- A series of bizarre incidents occurs.
- The protagonist discovers the cause of these incidents.
- The protagonist uses his or her newfound knowledge to put an end to these incidents.
How art thou fallen, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit (Isaiah 14: 12-15).
These example could be multiplied ad infinitum, but the point is that, in the horror story that accommodates itself to the formula we identified, the antagonist’s motive is the explanation for the horror--the series of bizarre incidents that unfold in the first part of the tale, whatever the ultimate, metaphysical nature of evil itself may be.
Therefore, the horror writer’s first task is to determine what the antagonist’s motive shall be, to identify, in other words, what the antagonist wants and hopes to accomplish. Having done so, the author withholds this explanation for the bizarre incidents that occur in the story until the middle of the tale, wherein, discerning or learning the antagonist’s motivation (i. e., the cause of the evil events that are taking place), the protagonist is equipped to put an end to these incidents (and, possibly, the monster that is causing them). It’s extremely doubtful that the protagonist will ever but an end to the nature of evil, to sin, or pride, or indifference, or threats to the local community, or whatever this nature may be.
Despite the chaos, there must be order. Despite the madness, there must be a method. Despite the bizarre series of incidents, there must be a motive to the monster’s behavior which causes these incidents. Writers who do not provide a plausible motive for the bizarre series of incidents that result from their antagonists’ actions do not fare well with readers and critics, and otherwise good, or even superior, novels suffer as a result of such failures as well. Although Stephen King’s motives usually suffice to make his villains’ actions believable, he drops the ball in a big way with It, and Bentley Little, despite having written nearly a dozen novels and many short stories, has yet to pick up the ball or, perhaps, even to notice that it exists. The effect, upon It, is to all but ruin a potential masterpiece of the genre. The effect, upon Little’s reputation, of not yet his career, is sustained disappointment and, most likely, eventual oblivion.
Some motives that horror writers have used to explain the bizarre incidents that unfold in the first parts of their stories include:
- Demonic possession in an attempt to bring about a person’s damnation
- An alien’s mission (for example, conquest or mating with a man or a woman)
- Vengeance upon a wrongdoer
- Eruptions of a past or future events into the present
- Humans’ encroachment upon a monster’s habitat
- An effort to steal or control dwindling food or other resources
- Behavioral control or modification
- Recruitment or testing
- Efforts to survive a plague or the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust
- Punishment, individual or wholesale