Clyde watched as Chamberlain died, his last breath squeezing through parched lips and bloodied nostrils.
This is actually the introduction to a story I’ve recently started. It probably won’t stay that way, getting tweaked a couple of times before I am finally happy with it. As it stands, one would think that Chamberlain is the one breathing his last breath, but others may think that it is Clyde doing this by the way the sentence is worded. For now, I will leave the sentence the way it is to make a point.
What’s the point?
Don’t you all love it when I asks questions, hoping someone will guess before I speak . . . err . . . type the answers?
Blank stares from the masses. Nice. Okay, on with the point.
By the time this story is finished it will probably be longer than I intended for it to be, simply because I have a desire to let stories play themselves out. Also, Clyde and Chamberlain, my two main characters should have developed some qualities about them. A plot should unfold and a reason given to why Chamberlain is the one that died and not Clyde.
Maybe—just maybe—someone will have grown to like Clyde or Chamberlain or both of them. Maybe someone will get mad because I killed one of them off and left the other one standing.
Ahh . . . but who is to say that Clyde will actually live through the end of the story? Remember, that sentence above is the opening to my tale, not the ending. Maybe Chamberlain gets some sort of supernatural revenge on Clyde. Okay, no that will not happen, so why BS you folks? But, I think you get the idea—the sentence is only beginning for Clyde and Chamberlain, even though one of them dies right off the bat.
This opening sentence is a product of someone mentioning serial killers to me this past week. Though I haven’t had much time to read or write in the last ten or so days, the thought has been in the back of my mind ever since the topic was mentioned.
So, do you think that Clyde is a serial killer now? What about Chamberlain? Is he/she a victim in this story, or maybe the killer?
No, neither in this case.
Yes, Clyde watches Chamberlain die, the latter breathing his last breath and winking out before him. But, Clyde is not the killer in this story. No, the killer is . . .
Huh? What? Huh?
Okay, think for a minute. I am a writer, right? I write horror stories, right? Hmmm . . . Still don’t get it?
Okay, simplified deductions here (more for me than for you). I create characters and scenarios and scenes and what have you. I give my characters life by penning their actions and having them move from place to place, interact with each other, get put in bad situations to either get out of or get killed. Many of my stories have the main character getting offed in the end or close to it. In some stories a LOT of folks end up with closed eyes and a lack of breath.
Now, do you see it? There goes that light bulb.
A lot of folks say that writing horror isn’t all that hard. They could be right. But, then to quote Billy Joel, “I may be crazy. But it just may be a lunatic you’re looking for.” I honestly think it takes special people to be horror writers. We delve into the depths of humanity; into the taboo areas of witchcraft, demonology and religious figures gone bad; into the minds of killers; into the eyes of monsters. Not a lot of people are willing to do that—to dive into the dark recesses of the soul and squeeze a character’s head until their eyeballs pop out and their skull shatters.
For each story a horror author writes, he or she puts themselves into a situation where they have to think of a way to either kill off a person or a way for them to get away, though by the skin of their teeth. Most of us choose to off the character and move onto the next scene or story. We put ourselves in the shoes of the killer. We become the killers and we don’t just do it for one or two stories.
Stephen King does it through entire books. Have you read Regulators or Desperation or IT? Lots of dead folks in those stories. I’m not saying King puts himself into a killer’s mindset, but he had to think of ways of killing so many people off in so many different ways. The same with Clive Barker. Or, really any horror writer of note. Anne Rice? Yup—she killed lots of folks.
So, at the end of the story, after Chamberlain has died and Clyde has watched it, I will have killed off one or both of my main characters. And, not for the first time, either. I will have watched as the letters appear on the computer screen, the events unfolding with each word. I will have written the scene and then moved onto the next one.
For horror writers, it’s in all of us. That innate vision to watch a character we create die; to kill them mercilessly. Yes, it takes a special person to write horror. It’s not as easy as you may think it is.
For now, I am AJ and Clyde is calling.