Demon Hunting and Tenth Dimensional Physics: July 2017

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Top Ten Internet Horror DON'Ts (Part 2)

**Note: Clicking on the links throughout this article will take you to horror of varying types and degrees, from mildly unnerving to gory to existentially terrifying. If that kind of thing wigs you out too much, or that's just not what you're looking for, this is your warning. I also take no responsibility for any curses, brainwashing, sudden deaths, or other similarly odd events potentially connected to these links. And, like Arthur Weasley said, don't trust anything intelligent if you can't see where it keeps its brain. Oh, and spoilers are going to exist in this article.**

Well, I hope you’ve read the first five don'ts in the last post, as well as the top ten dos. If not, they are HERE, HERE, and HERE, in publication order. Once you've caught up, swing on back here and we'll go through the top five things not to take from internet horror. Or my top five, anyway.

5: DON'T Underestimate Your Audience
Yep, I made this point in the do section, but I want to harp on it more. I want to harp on it over and over and over again, because damn it, it's important.

Your readers are not stupid. Your audience, if you're creating, say, film, are not stupid. Please remember that. You have room to be subtle. Seriously, I cover this in more detail in the dos, I just wanted to really drive it home. So much internet horror is done by amateurs, and those amateurs can be talented… but by and large, they overexplain. They give the reader too much handholding, and inadvertently damage their own work.

4: DON'T Hide Everything, Otherwise You Have Nothing
Okay, this may be counter to what I just said, but… well, it's a balancing act. Even the smartest reader needs something to work with. If you hide everything… what's the point of your story? Writers see advice (Like the advice I gave.) saying to be subtle and not play your cards too soon. So, rather than overexplaining, writers underexplain. You see no sign of anything weird. The character is therefore scared of… the next plot point?

It's fine to have a mysterious entity in horror. H.P. Lovecraft was a master of it, rarely ever describing the otherworldly horrors he created. But even Lovecraft mentioned a creeping tentacle or a flash of color. So many internet horror writers have this tendency to write their story without anything to actually horrify. And, perhaps in the worst horror of all, it's starting to creep into traditionally published writing. Professional authors… I just can't, with that. Give the audience enough without giving them too much.

3: DON'T Forget the Polish
Now, I did say that passion would make people appreciate your work. But if you don't pay attention to the polish of your chosen craft, you're not going to rise to any height. If you're a writer, you need to know your grammar. You need to know how language flows. Film makers need to know about their angles, the use of focus, their editing techniques. That kind of thing is what moves an okay, likable work into something worth paying attention to.

Polish is something I would really like more of in the world of internet horror. You see it in some work. Don't Hug Me I'm Scared is very polished and put together. TheRussian Sleep Experiment is wonderful. But by and large, even some of the best work out there (Marble Hornets, Candle Cove, Tribe Twelve) lack a shine and shimmer that a little more attention would have brought them. They're wonderful, but I can't say that they're great technical creations.

2: DON'T Forget Your Twist
There are no original ideas left. Sorry, it's true. Everything has been done. There are only three stories, in the end. Or thirty six. Or nine. Whatever you want to pick, there are only a set number of actual plots. Your idea has likely been done before, too.

I know that I'm focusing a lot on creativity, but that's because it's a massive success of internet horror, when it works. It's also a massive failing because, even though I think the idea of gatekeepers in publishing is patently ridiculous, there is something to be said for mitigating clich├ęs. It doesn't mean it's going to be good, but it won't be something seen a million times unless something actually happens to it that's different.

Your audience will love you if you do that. So will editors and critics. There's very little people enjoy more than seeing something expected actually turned around. It can be hard to come up with the idea, but when you do, it can be some of the most powerful fiction created.

1: DON'T. Pull. Your. Punches.
Ignore everything else in these four posts if you have to. Seriously. This is easily the most important thing I have to say in this whole thing: don't pull your punches. Whatever the reason you may have for it, conscious or not, pulling your punches will only harm the end work. You have to fully commit to the work, and this is where internet horror falls flat and falls hard. Okay, that's contradictory to a previous point saying that they do well in this, but again: those are the outlying standouts, not the massive bulk of the genre.

You can tell when someone put the forethought and love into a piece to make it really special. But you can also tell when someone doesn't, and they just want to get popular without trying. The first step to actually throwing solid punches is training it up. This is where learning comes in. The polish. The passion. All of it.

Your punches will be weak if you don’t work up your skill. But even if they're strong, you can kill yourself on it. If you’re worried about not pissing anyone off… you're dead. You're throwing shallower punches. You have no follow through. I was taught years ago that, if you're going to punch someone in the nose, you don't aim for their nose. You aim for the back of their head, and their entire head just happens to be in the way.

Pulling punches is a way to absolutely destroy any emotional impact you might have had. You can't keep people 100% happy and deliver a powerful story. If you don’t want to risk ever upsetting anyone ever, your work will be placid and gray.

"If everyone likes your work, but nobody loves it, it will fail." That's from Mark Rosewater, and it's an absolute truth when it comes to internet horror. 99.9% of work produced in the "genre" fails. No one really watches the videos or plays the games or reads the stories, and those who do… they don’t care enough to fight for the work in question. And the only way to make someone love something is to risk other people hating it. It's that simple. So for the love of god: Don't. Pull. Your. Punches.

And that is my final word on the matter. I hope this has been helpful to you. It was helpful for me to write it. Really sets some things clear in my head.

Until next time, lovelies,