I have written a few articles on vampires in horror, how I made my vampires in Stake-Out, and what I think a vampire should be in the modern world. What I realized I don't talk about is what should these horrific characters be doing. You can make a vampire as bad as you want, a werewolf as out of control as you please, but if they're not doing anything of import, anything to fear, then what's the point of making them?
And when you do decide to make them go to town and start eating people, how do you do that? Does your werewolf go and tear into the hearts of children at a campout during the full moon, leaving a dozen little corpses for the adults to find when they come to pick them up? Or is that going just a bit too far?
Will your vampire sacrifice virgins and make an army to take over humanity, treating mortals like mortals treat cattle? Or is that too conspicuous?
Asking these questions as I wrote helped me keep my characters in line, even the evil ones, like Vincent, the rogue vampire who went on a killing spree just twice in two years. In this day and age, compared with the horror movies of the 80s and back, the gore in these films is amazing. Even in horror where there are no paranormal creatures, what I have seen would have made my older relatives have nightmares for weeks.
While I like seeing a guy's face flayed off with a pairing knife just as much as the next horror fan, it made me stop and think, How far is too far? When does it get to the point that you stop being scary and start becoming a caricature of yourself?
There were a couple of scenes in Stake-Out that, during my reread for the second draft, I decided made me look more like a fool than a serious horror/thriller writer. When it comes to scaring people, you can't just have violence on top of violence. The most frightening stories, to me, always gave me the creeps before they grossed me out. Being scared isn't feeling sick, seeing bodily fluids in mass quantities, or being tortured. Before all of those things, being scared is that tingle down your spine, feeling like there's someone behind you, watching you. Being scared is having your heart race with fear of the unknown ahead of you; the apprehension of "what's out there"?
My villain Vincent ate quite a few people, littering Chicago with their corpses, but it isn't his brutality I want readers to remember. What I want them to think of as they think of Vincent is a stalker, a hunter going after prey, never knowing where he'll strike next.
He threatened my hero, taunted him, and haunted him whether he was awake or asleep. He inserted himself in his mind, lurking there just out of sight and out of reach.
When I read a good horror novel, I don't remember the violence as much as I remember what the villains did right before the violence, the darkness and mind games they unleash before murdering anyone.
It's not to say I don't write gore, or even like it. I write it and I enjoy it immensely. I just think there has to be a good balance between gory and creepy. Vampires and shifters, the two most popular paranormal creatures in horror after ghosts, are predators. As vicious as they are, they are also sleek, smart, and staling creatures who hunt down their prey. I always remember to put in the hunt as much as the feeding when I write.
When Halloween rolls around, I alway love the time of year for the creepy factor. The haunted houses, the decorations, the events...everything about it gets my creative juices flowing. There's a vibe in the very atmosphere that brings out my horror side even more than usual. I can bet that almost everyone reading this can agree.
Take that vibe, that excitement and anticipation, and make it frightening. Leave a reader with an uneasy chill and the thought that someone might be hiding in that pocket of shadow in the corner of their bedroom, just biding their time until they can feed.
That is what I hope I have accomplished. Because horror isn't horror if you're not scared sleepless!
About the author:
Lily Luchesi is a young author/poet born in Chicago, Illinois, now residing in Los Angeles, California. Ever since she was a toddler, her mother noticed her tendency for being interested in all things "dark." At two, she became infatuated with vampires and ghosts, and that infatuation turned into a lifestyle by the time she was twelve, and, as her family has always been what they now call "Gothic," she doesn't believe she shall ever change. She is also a hopeless romantic and avid music-lover, and will always associate vampires with love, blood and rock & roll. Her interest in poetry came around the same time as when she was given a book of Edgar Allan Poe's complete work. She then realized that she has been writing her own poetry since she could hold a pen, and just had not known the correct terms. She finished her first manuscript at the age of fourteen, and now, at twenty-one, has two contributing credits in anthologies and a debut novel, Stake-Out, was published by Vamptasy Publishing on May 19th, 2015.
Her short story, "Undead Ever After," is in the Love Sucks Anthology, published by Crushing Hearts & Black Butterfly Publishing on June 13th, 2015.
Her short story, "The Devil's Dozen," will be in the Hot Ink Press anthology Death, Love & Lust, to be released on November 14th, 2015.
The second book in the Paranormal Detectives Series, Miranda's Rights, will be released on January 8th, 2016 via Vamptasy Publishing.