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Thinking About What Makes The Shining and The Exorcist Work

Thinking About What Makes The Shining and The Exorcist Work

Aw, man. This just ain’t right.

Sometimes in the course of growing as a writer, you fluke into a success before¬†you grow the skills to consistently hit that success. My second-ever fiction sale was to Asimov’s Science Fiction in 2008 and over the following two-and-a-half years, I collected nothing but rejections from them.

My 2008 story had accidentally included enough good elements that it made it into the magazine, but I didn’t understand what those science fictional elements were or how to use them properly until about 2011.

I think the same thing happened to me with a story called “Dog’s Paw.” I thought I’d been writing a lit story when in fact, I had included horror elements that eventually got it published in a horror anthology, Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year, and a superb audio version at (British people make everything sound extra-good). After my experience with my 2008 Asimov’s story, I was under no illusions that I was a competent horror writer, just a lucky one.

This spring, I decided to try to write a horror story. Knowing my weakness, I deliberately tried to figure out what goes into a good horror story. And when I want to analyze story structure, I go first to movies, because I find it easier to see the moving parts.

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