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Archive for February, 2008

In my last post, I highlighted the scarcity of Horror crossover stories in the slush pile. So, during this blog-witching quarter of an hour, I’ll discuss Speculative Mystery Iconoclast’s Horror Mystery crossover preferences.

There are a myriad of Horror categories and a few different perspectives on each. However, when you read Horror / Mystery and Science Fiction / Horror / Mystery in our submission guidelines, the Horror we refer to is ‘Supernatural Horror’. In Supernatural Horror, you’ll encounter ghosts, vampires, demons, werewolves, occult forces, and other things that go bump in the night. This category is a lot broader than most people think, though.

Note: I’ve edited the guidelines to make the above clarification more explicit.

Supernatural Horror writers actually have an advantage when writing crossover mystery tales, because their genre lends itself to characters asking questions (mostly, as a result of experiencing something weird or just curiosity about people or place).

Some pointers:

1] Build and maintain suspense throughout the story.

2] Create and maintain suspension of disbelief on the part of the reader – make them believe in your setting, characters, and conflict. Mix and/or juxtapose the natural and the supernatural.

3] Never drop the pace of story for any prolonged stretch of time. Don’t feel the need to add in a really boring bit where nothing happens just to make the story longer.

4] Be original. Don’t be predictable. Avoid clichés. For example, recently, the movie ‘Thirty days of night’ dispensed with many modern vampire clichés: The mysterious Dracula-esque vampire; the vampire nobility (ala Anne Rice); and the ultra-hip vampire (from the Blade movies). Instead, the vampires featured onscreen reminded me of Hyenas while feeding – animalistic. [There is a short list of horror clichés at the bottom of this post.]

5] Avoid excessive gore. Every drop of blood needs to be motivated (yet not necessarily committed to page). Yes, this sounds really weird after mentioning ‘Thirty days of night’, but less is really more.

6] Remember, Horror Mystery crossover stories are still mysteries. So, don’t hide or withhold any information from the reader. This goes double if you intend withholding to set up a twist ending. That would be an abrupt twist ending. If you want to try such an ending, try to develop an organic twist ending that flows from the story.

7] Don’t give the ending away midway through the story.  The telegraph went out of style nearly a century ago.    

8] The golden rule: Be entertaining. Don’t let the writing get in the way of the plot. Avoid too much description (of things that aren’t remotely relevant). Be concise. Don’t draw out the story unnecessarily.   

Additional horror clichés:

  • Potential victim of a serial killer turns out to be a vampire.

  • All the horror was simply a dream. Probably something both the protagonist and the writer ate.
  • All the horror was simply a manifestation of the narrator’s mental problems.
  • The narrator turns out to be dead (and the writer chooses to reveal this at the end).
  • This list goes on longer than I’d like this blog post to be. What’s that noise coming from the cellar? I’d better go investigate – unarmed and alone…

    As always, keep writing and keep submitting!

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Hi, guys.  Here are Speculative Mystery Iconoclast issue #1’s slush pile percentages at the time of writing this post:

Science Fiction / Mystery = 22.2%

Horror / Mystery = 1.2%

Fantasy / Mystery = 33.3%

Dark Fantasy / Mystery = 4.3%

Science Fiction / Horror / Mystery = 1.2%

Science Fiction / Fantasy / Mystery = 1.5%

Dark Fantasy / Science Fiction / Mystery = 3.1%

Iconoclastic Speculative Fiction = 33.3%

Missed the mark (Did not read or simply ignored the guidelines) = 0%

Please note: Stories rejected at the time of writing this post are not counted. The percentages thus far have turned up a few surprises, namely the low submission percentage for Horror / Mystery (1.2%). For some reason, I expected more supernatural tales to grace my mailbox.

I’m gladdened by that the Science Fiction scribes have upped their submissions. I was beginning to think they thought the zine’s name sounded “too Fantasy” or “too [insert any genre other than SF].

Well, at least, people are reading the guidelines before they send their work – Missed the mark (0%). Yay!

Keep writing and keep submitting!

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