Thursday, November 13, 2014

Things That I Like: Why I write horror, and how I write at all

"Why do you assume I have a choice?" Stephen King, Night Shift.
A month ago I explained horror from an LDS viewpoint, justifying, as it were, the existence of the horror genre. But why me? I recognize the need for electricians but have no desire to be one myself, so the need itself is not reason enough for my participation, and while I don't think that there's any reason to defend myself (I already did that to my satisfaction) there is room for curiosity to be had. Why did— well, you think of an author yourself and add "write in that genre?" because I definitely don't feel qualified to compare myself to the Greats at this point. But why does anyone write how and what they do?
My explanation is teleological. I am who I am, as you are who you are, and each of us has a particular purpose (or purposes) in this life. More than merely returning to God after you die, you are expected to contribute to God's whole plan in ways that no other person can. The full extent of the growth that you are required to make cannot be achieved without other people any more than it can be achieved without the Divine.
You can strip the theology out if you'd like. The idea goes just as well if you say that each of us has activities for which we're better-disposed than all others, and optimum results will come from each of us doing what we do best and sharing the fruits of our labor with each other. Basically, the system that let us claw a path from tribes of hunter-gatherers to 4channers debating the likelihood of finding life on Europa and how to propose marriage to it (your call if this is actually progress, but it's definitely something).
I look within myself and examine what it present in order to determine my purpose. It should be of little surprise to anyone that I have been built for writing, among whatever other things I have been built for (we are not single-purpose creations). In fact, I am so strongly built toward writing that my depressive episodes gradually grow more and more crippling until I am close to falling apart into a simulacrum of meat and chemicals. I have been told that it is unpleasant to observe, and I can tell you that it isn't sunshine and lollipops to experience from the inside.
If I do not write, then I suffer a mental breakdown. There are times when I choose writing over eating and sleeping. I am built for writing. It is as simple as that.
Very much the same thought process applies to horror. There are times that it is one of the most effective ways for me to experience some much-needed catharsis. Too, horror is not solely a means to scare and disturb myself and others for the sake of mental health. Horror, like social science fiction, is a way of holding up the mirror to our collective self (and horror and social science fiction each hold the mirror in ways that the other cannot). Through horror we may achieve an awareness of both self and other that is not otherwise possible.
And yet, these are only meta-reasons, the reasons for my reason for writing horror: when the time comes to write horror, I cannot do anything else.
There is often a misconception held about authors, perhaps because for some authors it is true: authors control their stories. Authors decide what to write. In response I point you to the quote by Stephen King that I placed at the beginning of this post.
I can't say how it feels for everyone else, no more than I can say how another person experiences the influence of the Divine, but I can speak for myself (that is all that anyone can do). And it tastes like salt. It cannot be described.
Do you understand?
These worlds that I design are fictional. Their inhabitants do not have bodies of flesh and bone. They do not bleed. And yet I often feel, very strongly, that I do not have any control at all in the process except insofar as I might choose to ignore what I am supposed to write. It is a lot like the influence of the Spirit of God in that way, and I have said elsewhere that I am strongly convinced that there is a divine element involved in the inspiration that writers receive. I write what I write because it is what is given to me to write, and as I design characters, plot stories, and build worlds I do so with the understanding that I am not assembling a temple to my own aggrandizement but rather a puzzle out of pieces set before me, and this in order to discover the story that God has already ordained to be written.
When I write well, I have assembled the puzzle well and served as an adequate medium. When I do not write well, I have not written the story as God, or my muse, or whatever you would call the source of my inspiration, would have me write it.
This is my reason for writing as I do. All the rest is meta, but this is the direct causation.
Your turn: How do stories, as creator or consumer or both, influence your life?
R. Donald James Gauvreau maintains a blog at www.whitemarbleblock.blogspot.com, where he regularly posts story ideas, free fiction, and other goodies, including a free guide to comparative mythology that was written specifically with worldbuilding in mind.
He is probably not a spider.

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