Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A New Book To Read

Last night before my writing group met I picked up a copy of on writing horror, the revised edition, published by Writer's Digest Books, edited by Mort Castle but basically put together by the Horror Writers Association. I'm a member of HWA, although I had nothing to do with this book. I've barely cracked the book yet but it promises to be interesting. The first essay I read was by a certain Wayne Allen Sallee, a name some of you here might recognize. (He's the fantastic four to Stewart Sternberg's Dr. Doom.)

Here's one of the many things Wayne said that I liked: "No matter 'directions,' categories, genres, subgenres, or whether your terrors are archetype or topical -- your characters must be timeless."

Fortunately, humans have been humans for somewhere between 50,000 and 250,000 years, and we're likely to stay as we are for quite a bit longer, until the genetic modification people get lose, at least. Things change. Technology changes. Humans stay the same. You are human. Knowing yourself is a good way to know a lot about the human condition. But knowing yourself means being brutally honest with yourself. This requires that you do a lot of self-analysis, although it doesn't mean you necessarily have to tell others about your "weirdities." Some things are better left unsaid.

So I ask, all of you here, why do you do the crazy things you do? And don't lie. At least not to yourself.


Sidney said...

I think upbringing has a lot to do with it. I was younger than the older kids in my neighborhood and older than the younger kids. I was the only kid my age which was a little isolating. Also I was the only child of older parents. That definitely drove me to books and the inner world of thoughts and imagination and has influnced career and other matters.

But I suppose genetics has a part. Though my dad was never a writer, word has it he was a teller of tales in his day. He always saw the biggest fish, found ghosts in empty houses and got a ride from a guy who might have been John Dillenger.

Nature vs. nurture? In my case I guess it's a toss up.

the walking man said...

I do what I do because I honestly believe it the right thing to do, not the right thing at just that moment, even if there is negatives that follow my immediate actions but the right thing that in the end will make the situation work best for all concerned.


RK Sterling said...

I believe that a lot of what we do is tied to biological impulses--the survival instinct being the strongest of all, even when we may not recognize it as such. For instance, we may search for meaning in life (or apply meaning to things in our lives), but isn't that just to stave off depression which could lead to ill health or suicide? Survival instinct at work again.

But that's just my theory--a lot of people disagree with me. :)

Heather said...

You've touched on the very thing that I like best about writing - the inner reflection it causes out of necessity.

Erik Donald France said...

Survival instinct and enlightened self-interest, which is a diplomatic form of the same thing, I guess. I had/have the luxury of a big immediate family with routine conflict and unconditional support for all and from all. Hence, no horrific memoirs to write (unless you count marriage).

All true what your posted. Know thyself and much will be revealed about the human condition.

Stewart Sternberg (half of L.P. Styles) said...

Charles, because I love you, in a manly way, I am going to share with you the two things that motivate so much of my darkest behavior, my insanity: 1) fear of death 2) fear of loneliness....obviously the first just makes the second apeshit. Sometimes when the fears become overwhelming, I act out and become self destructive.

Now, don't tell anyone.

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

Thanks for the mention, Charles. The degree to which I learned that our characters need to be timeless to be successful is something I picked up from reading Ed McBain's 87th Precinct novels.

cs harris said...

Having children and seeing my daughter echo my (dead) father in silly little ways I'd have thought had NOTHING to do with genetics has made me rethink a lot of what I once believed about the true origins of our personalities. If a love of small boxes can be passed down... Nevertheless, I do see changes in human behavior over the centuries. Think about how the concept of honor and loyalty once motivated people. Many today would find the idea of dying for honor hard to understand.