One of the short-listed nominees for the Bram Stoker Award in Short Fiction caught my eye this week: “That’s What Friends are For” by Larry Hinkle, published in volume 16 of Dark Recesses Press. I really liked it. Sometimes, when you’re in a good reading groove you can lose yourself in a short story, eschewing all distractions (and never once checking Twitter!) “That’s What Friends Are For” did that for me.
I think what I like most about this story is the voice. The story is told from the perspective of an invisible creature who makes friends with a boy named Bobby. At first, it seems like a very benign friendship:
[Bobby’s] mom would check in on us every now and then, and he’d tell her about the fun we were having. She’d act like she could see me, sure. She’d even make me a little lunch sometimes. But I knew she was faking. Bobby’s dad was the same way. He’d come home from work and ask Bobby about his day. Bobby would tell him about our adventures, and his dad would say how lucky Bobby was to have such a great friend. And then his dad would walk right through me on his way to the kitchen.
But Bobby “outgrows” his invisible friend, which in this case means developing a little addiction to electronic media (which I love, by the way. I’ve never read a story — especially not horror — about a kid whose fascination with games and gadgets irks his imaginary friend!). Things take a bit of a turn:
My hands tingled as my fingernails lengthened into claws. I ran my tongue over my teeth. There were too many to count, all pointy and sharp. My jaw cracked and widened to make room for them all. The blood on my tongue tasted salty and warm and delicious. The room went blurry, then snapped into focus. Everything was so much clearer now. I could count the hairs on Bobby’s head if I wanted to.
Things get a little gruesome from there, so fair warning: this is pure horror. And Hinkle’s development of the creature’s voice works really well. It feels child-like, which makes sense given the friendship that’s cultivated early on. It fits the story.
Dark Pathway: Fan Fiction!
That’s right, writers! Today, we’re going to tap into our favorite horror movie to work on voice. I want you to practice first-person narration (I went here, I did this, I was scared, etc.) using a voice that doesn’t mimic your own. In other words, I want to get you out of your comfort zone so you have this skill in your toolbox when you’re working on a future project.
And you’ll never know when this is going to come in handy. Just a few months ago, I found myself writing from the perspective of a monster when I was rewriting my next novel. Don’t you want to do this at some point? Yes, you do. You definitely do, dear writer.
So here we go:
Step one: Pick a classic monster. It can be Jason Vorhees, Freddy Kreuger, Michael Meyers, or even the Jigsaw Man. Pick someone whose “work” you’re familiar with!
Step two: Pick a victim. Don’t worry about fleshing out this character … they aren’t long for the world, anyway.
Step three: Write the victim’s unfortunate demise from the perspective of your monster. Use first-person narration. Get into your monster’s head. Thinks the way your monster thinks. Reveal what your monster would reveal. Take risks with the narration and get outside your comfort zone. Have fun with this, and try not to let your own “natural” voice slip in.
Trust me: some day, this writing activity will come in handy. You will write from the perspective of a monster … especially once you realize how fun it can be.
Ken Brosky is the author of The Beyond, a horror novel available through Timber Ghost Press. His work has been published in Grotesque and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, among others. He’s currently working on a screenplay and a new novel.