It is day 11 in the A to Z Challenge and I am ready to get a little dark on your all this fine Monday morning.
It was Stephen King, who (quoted William Faulkner when he) said that you must ‘kill your darlings’. It is a statement that certainly rings true for horror.
How often, when watching a horror movie, can you predict which characters will survive? I bet you that it is more often than not.
As a writer, I want my horror novels to be anything but predictable, and as such, I want to ensure that my work is as far from predictable as it can be. One way I have learned to do this, is to make sure that nobody is safe.
In my novel Diaries of the Damned, there were a great many characters who could have, and may well would have survived had another author been at the helm. I however, killed them. I ripped them apart in a variety of ways, from painful to poignant. I didn’t do this just because I could, but because it was needed to keep the story from being boring.
When the zombies rise up, it is not a battle of the fittest or the strongest. Sometimes, that many / woman will die. One false move at the wrong time and they will be zombie chow. That was what I wanted to show in this novel. Killing off characters is a necessity, especially in horror novels.
Now, that could be a minor generalization there, because a horror novel does not have to mean death, it does not have to mean a killer stalking the dark, trying to murder half of the city in order to silence the voices in his head.
However, when I say kill off my characters, I do not necessarily mean kill them in the sense of removing them from the story and put them in the ground. To kill your darlings could also mean to kill their momentum in the novel. To stop them from having what it was they were after. Killing them could mean to kill their spirit or their resolve. To have them surrender, or given themselves to the darkness.
There are many different ways to take it. It is actually a theme I am playing with in my new novel.
Think of it in whatever context you find the most logical and acceptable, but just remember that King is a wise man, and we should all look to kill our darlings.