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Friday, 7 February 2014

Maureen Green on writing horror stories.

I have just completed my third, adult thriller. I 'm often asked why Thriller Chillers?
Nothing, nothing captures the pain that lies at the heart of human beings more than something overwhelmingly frightful, loathsome, shocking and abhorrent.
The horror genre is construed around such emotional and physical responses. It seeks to produce in its audience anxious fright and hair-raising chills.
Across history and culture, horror stories have served to document and illuminate the human condition. Horror lies at the very heritage of literature, from scary narratives in folklore and fairy tales to a long standing tradition of fear-narration.
Horror lies in the tension between the figurative and the real, the conscious and the unconscious. It is an emotional response extremely personal.
'Man's inhumanity to man', anger-motivated violence, murder, abuse, and the worst of all acts, the deprivation and cruelty heaped upon our children are what disgusts me. Since I have many untold happenings to draw on, I use these themes in my more chilling works.
When writing 'thriller chillers' the emotional empathy becomes so strong that I find it somewhat draining and frequently disturbing when the character takes over. I'm often left wondering where that chilling idea or action came from
It was in 1951 that I tasted, for the first time, the extreme emotional forces associated with horror. Few confrontations have divided New Zealand as decisively as the 1951 Waterfront Dispute—the longest, costliest and most widespread in New Zealand history. Few New Zealanders were left unaffected during this time of great nationalism, civil disobedience, prejudice, stubbornness, passion and anger.
It was also, during this time of unrest, I discovered Edgar Allan Poe's, 'The Tell-Tale Heart,' a tale where an old man's cloudy eye incites the narrator to an act of madness.
The hook, 'True——nervous—very, very, nervous I have been and am.' captured my attention, the story as it unfolded, creepy, chilling, thrilling.
This was the first time I identified with characters in a literary rendition. While I read, 'Meantime the hellish tattoo of the heart increased. It grew quicker and quicker and louder and louder every instant,' my heart banged against my ribcage and my pulse played a symphony in my ears. I heard that heart beating in moments of silence, week after week.
I then tackled Poe's poetry and was mesmerised by the lyricism and the economy of words used to create a chill.
Leave my loneliness unbroken!
-quit the bust above my door
take thy beak from out my heart,
and take thy form from off my door!
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore"
And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o'er him steaming throws his shadow to the floor;
And my soul from out the shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted-nevermore
Consequently, fifty odd years on, having immersed myself in the works of Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mary Shelley and other canonised authors of horror stories, when I came to writing, I chose, to write 'Thriller Chillers.' for adults Not because works in the horror genre remain some of the best-selling and most cherished books of all time, because, chilling experiences provide coping strategies and  I have so many horrific acts which have never been aired in the public domain to weave into works.
Maureen Green


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