Writing Gore with Panache!
Lying supine in front of the dumpster, in a pool of ever-widening red, was the female clerk. To Jonah’s horror, Dale was crouched over the woman, poking at the unresponsive body. From mouth to waist, he was covered in bloody gore, his shirt soaked crimson, his arms and hands coated with glistening red. Whether it was human or rat, Jonah couldn’t tell with just a glance. ~ from the novel Badass Zombie Road Trip
I have to admit, one of the best things about being a horror writer is the amount of gore you get to describe. Sometimes it is subtle, as in the passage above, designed to merely make the reader squirm a bit. And sometimes it is an over the top blood fest, with every intention of hoping the reader will make that mad dash for the bathroom before they lose their lunch. While I tend to favor the subtle side of gore, occasionally I will write an all out, go for broke, balls to the wall gruesome scene. Such as:
Using the corner of the razor, she peeled back the edge of her square, just a bit. She grasped this loose end of flesh and yanked, pulling along the guidelines she had worked into her own calf. The bloody square came away in one piece, then slipped from her trembling fingers with a wet slop to the floor. ~ from the novel Sundowners
I often am asked, “Tonia, what is the trick to writing good gore?” Well, the trick to a great gore scene is the same as writing pretty much anything else, it all lays in your choice of language. Be descriptive as possible. Don’t just say something is bleeding, describe the crimson arcs of squirting blood in bone aching detail. Don’t just tell us the killer stabbed his victim, show us where and how deep and how long the victim screamed before the killer silenced them once and for all by slicing through their tender throat and … well you get the idea.
For example, here is a passage that could use work:
- My girlfriend’s stomach opened up as her blood drenched me. The creature inside of her pushed her body halves apart and climbed out of the cavity. I screamed in terror.
Not very impressive, is it? Kind of boring really. I mean, the narrator is describing a creature cutting his girlfriend open from the inside out, but it’s just so blah. I’ve read washing machine ads that were more engaging than that.
Here is the same passage, with added details and imagery:
All at once, the skin of her stomach split wide, gaping open like some dreadful smile sliced into her belly. The first spray of fluids jetted across my face, leaving me with a mouthful of scarlet and shit and shock. Now free from the confines of Marcy’s body, bloody hands thrust into the open air. The hands were followed by a head, gruesome and coated in gore. Marcy’s body split into two halves, top and bottom pushed apart by the creature now climbing out of the depths of her innards. I tried to scream for help, but my fear stuck fast in my throat as my eyes remained glued to the awful sight.
Now we’re talking! By filling in the cracks with action verbs and fantastic details we have painted a crimson-coated scene of terror. Notice the changes to the last line? Detailed character reactions are a great tactic to put folks right in the gory moment.
Another thing to remember is that gore is more than just what your characters are seeing. With the right kind of narrative, you can tap all of the senses, and then some! Be sure to describe more than just the sights, go for the sounds, smells and textures as well.
Let’s say a fictional Beth comes across a gory scene in her bedroom. We can shape the readers’ response by describing Beth’s reaction using all of her senses and high levels of details to increase the tension and gore:
Beth pushed open the door and stepped halfway into the room before she gave a soft gasp at the gruesome sight that awaited her. Her husband was gone, and in his place was wall-to-wall red. Blood coated the entire bedroom; every stick of furniture, every inch of bedding, every square foot of carpet. Even the curtains dripped with a thick sheen of crimson, pooling on the rug in a steady plop, plop, plop. The gasp turned into a groan as the copper tang of the stuff pricked her nostrils and set her stomach to roiling Beth stepped back, pulling her shoe from the sticky carpet with a wet suck. She looked away and swallowed down a mouthful of acrid bile, trying her best to keep from vomiting on the already soaked floor.
Beth is having a hard time of it, and by describing her reactions in detail, hopefully the reader is as well. We hit all the bells with this one; the sights of the room, the sounds of the dripping, the stickiness of the blood, the smell of the gore and the taste of bile rising in her throat. Sure, this one scene may have been a bit over the top but you get the idea.
The bottom line is this: You want someone to be disturbed by what they just read?
Then give them something to be disturbed about.
Simple as that.
Tonia Brown is a southern author with a penchant for Victorian dead things. She lives in the backwoods of North Carolina with her genius husband and an ever fluctuating number of cats. She likes fudgesicles and coffee, though not always together.
When not writing she raises unicorns and fights crime with her husband under the code names Dr. Weird and his sexy sidekick Butternut.
Jonah has seven days to find his best friend’s soul after losing it to Satan, or risk losing his own. Before it’s all said and done, he drags a zombie across the country, picks up a hitchhiking stripper who has an agenda of her own, and is pursued for a crime he didn’t commit, all while dealing with the occasional visit from The Prince of Lies himself. 2,000 miles. Seven days. Two souls. One zombie. And Satan. It’s going to be a hell of a trip!
Tonia is giving away TWO e-copies of Badass Zombie Road Trip
To enter the giveaway please answer the following question then fill out the form below: What’s the farthest trip you’ve ever taken?
This giveaway is International and ends 12:00am GMT 30th November 2012
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