is character-driven, and it is brilliant. Sadly, in my humble opinion, M. Night Shyamalan hasn’t been able to replicate that success ever since. He churns out another “scary” movie almost every year, and each one is a pale imitation of his first big hit.
As for books, I love Stephen King’s Bag of Bones. While not exactly terrifying, King managed to slowly build this great feeling of foreboding. “There’s something not right in this town,” you think, and you are right. Few can pull off this mood-setting like King–he’s the master.
Are there books out there you’d like to see but can’t find? Do they inspire your writing?
And, most importantly, do you have a good spooky story you can recommend? Book or movie–it doesn’t matter. I’m always looking for my next fix.