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Monday, December 17, 2012

The Plot Thickens

On the heels of realizing I needed a new villain for "Seer Tyro Fiend," I have invented not one but two villains. All the candidates will have been introduced by Chapter 5 which should really muddy the waters of who the real bad guy is and what the goal is. I love playing with the intricacies of motive and personality. It's not enough to just have a villain defined as such because he does bad things. There has to be a reason why he does it, one that is understandable. Perhaps reprehensible, but understandable. If the villain does horrible things for no apparent motive, then no one is safe, the malevolent acts become random, and there is no puzzle to solve, other than how the good guys are going to get away and stop the villain for good. That's also slipping into the horror genre, because what is more horrible than an unstoppable (maybe) villain who kills without reason, without discrimination?

I don't write horror, and maybe that's because I do love the puzzle, building it, making it tough to figure out but not impossible. And these days, the horror genre seems to demand the big gross-out. Whether it's a nasty murder or the villain's deserved end, gruesomeness seems to be an accepted standard. I'm not a fan of assaults on my digestive tract. While I have read a few novels that succeeded in a sense of horror without anything gross, it's a tough thing to achieve I think. An example would by "Lady" by Thomas Tryon. He sweeps the reader into the time and place of his story about a beautiful but lonely widow as seen through the eyes of the young man entranced by her. When he finds out her secret, something that might be seen as mundane in today's world, it was shocking for me because I was following him in his time where it would have been deeply shocking. No blood, no carnage, no yucky stuff, but a nasty slap upside the head all the same.

The horror I see around these days--mainly vampires and zombies--is just that: abundant opportunities for yucky stuff. Both types of monster kill dispassionately for hunger and that's all. Talk about an easy character development for the bad guy! The writer doesn't even have to explain anything. Just put the appropriate monster category on the page and you have all the characterization you need. Vampire? Sucks blood to survive, can't go out in sunlight, etc., etc. Zombie? No brain, but an animated and hungry body, usually in advance stages of decay and/or damage, no reason, no motive but hunger. Not to malign anyone's pet genre, but to me it seems like the cheap way out. If I were going to do real horror, I'd want to come up with my own monster, defined out of my imagination and not someone else's legend.

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