To delve into what made me love writing horror, you first must learn what made me love reading horror. I got into the horror genre at the young age of 12. I read my very first Stephen King book, Pet Cemetery, and was immediately smitten with not only the author himself but the genre of horror. I don’t know if it was the fact that horror allowed me to escape into someone else’s life that was having a worse day than me or the fascination with death but it was certainly a love-at-first-sight type of thing.
I grew up in one of the poorest states in America – a small town in Mississippi. We didn’t have much and my parents never strived to have much more than nothing. Depression ran in my family and I struggled with it throughout my teenage years. Writing became an outlet for me when I felt all hope was lost and nothing made me release the anger and teenage angst better than losing myself in horror. I could kill someone off horribly and still feel the sunlight on my face as I strolled through the halls of high school.
I grew up and now have two children of my own. I swore they would never know what it was like to want for anything and so far I’ve accomplished that goal. I have only recently taken my writing seriously and strive to make something from all the misery and heartache that my childhood and teenage years brought me. The only difference? I can think longer about those horrific things that I wrote and not be so angry about them. I’ve let a lot of things go.
I’m currently on depression meds so I don’t have those ugly demons that throw fire at my very soul and threaten to take away my happiness, however; they do rear their ugly heads from time to time. I find writing horror as an outlet for all the people that make me angry, all the days that go horribly wrong, and combine them with all of the love and support that I continue to receive from the ones who love me.
As a female horror writer, I get that awkward look when I tell people what genre I write. I think part of that is because I write horror and live in the Bible belt but it’s also because I’m a female. I’m thrown into that stereotype that all females write romance and women are supposed to think everything is all buttery and gooey in this world. Unlucky for me, I’ve had to learn from a young age that this just isn’t so. I’m a bit of a realist.
Through social media, I’ve met a lot of women who write horror and love the genre. I still feel alone down here next to the muddy Mississippi and am always on the lookout for new friends who love the genre as much as I do. Come follow my horror writing journey on Twitter @kculpepper1. It’s always fun to share and laugh at the reality of life through the genre of horror.
I hope that my short life story has inspired someone out there who is looking for their niche in writing, to write horror. It’s a great genre with great people that love it in their own special way. We aren’t all scary demon-possessed whoremongers, I promise.
Below are my top tips for first time horror writers:
- Write without inhibitions. Being brutally honest is what makes for a good villain. Don’t hold back at all. Those mean things that you really think about people but would never say aloud can be thrown in there and released from your mind onto your pages.
- Learn what you can and use it to your advantage. Study the greats and the newly published. Look at what they do and what got them published then add your own spin to it. The things that have inspired me most are reading other people’s stories and thinking, ‘I would have written it this way’ and go from there.
- Use social media to your advantage. Befriend and follow everyone that writes horror, and everyone that likes horror, and everyone that is attempting to make their way in this beautiful genre. They might possibly end up being some of your greatest allies because they will post and tweet about things that they are doing or have done to get their name in the playing field. These things are what have gotten me published. Take your chance on a new literary e-zine or a new publisher that wants to get their name out there through a blog.
- Last and possibly most importantly, horror is not always about how much gore and sex you can fit into one story. Sure those things are fun to write about but a story needs substance. Just because something is scary doesn’t mean you can’t throw your own controversial topics in there and actually make a story. It needs to be about something: i.e., a moral undertone or a political agenda. As a woman, my stories are mostly emotional or moral or both.
In the end, as with anything, do what you love. If writing is it, then do it. If you write a horror story and you don’t find it fun, then try a different genre. I can’t imagine writing anything other than horror in any capacity. No matter what genre you write, just write, that’s where it all begins.
This article first appeared on horror-writers.net.
A native of Columbus, MS and married with 2 kids and 2 cats, Kim Culpepper’s work has appeared on Books of the Dead Press’s blog, the August issue of The Opening Line Literary Zine, and on horror-writers.net. She has a short story coming to The Pen and Muse blog as part of their Dark Carnival series in October. She is currently searching for a literary agent to make her career soar to new heights and a publisher willing to take a chance on a poor Southern girl.