Writing In The Dark Book Review
Updated: Feb 10
A review of the horror writing craft book: Writing in the Dark by Tim Waggoner.
To start off with, I love to write horror short stories. I have been attempting it since August 2020. Not much time, I know, but I already have one story published in an anthology and six more on submission. I know the basics and am desperate to learn more to hone my craft and sharpen my literary knives.
Enter Tim Waggoner. His craft book and its twenty chapters, plus an appendix where he dissects one of his earliest stories is full of useful knowledge. It does not go over formulaic story beat sheets like Save the Cat does, but instead gives you the paints to create your own masterpiece. Dread, horror, terror, disgust and shock are potent pigments to use on your short story or novel canvass.
In one chapter, Waggoner lists techniques to complicate your plot. Another goes over suspense and how to craft it. Yet another goes over different types of pain: emotional, physical, spiritual, etc. All can be used to flavor your story and make it more impactful emotionally to the reader so actions have consequences and the tale sticks with them once they've put the book down.
He does go over the eight types of endings he has seen done in horror, from "The Poor Bastard Conquers Hell," to "The Poor Bastard Drags Others to Hell or Brings Hell to Them." Great information to help you branch out from the ending you as a writer tend to reach for.
Not only does he go over the different subgenres of horror, their strengths and weaknesses, but also delves into how you can strip things down to their basic building blocks and build them up to your own unique brand of horror with never before seen creatures, terrors, and villains.
From reverse cannibals to Dracula refashioned as Hannibal Lector, there are lots of techniques for getting to the core, looking at it from a different angle, and building in your own image.
Overall, I think this is an excellent horror craft book. It does not go over sentence level devises to improve your writing, the mechanics of body trauma, or a beat sheet. Instead, it gives you the paints and says to go wild with it. It is an excellent resource for those who already write and are looking to shift to a horror pallet. There is a list of more books in the back to read for delving into other specific topics, such as body trauma. and emotional trauma. Great resource.