All Ten Of My “Halloween 2018” Short Stories :)

Happy Halloween everyone 🙂 In case you missed any of them, here are links to all ten of this year’s Halloween stories. If you want more stories, be sure to check out my 2017 Halloween collection, my 2016 Halloween collection and the interactive story that I wrote in 2015. You can also find lots of other short stories here too.

Anyway, the theme of this year’s collection was “The modern world”, which allowed me to include a good mixture of horror, dark comedy, satire and even a little bit of dystopian sci-fi too 🙂 If you don’t have time to read the whole collection, the best stories are: “VR“, “Zero“, “Update“, “Void” and “Killer App

The production for this collection was also a bit random too. In short, due to being busy with lots of stuff, I’d expected to only have time to write five stories rather than the full ten. Because of this, I also wrote (and queued up) this year’s stories in the opposite order to the order they were posted here. So, if you want to read the stories in the order I actually wrote them, then start with the tenth one and work backwards.

Anyway, here are the stories 🙂 Enjoy 🙂

VR: In the neon-drenched future, Trey is on the run from Blue-Corp’s security bulls after a hack went wrong. But, things aren’t quite what they seem.

Rules: University students Joanne and Toby have got tickets for the Halloween party at the student’s union. But, can they comply with the union’s costume policy?

Zero: Bert is congratulating the branch managers of his company after a few contractual changes have resulted in increased profits and relatively little grumbling from his employees. What could possibly go wrong for him?

Update: Sally isn’t enjoying her date with Tom. There’s just something strange about him…

Pop Up: When a giant ossuary appears in the middle of the high street, Dan and Tina aren’t sure whether to go inside and take a look…..

Limelight: Two people sit in a cafe and discuss the sorry state of the modern horror genre.

Void: Reza is combing a field for historical artefacts. But, just as he detects something, it starts to rain…

Let’s Play: ‘Tis the season for low-budget jump-scare indie games and two people are determined that their ‘let’s play’ video will be hilariously watchable.

Remnants: Driven off of the high street by the rain, Steve takes refuge in a large chain bookshop. But, something is very wrong with this shop…

Killer App: Laura is bored, so she goes shopping on her phone’s app story. One of the apps on offer looks a bit unusual. But, hey, it’s free…

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When Should The Audience Start Feeling Frightened?- A Ramble

2016 Artwork Pacing In Horror Stories

As regular readers of this site probably know, I’ve been fascinated by old American horror comics from the 1940s/50s recently (especially after rediscovering this awesome archive site yet again). Anyway, after reading them for a while, I noticed something strange, I actually felt mildly scared.

This caught me by surprise, since they’re about the least frightening “serious” things that you can find in the horror genre. They’re hilariously melodramatic and they often have a brilliantly dark sense of humour and, yet, after reading them for a while I actually felt mildly creeped out by them. I think that this was because after reading them for a while, I got used to the melodrama, vintage settings, dreadful dialogue and cheesy storylines.

Since the comics no longer seemed quite as amusingly unusual, I “suspended my disbelief” and began to take the stories mildly more seriously. Suddenly, they actually started being at least slightly frightening. Yes, each individual comic isn’t particularly creepy but once you read several of them in one sitting, the level of creepiness gradually starts to build up.

This, of course, made me think about pacing in the horror genre. Different types of horror stories, films, games, comics etc… take different approaches when it comes to the subject of “when should the audience start feeling frightened ?“.

One approach is to begin the story with a creepy scene of some kind. This is a technique that was favoured by splatterpunk writers in the 1970s-90s and it often turns up in horror movies and/or TV shows. The goal of this technique is to instantly grab the audience’s attention with something gruesome or creepy, so that they’ll want to watch more.

The problem with this technique is that, by scaring the audience within the first few minutes, you lose a lot of suspense. The audience knows what kinds of things will happen in the rest of the story, so later scenes are less shocking as a result.

Another problem with placing a scary scene at the beginning of a story is that the audience haven’t had time to learn about the characters and/or story. Since the audience don’t know much about the characters, they won’t care about them quite as much. So, even if a character suffers an unspeakably horrific fate within the first few minutes, it won’t have much of an emotional impact for the simple reason that the audience doesn’t know this character very well.

Another approach to scaring the audience is, of course, to gradually build up suspense over a long period of time before seriously scaring the audience. This type of horror is generally a lot scarier, for the simple reasons that the audience know the characters better (and care about them more) and because of the constant dread of knowing that something horrible is going to happen, but not knowing exactly when.

The problem with this technique is that you also have to make sure that all of the “build up” to the scary parts of the story is interesting enough to hold the audience’s attention. In other words, you have to put a lot more effort into things like creating intriguing mysteries, creating compelling characters etc… There’s also the risk that the audience might lose interest before anything frightening happens.

A good hybrid between these two approaches would probably be to start your horror story with something mysterious, shocking and/or creepy to set the mood. Then, once you’ve grabbed the audience’s attention, ease off on the horror for a while and start to gradually build up suspense. This approach combines the best of both worlds and it’s a good way to keep your horror story unpredictable.

Of course, there are many other ways to handle the scary parts of your horror story or horror comic, but “when should the audience start feeling frightened?” should be one of the most important questions that you ask yourself.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

All Ten Of My Halloween 2016 Short Stories :)

2016 Artwork Halloween horror stories compilation

[Note (27/12/16): I’ve just fixed the broken link to the first story. Sorry about not noticing this at the time this post originally went out].

Well, Halloween approaches and, in case you missed any of the horror stories I’ve been writing and posting here, I thought that I’d collect them all together into one easy-to-read post 🙂

The interesting thing was that some of these stories went in slightly different directions to what I had expected. Sure, there are a few dark comedy stories here, but there’s also a little bit of “serious” horror, some gothic fantasy and even a little bit of old school dystopian sci-fi and Lovecraftian weird fiction too.

So, without any further ado, here are the stories. Enjoy 🙂

1) “Channel Not Available”
2) “The Law Of Nightmares”
3) “Larkminster Library”
4) “Festivals Are Grim”
5) “A Tale Of The Tricorn”
6) “Time Capsule”
7) “If Splatterpunk Still Lived…”
8) “Save Gem”
9) “Stranger Than Truth”
10) “The Other Way”.

Oh, I almost forgot, stay tuned for a new horror comic (well, comedy horror) starting tomorrow night. Or, if you’re reading this long after Halloween, then this link to the comic will become active at the start of November.

Three Basic Tips For Writing Christmas-Themed Horror Stories

2015 Artwork Christmas Horror stories article sketch

Ever since Charles Dickens helped to re-popularise Christmas in “A Christmas Carol”, Christmas and the horror genre have been close friends. Seriously, if it wasn’t for Dickens’ ghostly tale, then what we see as a “traditional” Christmas might not look quite the same.

Christmas and the horror genre have a rather strange yin/yang relationship with each other. Horror is like the bitter coffee which balances out the sickly sweetness of everything Christmas-related.

Anyway, from looking at a few things in this ghoulishly festive genre over the years, I think that I can offer you a few basic tips about how to write your own Christmas horror story:

1) Don’t make it too scary: I know that this is probably a bit counter-intuitive, but a good Christmas horror story shouldn’t be too scary. Remember, the goal of a festive horror story is to give people a gleefully macabre break from the endless glad tidings of joy and festive cheer, not to ruin Christmas for them by giving them nightmares.

Truly scary horror often works by presenting a very bleak and desolate view of the world and/or of human nature. It’s a genre that thrives on despair, tragedy, paranoia and vulnerability. It’s the only genre where unhappy endings are almost a requirement. Given that Christmas can often be either the best time of the year or the most depressing time of the year, the last thing you want to do is to depress your readers near Christmas.

This doesn’t mean that parts of your Christmas horror story can’t be scary, but your story should probably have at least a vaguely happy ending.

Likewise, the source of horror in your story shouldn’t be something too grittily realistic. In other words, try to focus on more fantastical things like ghosts, gremlins, vampires, zombies, monsters, the grim reaper etc… rather than on things like serial killers, criminals, diseases etc…

2) Christmas cynicism: As I hinted at earlier, one of the central attractions of Christmas-themed horror stories is that they are one of the few socially-acceptable outlets for any cynicism that you or your readers might have about Christmas.

Whether it’s Scrooge’s miserly outlook on the world, Kate’s depressing Christmas story in “Gremlins” or parts of last year’s Christmas episode of “Doctor Who”. It’s a requirement that at least one of the characters in your horror story is an outright cynic about Christmas.

It’s up to you whether this character remains a cynic about Christmas or whether the events of the story change their mind about Christmas, but you need to have a cynical character who the audience can either choose to identify with, or to feel better about themselves in comparison to.

3) Choose your favourite version of Christmas:
One of the great things about a Christmas horror story is that you get to choose which version of Christmas you portray in your story. So, go for the one that you like best – go for the one that will contrast perfectly with the horrors that await your readers later in the story.

And, yes, there are lots of different versions of Christmas. There’s the traditional Victorian Christmas, there are wonderfully stylised 1980s/90s movie-style Christmases, there are chaotic family Christmases, there are nerdy Christmases, there’s the best Christmas that you can remember, there’s the worst Christmas that you can remember etc…

So, go for the type of Christmas that really fires your imagination. Go for the one that feels the most wonderful. After all, Christmas horror stories work because they contrast the joy of Christmas with something a bit creepier.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂