Horror Writing Workshop with Andy Duncan

Posted: October 21, 2010 by fsucenterforcreativewriting in Events, Fiction
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Earlier this week I attended a Horror Story Writing Workshop, that met at the Center for Creative Writing, with local author and Professor at Frostburg State University, Andy Duncan. The workshop was a great experience. After brief introductions, we got started by writing down stories we knew that had a paranormal element or just frightened us. The idea was to write about stories that stayed with us, whether in our own memory or because they are repeatedly recounted to us by family or friends. The stories took different forms: a description of an odd classmate, a nightmare that felt chillingly real, a scary practical joke, and an alien encounter that may or may not have been a dream.

After we shared our stories, we spent some time discussing the things that scare us. Our list was varied, ranging from the typical: lifelike dolls, clowns, ghosts; to the local: the basement of the Hotel Gunter; the specific: cornfields, toddler beauty queens, birds, relentlessly barking dogs; and the classic stuff of horror movies: intruders, oddly moving bodies, being chased, and space aliens.

After we discussed this large list, Andy let us browse a collection of horror anthologies he’s been published in, including Sympathy for the Devil and The Living Dead. He displayed a row of books with two World Fantasy awards as bookends (the statue is a large bust of H. P. Lovecraft).

Andy then shared some of his favorite openings to horror stories, and we discussed how these openings drew the reader into the story. The first was from Shirley Jackson’s classic horror novel, The Haunting of Hill House.

No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.  The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (1959)

Other examples included lines by Stephen King, Joe Hill, and Harlan Ellison. After this, we got back to writing. Andy provided us with a choice of four concise opening lines by published authors and told us to begin our own stories with them. After, we shared what we had written. It was interesting to see what lines the participants chose and the direction the lines took them in. It was a great exercise in getting a story started.

Overall, the workshop was  fun and informative. I was glad to attend and participate with students, professors, and community members, and I’m looking forward to finishing the story I began during the evening.

If you are a local community member or student that writes horror fiction, I encourage you to submit to the Center for Creative Writing’s Spooky Story Contest. Entries must be under  750 words and mailed to cwcenter@frostburg.edu by Oct. 27 with the subject heading “spooky story.” All stories will be judged on originality, style, imagination and scariness. Winners will receive a $50 cash prize as well as publication on the Center’s website. Please include the author’s name, address, phone, and e-mail in the top left corner of the first page.  Stories should be double spaced with pages numbered and saved in .doc format. (No .docx files, please.)  Authors may submit up to three stories each. All participants are invited to read their scary stories on Thursday, Oct. 30, 7 pm, at Mountain City Coffeehouse and Creamery. Costumes are optional but encouraged. Candy will be provided!

Andy Duncan has won two World Fantasy Awards for his darkly fantastic, often maca-bre fiction, and he’s nominated again this year for ―The Night Cache, a supernatural geo-caching romance set in Western Maryland. A bluesman rides the train one station past Hell in “Beluthahatchie,” reprinted in the new anthology Sympathy for the Devil, while hoo-doo settles a very strange bet in “Slow as a Bullet,” in the upcoming anthology Eclipse Four. Duncan’s books include Beluthahatchie and Other Stories and the upcoming The Pot-tawatomie Giant and Other Stories. A Horror Writers Association member and a Shirley Jackson Awards juror, Duncan also teaches English at FSU.
Kimberly Brown

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