Despite my previous assertion that I probably won’t be writing as much as I’d like to for a while, I’ve managed to write another short story. This reminds me that sometimes the writing comes easier when I’m not trying so hard. It also helped that I’d sketched this one out a few months ago, and it was now ready to be fleshed out.
It still needs some work, but short story revision has never been as arduous for me as novels; and when I feel it’s ready, I’ll send it out on the usual round of submissions. I like it. I’m pleased with how it all came together for me as I began writing. Outside of this, however, I find myself questioning the fact that it’s another horror story. Looking over the short stories I’ve written over the past few years shows me that more often than not, what comes out of my mind is murder and mayhem. Which isn’t a bad thing in itself–many writers have done quite well in the horror genre. What puzzles me is why the blood’s been flowing through my work lately.
While I’ve read a good portion of horror fiction over the years–Stephen King is a master at the short story (check out Full Dark No Stars), and the dark, erotic fiction of Anne Rice shaped me at an early age–it’s not what I usually reach for these days. It’s certainly not the direction I saw myself going in when I started out. I wrote strictly high fantasy for a long time, and thought that’s what I’d always write. And while I still love those characters I created in lands I made up, I guess I’m just growing out of it. I find it much more interesting now to write stories that take place in this world, albeit with a supernatural twist.
But more and more, when I sit down to write short stories, I’m drawn to the dark places of the human heart. I want to scratch beneath the surface and dig down into the muck of human desire, hatred, fear, joy, and the monsters they conjure up. I guess I want to confront the specter of death itself, something that horror fiction does very well.
Death defines us, of course. I’m at a stage in my life where mortality is more than a rumor, where aging parents remind me everyday of where it all ends. I’ve never felt more alive because of it, never felt each precious moment more fully, never been more aware of how ephemeral it all is. Perhaps I’m scratching an itch. Or rather, I’m pressing on a bruise just to feel the pain, and to relish it. Maybe it’s a phase. Maybe not.
Whatever the reason, I’m not going to shy away from it, or worry about what people are going to think of the stories that come out of me. To embrace and explore the darkness: to me, that’s what makes life interesting.
At least on paper.