I realized a couple weeks ago that my book-in-progress was flirting with the horror genre. This is besides its superhero and LGBTQQIA-ness. So I decided to pick up Stephen King's Danse Macabre. It tells a thrilling tale "about horror fiction in print, radio, film and comics, and the genre's influence on United States popular culture." Granted, it was published in 1981, and it occurs to me now that I wasn't even a fetus in 1981. Only half of me existed, and only as an egg.
Anyway, I'm not going to give you a review of the book because hello, boring. Plus, I'm not done with it yet. I just want to quote a little bit of it:
But I do want to say something about imagination purely as a tool in the art and science of scaring the crap out of people. The idea isn't original with me; I heard it expressed by William F. Nolan at the 1979 World Fantasy Convention. Nothing is so frightening as what's behind the closed door, Nolan said. You approach the door in the old, deserted house, and you hear something scratching at it. The audience holds its breath along with the protagonist as she/he (more often she) approaches that door. The protagonist throws it open, and there is a ten-foot-tall bug. The audience screams, but this particular scream has an oddly relieved sound to it. "A bug ten feet tall is pretty horrible," the audience thinks, "but I can deal with a ten-foot-tall bug. I was afraid it might be a hundred feet tall."
How's that for a quote? A quote within a quote. Also, I wish copy-and-paste existed in the real world.
But I think William F. Nolan's formidable balls are right on the money. There's a sort of magic surrounding a closed door. And when you open it, it disappears. But I think this "closed door concept" applies to all fiction. When I spin you a wondrous yarn, I need to show you characters, setting, conflict, etc., but more importantly, I need to conceal. I have to know what not to show you. What to leave to your imagination.
Like the rest of this post!
j/k j/k j/k
If I explain everything, I might as well be writing an encyclopedia. There's a subtleness to fiction. A book is like a secret. It doesn't work if I tell it to you through a loudspeaker. I have to whisper it in your ear. You might miss a word or two, but that's okay. You can fill them in yourself. With whatever rings true to you. Or whatever scares you.
Or with whatever turns you on. I don't judge.