On Romance and Horror

…not that I’m intimating that they’re closely related or anything. 😉

This post is for writers rather than readers.

Over the past six weeks we’ve received about 300 submissions. Thanks to everyone who has given us a try, and I’d like to offer my encouragement even to those whose stories I’ve rejected. It looks like we’re going to accept something like five or six stories, so the competition is stiff (and not always in predictable ways).

I’d like to mention something briefly that might help you make it through the slush pile, especially if you’re writing in one of these two genres.

If you write romance, you face a stiff challenge. Basic boy-meets-girl just isn’t compelling; there has to be something besides the romance to make a romance worthwhile. In When Harry Met Sally, there was an awful lot of story going on around the Harry-and-Sally romance.

It’s tough to pack both romance and something else into 1000 words, but that’s what you need, or else it’s just… well, sorry, but corny.

In the same way, horror needs more than just something evil happening. I’ve read quite a few submissions that set up a scene and then have an evil person / devil / creature do something evil, followed by the death or survival of a character (usually the protagonist). But if there’s no point to the scene except to have the evil thing happen — if it doesn’t involve a psychological thrill — then it devolves into titillation.

For instance, in Robert Harris’s Silence of the Lambs, the interest didn’t come from the serial killer that Clarisse was chasing so much as from Clarisse’s interactions with Hannibal Lector, and the psychological drama that came from the necessity of interacting with such a repulsive man. In Stephen King’s Christine, the psychological drama was self-imposed: it came from the choices the protagonist had to make in relation to his car, his girl, power, popularity, and, in essence, good and evil.

Good flash is hard to write. Maybe horror and romance are harder than other genres for flash. I’d love to read your attempts to write it, but consider what I’ve said above if you want to stand out from the crowd.

Good writing!