This is the time of year in which I dread the words, “Hey, Mrs. Damon! I wrote a story! It’s a HALLOWEEN story!” I dread it because I’m about to be handed five pages of handwritten death and mayhem, of a killer in a mask slashing his way through the townspeople.
The first problem is entirely with me. I don’t love horror. It’s jut not my thing. I can, however, appreciate really well done horror, but it has to have a couple of key elements.
First, it has to have a point. A man killing people just to see how high you can get the body count in your story is kind of pointless and is a turn0ff to some readers. Second, it has absolutely got to be original, and not just another story about another killer scaring the cheerleader and her boyfriend on their date.
Most importantly, it has to have an awesome villain. He has to be believable and understandable, even while being evil and making me want him to be caught by the hero. He has to have a clear motive for what he’s doing, even if it’s simply revenge. Depending on your audience, the way he terrorizes people has to be exactly right. And as with the story line issues above, he has to be, above all, original.
Spare me mentally ill people who stalk unsuspecting campers or who murder all the popular kids to get revenge for being picked on in high school. And let’s call a moratorium on vampires, werewolves, zombies, clowns, and children’s dolls with creepy facial expressions. Develop a villain who can be truly frightening but that hasn’t been done to…well…death.
Then, get to know him. Is he alive, undead, or he is supernatural? Does he have powers, or just a hatchet and rage issues? Is he wearing a mask, and if so, why? Find out everything you can about your character, which should be pretty easy because you created him, but is actually very important for you to know.
Then, and only then, can you start writing a story about the havoc he enacts on the hapless villagers.