Elsewhere, I have analyzed the basic plot that is common to horror fiction in general. One of the elements of such a plot is the introduction, following an initial period of relative calm and normalcy, of a bizarre incident which is followed, in turn, by a series of other strange occurrences.
Most of the time, writers of horror fiction, accomplished or aspiring, have little trouble imagining such incidents, and the news supplies a wealth of possibilities when one’s imagination does fail. However, as the proverb suggests, “all is grist for the mill,” and no source of ideas for such incidents should be overlooked. One such source, for me (and, I daresay, many others) are the drawings, paintings, and photographs that are readily accessible in any Internet image browser, such as AOL, Google, Yahoo!, or Flickr.
Such browsers are easy to use, of course: simply type a specific word or group of words into the browser’s “search” window and press the SEARCH button on the computer screen or press your keyboard’s Enter key. A whole page of thumbnail images will appear, from which a specific one may be selected with the click of a mouse and enlarged, once it appears, by another click of the mouse atop the picture.
A list or keywords (“bizarre,” “eerie,” “horror,” “scary,” “strange,” “weird,” for example), will solicit hundreds of such images. More than one is likely to be appropriate as a basis for the bizarre incident that will kick off your narrative, and several may be chosen to continue the series of bizarre events that follow it. Here are a few that I came across as I prepared this post:
- A bloody, open mouth screams from within the palm of a hand.
- A streetlamp illuminates the side of a massive building, but leaves dark everything without the circle of its light.
- A set of butcher’s knives hangs from a magnetic wall strip; one of the knives is missing from the lineup.
- A close-up shot of a toy soldier’s face, looking eerily inhuman.
- The silhouette of a young girl pressing her face and arm to a foggy window; in one hand, she holds a meat cleaver.
- A dark tornado approaching across a grassy plain.
- A highway disappearing into a thick white fog as it curves round the edge of a thick forest.
Any (or none) of these images may initiate a story’s horror, depending upon the story’s needs and the writer’s mood.
Of course, after one selects an image or a series of images, he or she must develop a purpose for their use--an explanation, in other words, of their origin, a reason for the images' use in the narrative, and an account (eventually) of how and why they cohere or are related one to the next.
- The bloody, open mouth that screams from within the palm of a hand could be the result of a psychotic person’s hallucination.
- A streetlamp that illuminates the side of a massive building, but leaves dark everything without the circle of its light is a natural enough image to require no explanation of its origin, but what about it occasions the horror of the story and how is it related to successive incidents?
- A set of butcher’s knives hangs from a magnetic wall strip; one of the knives is missing from the lineup. Do the knives belong to a chef or a serial killer? Which knife is missing, and why? Will the blade be used to carve a chicken, a victim, or a cadaver?
- A close-up shot of a toy soldier’s face, looking eerily inhuman may not call for a paranormal or a supernatural explanation (although it could), but, again, how and why is this image the springboard of horror in the story to follow?
- The silhouette of a young girl who presses her face and arm to a foggy window as she holds a meat cleaver may be fairly normal (depending upon the greater context of the narrative), but why does she have the cleaver and what, pray tell, does she intend to do with it? And whose window is she's pressed against, trying, perhaps, to see whether a particular resident is home?
- A dark tornado’s approach across a grassy plain is, once again, a natural event, but who or what is it approaching, and what happens next?
- A highway disappearing into a thick white fog as it curves round the edge of a thick forest is not in itself unusual, but what lies around the curve, hidden by the fog, may be both terrible and horrific.
Finally, are any (all) of these seemingly disparate images in some way related? If so, how? If not, what sequence of bizarre incidents does follow, and how are the subsequent events related to the initial one and to one another?
. . . And so the story begins. . . .