I can’t believe that this blog has been going for over a year and a half and I still haven’t written a proper article about writing splatterpunk horror fiction.
(Note: before I go any further, I should point out that whilst I’ll try to keep disturbing descriptions to a minimum in this article, this is an article about gruesome horror fiction – so reader discretion is advised.)
Although I don’t seem to have written much in the way of horror fiction over the past few years, my first writing-based ambition was to be a splatterpunk writer. In fact, if it wasn’t for rebelliously reading lots of second-hand splatterpunk novels when I was a young teenager, I’d have probably never really become interested in writing.
So, what is splatterpunk? Put simply, splatterpunk is a sub-genre of horror fiction that was at it’s most popular in the 80s and 90s. In general, splatterpunk fiction is horror fiction that focuses on being as gory, shocking and grotesque as possible.
Seriously, if your idea of a “shocking” horror novel is something by Stephen King, then splatterpunk isn’t for you. Likewise, if you were one of the people who fainted during a screening of “Saw III”, then it isn’t for you either.
Yes, because (in the UK and the US at least) there is thankfully little to no censorship of literature, a good splatterpunk novel from the 80s or 90s can easily be far more gruesome than most modern “extreme” horror movies are.
Seriously, a faithful film adaptation of the very first splatterpunk novel I ever read – Shaun Hutson’s “Assassin” – would probably still be banned even today.
If you’re totally new to splatterpunk fiction, here are a few other books which are worth checking out: “The Books Of Blood” by Clive Barker, “The Rats” by James Herbert, “Exquisite Corpse” by Poppy Z. Brite, “Double Dead” by Chuck Wendig and “Slicer” by Garth Marenghi.
So, how do you write it?
Well, first of all, you need to read enough of it in order to get a good sense of which description style that you like. Although splatterpunk novels thankfully aren’t literary fiction, the gory parts of these novels are usually described in a way that would put most literary novelists to shame.
Yes, writing splatterpunk is an art form – but with blood instead of paint. And, like any art form, different writers have slightly different descriptive “styles” when it comes to describing these scenes.
For example, Shaun Hutson tends to go for a slightly more “matter-of-fact” and “medical” descriptive style and he’ll sometimes use the Latin names for various parts of the body. The scapula bone and vitreous humour are his favourite parts of the body to describe, if I remember rightly.
Whereas, Clive Barker uses a slightly more metaphorical style in the gruesome parts of his splatterpunk stories, like this (fairly tame) example from volume one of “The Books Of Blood”: ‘Mahogany felt the blade in his neck as a choking sensation, almost as though he had caught a chicken bone in the throat. He made a ridiculous half-hearted coughing sound. Blood issued from his lips, painting them, like lipstick on a woman’s mouth‘.
So, read a lot of splatterpunk novels to get a sense of which descriptive style (or which combination of styles) seems best to you and then use it.
Secondly, you need to have a good understanding of pacing. Although the main feature of splatterpunk fiction is the gory descriptions, you can’t just fill literally every page of your story with blood and guts and say that you’ve written a good splatterpunk novel.
Like with using profanity in fiction, every time you show something gruesome in your story, subsequent gruesome scenes will lose a little bit of their dramatic impact. So, place the gruesome scenes in your story carefully.
If you want a great example of masterful splatterpunk pacing, then check out a novel called “In The Miso Soup” by Ryu Murakami. It only contains one gory scene – which is probably slightly tame by splatterpunk standards.
But it feels about ten times more shocking than similar scenes in other splatterpunk novels because Murakami spends almost the entire novel building up to this one scene.
Finally, you need to have a good imagination. Or rather, you need to have a fairly twisted imagination that can create new horrors that will shock even the most cynical and jaded splatterpunk fans.
Yes, splatterpunk fiction might not seem like a hotbed of originality and creative thought, but it takes more effort than you might think to shock fans of the genre. And, yes, these will be the people who will be reading your splatterpunk story.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂