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My Theory of Horror

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Case: Black is an experiment for me based on two theories of horror and suspense.

1. Adults won't believe in monsters unless they are plausible. That doesn't mean they don't believe in monsters. We've all met them. They are the predators and the pervs, the confidence men and criminals: the every day monsters that populate the world.

In Case: Black I've tried to create as believable a "zombie" as possible. The bio-agent that creates them, the constraints on the "zombies" and the progression of the disease are all very, very plausible.

Viruses don't work as fast or as completely as they do in 28 Days Later. (If they did, we would all be extinct.) They do work the way that they do in Case:Black and that is by design.

What I'm shooting for is a story that you can "buy" without suspending a ton of disbelief.

2. Build scenes that are fast, short and directly contribute to the plot, builds suspense and raise the stakes as it moves.

That's self evident. I don't spend a lot of time with exposition and characterization. I do most characterization through action.

What I'm trying to achieve is an adrenalin rush, not enlightenment. Buckle your seat-belt, you are in for a wild ride.

I'm not trying to do fan fiction or "me too" zombie story.

I am trying to start from scratch and create something new that makes something with many tiny cold feet run across your spine. A horror story that doesn't go away when you eject the DVD.

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Your story aims work for me, James, but I think in your desire for believability, the realism becomes an adrenalin rush that does in fact enlighten the reader.

The world is full of alternatives and sometimes we can't see them until someone else reveals them.

As for a horror that stays after the DVD is ejected, the movie version of Stephen King's The Mist, with its darker ending than the book, did that for me.

I'm enjoying Case: Black very much. And yes, you have me wondering and horrified about what will happen next.

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I've never seen zombies done better than in Walking Dead, which has come up with some genuinely frightening situations and also very, very rich, believable characters. I think the core concept of zombies is so stupid, you have to just avoid trying to explain it and do it in such a realistic way, the audience will simply buy into it. They only did one episode where they even vaguely tried to explain why people turn into zombies -- a scientist at the Center for Disease Control played back an MRI of his infected wife dying and turning into a zombie, so we could see her brain and nerve system disintegrating -- but the "why" wasn't really necessary.

I think we believe it because the characters believe it. Once you do that, it'll fall into place. I like what Gene Roddenberry said almost 50 years ago about the original Star Trek when it was presented to NBC: "we won't stop to explain why a phaser works. The character will just pick it up and use it like a conventional handgun, and the audience will accept it." That works for me.

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  • 1 year later...

Actually the idea of many tiny cold feet running across my spine sounds good.

If you are influenced by a film, reduce the story to its most basic.

The first Alien and the Thing. Humans caught in a closed environment with an alien creature. The less you see the more frightening it is.

I wouldn't touch the word zombie or vampire or wooden stakes because you are then beholding to the legacy of stories that had come before.

You can still do a story about a vampire but you must make it over and make it yours.

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