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Monday, June 17, 2013

Currently Reading: Dracula

I'm doing a reread of all the classics I didn't appreciate to the full extent when I was younger. Learn from the originals, ya know? And it just doesn't get more blood-sucking original than Bram Stoker.

I love vampires - and werewolves and ghosts and supernatural beasties - or, at least, I used to. I prefer vamps sinister. For me, the paranormal genre is at its finest when it's written as horror. And, with vampires in fiction so popular these days, creatures of the night are taken more and more for granted by both writers and readers. Everyone knows of/understands all that it means to be a vamp, so why waste time establishing that with the reader? Just dive into the vamp action! This works for a lot of people.

Personally, I like to be convinced by the author. I appreciate atmosphere: the fog, the howling wolves, the craggy peaks. Whether it's Transylvania or NYC we're talking about, I like paranormal stories to be steeped in atmosphere, and handled with the subtle nuance that keeps a horror story crawling up the back of your neck for weeks to come. 'Salem's Lot was fantastic: I had a good nightmare or two about those nails at the bottom of the stairs. *Shudders*

I'm fifty pages into Dracula and at the moment, we'll leave the Victorian female sexuality analysis on the shelf, shall we? We shall. I'll get to that once I'm done with the novel. Right now I'm digging the atmosphere. And poor Jonathan Harker's tumble into nightmareland. I don't write horror, but I can take what I learn about delivering a proper scare and apply that to a mystery or action novel. Never limit yourself to one genre. Incorporate elements of all genres in building a complete picture of your novel's world and mood.

A great example of this - using horror within another medium - is in George R.R. Martin's A Storm of Swords. Although a fantasy novel, the Red Wedding chapter seems to pull deeply from horror: the tension, the building suspense, the sense of doom, Catelyn's escalating terror as she begins to realize the surreal plot unfolding around her. It is a gracefully, beautifully written scene, taking the horror seriously rather than treating readers to a glorified medieval Die Hard moment.

(I just had to squeeze an ASOS reference in there. I'm still reeling from disappointment at the show deviations from the books, and talking about the source material comforts me)

One of my favorite contemporary mysteries, Broken Harbor, utilizes atmosphere in a heavy-handed, very effective manner, bringing the horror of murder to the forefront, and propelling the novel beyond a procedural cop drama and into the realm of psychological thriller, with a certain local flavor that keeps it literary.

All of my favorite novels, I've begun to realize, are genre-bending. That's something I want to utilize in my own writing, to the best of my abilities.

So it's Dracula for me, right now, as I finish up my current mystery novel and begin piecing together my next one. This has been a Classics appreciation post.

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