I always enjoy a good horror-suspense movie – one supported by story rather than outright gore. (Sci-fi Originals are definitely not my favorite.). I love Aliens, Poltergeist, Tremors, Arachnaphobia…
A few years ago, I wrote a horror screenplay, which placed in the top 15th percentile in the Nicholls Fellowship competition. This, I’ve decided, will be the basis of my next novel, Spider House.
But there are some very violent scenes in this to-be-novelized work. Visually, a scene can be quickly implied and then blinked away. But when writing such a scene for a novel, I can only wonder how-far is too-far.
I decided I should read something “gory” by a master storyteller, and selected Stephen King’s Misery – largely because I’ve seen the film and enjoyed it, in spite of some very disturbing scenes.
Up until now, I wasn’t a Stephen King fan. I’d read Hearts in Atlantis – loved the first half, but felt the second half didn’t go anywhere. I’d also read Dolores Claiborne, but liked the movie better. (That being said, I appreciated King’s attempt to write an entire book as though it’s being breathlessly narrated by an accused murderess; and thought the omission of apostrophes in all contractions brilliant, since it made the work read at a quickened pace.)
But Misery is a work of art. It’s more than the story that makes it entertaining. The characters are solid; knowable. The vocabulary is sometimes unfamiliar (fortunately I could easily look up words on my Nook), but chosen for sound as well as meaning. Paul Sheldon, the main character, is a writer; we read his manuscript – complete with typographical errors – as he tries to please his “biggest fan,” Annie Wilkes.
Now I cannot wait to read more Stephen King novels – in search of another book that makes me go Wow!
And what did I learn about handling violent scenes? That too much detail is distracting; slows the cadence. And giving too much information makes the action seem less believable, since we’re trying to force ourselves to see the world through the author’s eyes rather than our own.
Now it’s time to start writing.