Horror Stories Competition set by Marc Sherland 4th April

Marc said all ten entries were horrible (!) and good fun – some on the lines of a ‘fairytale’, others more ‘gothic horror’. He reiterated ten general rules for horror writing: Be original; follow the accepted rules of the genre; challenge the rules; remember 4 categories of horror (terror, alienation, horror, grossout – use delicacy); have real characters and dialogue; use correct facts; surprise (but don’t say ‘SUDDENLY…..’!); show don’t tell; avoid stereotypes; avoid predictability at start/end.

The winner was The Skating Minister by Rose. Marc liked everything about it – a first class horror story. It was inspired by Sir Henry Raeburn’s portrait of the Rev. Robert Walker skating on Duddingston Loch. Marc commented on the beautiful language, the brave setting of a story behind the image, and the scene effectively drawn. Winter 1793 set in early – from the frozen loch and the curling club crowds, Rose takes the reader on a journey in a carriage, with an ominous dead hooded crow, wind from souls in distress, the sight of a woman swathed in a plaid shawl who vanishes. A murdered infant is revealed and the minister resolves the unrest of the spirits to conclude this truly superior and satisfying tale. Respect!

In second place was Ross’s strongly rhythmic and impressive Scots poem At Lammas Moon. Marc loved the repetition and meter, and the way the story deals with the veil between this and the nether world. It could be set to music – reel/strathspey; also the use of illustration could be apt. A bit more work on the battle between the protagonist and the slaugh would help to make this a real epic poem.

Steve came third with A Bad Day At The Office – a nicely written story. It had a good opening sentence featuring a wiry ginger cat (a motif used again later); convincing police dialogue; and the effective inclusion of a ‘Nairobi Tribune’ article. Marc loved the dénouement.

Evie’s Good for the Soul was highly commended: a convoluted confessional story in which character meets inquisitor, with a doppelganger towards the end. It was well told and Marc liked the dialogue at Ennis’s Bar.

We enjoyed listening to these winning stories and the diverse other entries. Betty’s bloodsucking starfish… ugghhh!

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