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The Write Way

15 August 2003

Do the Monster Mash ...



Lavinia and I have a great deal in common, not the least of which is our taste in entertainment, so it was with some surprise that I listened last week as she told me about her plans to see "Freddy Vs Jason." It seems her local radio station had a competition for listeners to phone in when they heard a particular song - and the prize was two tickets to a new film. As fate would have it, at the very moment the trigger song was played, she was phoning (to put in a birthday request for Raoul) and was the random caller selected to receive the prize. The song, incidentally, was "Bits and Pieces," which provides some worrying insights into the mind of the show's producer.

Knowing the dear girl's sensitive nature (she is forever rescuing bees that fall into her swimming pool, tripping over her steps as she tries to avoid walking on ants and wasting hours when shopping as she scans product labels for those magic words, "not tested on animals"), I somehow think she's in for a bit of a surprise when the film starts ...

The scariest movie I ever saw was "Forbidden Planet." Now don't scoff ... even though this was made in 1956 and its runaway star was Robby the Robot, it really was scary! I can still remember how the steps to the space ship sagged when the invisible monster went up them ... and that part where the monster was trying to break into the impenetrable room where the handsome space captain (Leslie Nielsen as a boy) had made his last stand with the evil Dr Morbius (Walter Pidgeon) and his beautiful daughter (Ann Francis) gave me nightmares for years ... And the way you saw the monster's claws pressing into the metal walls ... Shudder!

If you've lived your life without seeing this classic, read about it here

So, since we're telling scary stories today, how 'bout you try writing one? No, it's easy - especially when you're armed with this nifty Horror Movie Survival Guide that Anthea, Lavinia's second best friend in the whole world found and passed on when she learnt about the radio competition.

Horror Movie Survival Guide 

"When it appears that you have killed the monster, never check to see if it's really dead. 

"If you find that your house is built upon or near a cemetery, was once a church that was used for black masses, had previous inhabitants who went mad or committed suicide or died in some horrible fashion, or had inhabitants who performed necrophilia or satanic practices in your house, move away immediately.

"Never read a book of demon summoning aloud, even as a joke.

"Do not search the basement, especially if the power has just gone out.

"If your children speak to you in Latin or any other language which they should not know, or if they speak to you using a voice which is other than their own, shoot them immediately. It will save you a lot of grief in the long run. NOTE: It will probably take several rounds to kill them, so be prepared.

"When you have the benefit of numbers, never pair off and go it alone.

"As a general rule, don't solve puzzles that open portals to Hell.

"Never stand in, on, above, below, beside, or anywhere near a grave, tomb, crypt, mausoleum, or other house of the dead.

"If you're searching for something which caused a noise and find out that it's just the cat, leave the room immediately if you value your life.

"If appliances start operating by themselves, move out.

"Do not take anything from the dead.

"If you find a town which looks deserted, it's probably for a reason. Take the hint and stay away.

"Don't fool with recombinant DNA technology unless you're sure you know what you are doing.

"If you're running from the monster, expect to trip or fall down at least twice, more if you are of the female persuasion. Also note that, despite the fact that you are running and the monster is merely shambling along, it's still moving fast enough to catch up with you.

"If your companions suddenly begin to exhibit uncharacteristic behavior such as hissing, fascination for blood, glowing eyes, increasing hairiness, and so on, get away from them as fast as possible.

"Stay away from certain geographical locations, some of which are listed here: Amityville, Elm Street, Transylvania, Nilbog (God help you if you recognize this one), the Bermuda Triangle, or any small town in Maine.

"If your car runs out of gas at night, do not go to the nearby deserted-looking house to phone for help.

"Beware of strangers bearing tools such as chainsaws, staple guns, hedge trimmers, electric carving knives, combines, lawnmowers, butane torches, soldering irons, band saws, or any device made from deceased companions.

"Be on the alert for any music playing in the background - if you hear drums that sound like a heartbeat, run ... very fast!"

Aah ... love it!

If you'd seriously like to try writing a horror story (and Goodness only knows there's more than enough material out there to inspire you), here are some more pointers. 

This week's quiz:

OK ... this week's quiz is not for the faint of heart. Here are some horrifying terms you can sprinkle through your novel:

Cotard's syndrome, Ekbom's syndrome, Capgras' syndrome, doppleganger, glossolalia, planchette, lycanthropy, autoscopy, circumambulism, discarnate

1. strange conviction that one's entire digestive system has disappeared or turned to stone 

2. strings of meaningless syllables made up of sounds taken from those familiar to the speaker and put together more or less haphazardly 

3. a psychosis in which the patient has delusions of being a wild animal (usually a wolf)

4. the delusion that others, or the self, have been replaced by imposters; a bizarre stylization of psychosis, whereby a sufferer believes that family, friends or items of personal significance have been replaced by perfect imposters, usually originating from an alien, governmental or demonic source 

5. a spirit of a living person, outside the physical body

6. obscure belief that creatures from the Insecta class or Nematoda phylum (namely creepy crawlies) are building a civilisation under one's skin 

7. the indicator, or pointer used in association with a Ouija Board; a small triangular board supported by two casters and a vertical pencil that, when lightly touched by the fingertips, is said to spell out subconscious or supernatural messages

8. existing outside a physical body

9. when one's normally benign reflection appears to be a more authentic and life-draining version of oneself; visual hallucination of an image of one's body

10. ceremonial walking around an object or person to secure protection.

I just had to share this classic email ... it arrived a few minutes ago with the subject line: "Your credit card has been charged with $234.65."  Clever ... who wouldn't rush to open such a message?

And, boy! Am I ever glad I didn't delete this one ...

Important notice

We have just charged your credit card for money laundry service in amount of $234.65 (because you are either child pornography webmaster or deal with dirty money, which require us to layndry them and then send to your checking account).
If you feel this transaction was made by our mistake, please press "No".
If you confirm this transaction, please press "Yes" and fill in the form below.

They then helpfully provide a box where you can enter your credit card number and expiry date (they already have your name remember).

Really and truly, would anyone be stupid enough to actually fill this in and send it off? 


You reckon?

Last week's quiz:

echinoderms, bioluminescence, paleobathymetry, taxonomy, petrify, Vendian, bivalve, amoeba, articulated, oviparous 

1. A microscopic, one-celled animal consisting of a naked mass of protoplasm - AMOEBA

2. A mollusk having two shells hinged together, as the oyster, clam, or mussel; or any animal with two halves to its shell such as an ostracode or brachiopod. - BIVALVE

3. Sea animals covered with calcite plates or spines - ECHINODERMS

4. The production of light by living organisms - BIOLUMINESCENCE 

5. To convert into stone or a stony substance - PETRIFY

6. The science dealing with the identification, naming, and classification of plants and animals - TAXONOMY

7. animals that hatch from eggs - OVIPAROUS

8. The latest period of the Proterozoic era, spanning the time between 650 and 544 million years ago. Sometimes referred to as the Ediacaran period, the Vendian is distinguished by fossils representing a characteristic collection of complex soft-bodied organisms found at several localities around the world - VENDIAN

9. Joints still connected - ARTICULATED

10.The study of ocean depths and topography of the ocean floor in the geologic past - PALEOBATHYMETRY

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A Little Something Extra

"Stephen King once said that we make up horrors to help us cope with real ones ... living in someone else's doomed shoes is such a large part of reading.  Douglas E. Winter also said the essential element of horror is the clash between the prosaic everyday life and a mysterious, irrational and potentially supernatural universe." 

Read the rest of this writing class transcript on how to write a horror novel here.

Word of the week: Poltergeist (n) a ghost that manifests itself by noises, rappings and the creation of disorder

This t'riffically useful word comes from two German words: poltern, to make noises and geist, ghost.

Oxymoron of the week: living dead ... silent scream ... artificial intelligence ... realistic monster ... Shall I stop now?

LaVonne found this week's Latin phrase while she was poring over her Suetonius ... Well, maybe ... It's just the thing for when you've finished reading your horror novel to an appreciative audience.

Acta est fabula, plaudite! (The play is over, applaud!)

[AK-tah EST fab-YOO-lah plow-DEE-tay]

When I read this it reminded me of the story about the Roman Emperor, Nero (I may have told you this before, in fact, I'd be surprised if I haven't since it's such a great story!)

Nero fancied himself as a bit of an artiste and as well as fiddling, he wrote poems and plays. And since he was emperor of all the known world, he got to give recitals any time he wanted ... Sadly, his writing was abysmal - but that didn't deter him, he just posted guards at the doors, in the process coining the term "captive audience." Here's what Suetonius wrote:

"No one was allowed to leave the theatre during his recitals, however pressing the reason. We read of some women in the audience giving birth to children there, while many who were worn out with listening and applauding, secretly leapt from the wall, since the gates at the entrance were closed, or feigned death and were carried out as if for burial."

You can read the original Latin here or a translation here (Scroll down to XXIII)

Keep those tips in mind next time you're in one of those interminable staff meetings!



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