I am an amateur games designer and writer and have founded Dark Craft Studios to house my works within. and mod developer. I am an avid fan of all things horror, occult, philosophical and of course, Lovecraftian. Currently Reading: Thomas Ligotti, Arthur Machen, Robert W. Chambers, Ramsey Campbell.
As a writer I find myself transfixed by the process of self-improvement. Of always feeding off inspiration and improving a fundamental inventory of tropes, idioms, phrases, sequences of flow and scenes that are stitched together to make every story. While people tend to frown upon formulaic writing, I've been embracing it more and more these days as I grow more seasoned in what I would consider the field of "writing". That is not to say I consider myself good at what I do, I'm a pebble against a mountain of better writers and strive daily to improve my craft.
Constructing a sequence of events for a story is as important, and inspirational, as source material itself. When I was struggling with the conceptualizing stage of Triptych I turned to unconventional means for aid. Even music itself, the arc of a composition, I would sit in the dark with my headphones and listen to the "chain" of emotions that the track would pull you through. Fading in from 0% volume to 100%, building tension and sadness through swells of strings and arrangements, then fading back again to a more mellow outro. I decided to run an experiment and see if I could take this same exact sequence of emotions and turn it into written word, using it as a foundation for a storyboard. Start minimalistic, introduce swells of sadness and cryptic story telling, change direction into a more mellow and introspective field and then quietly bow off the stage while the curtain drapes fold over the lights.
But is writing that simple? Is it the means of attaching one brick to another with mortar in the middle to construct an entire wall? I'm struggling with the concept of systematic writing vs free flowing diction and feel that the feud in my head will result in a better writer. Inspirations I take are literal; I could study the shape of a flower and have a "central" body for the story, and write a side-grade for each pedal, intertwining the complete picture into something beautiful and complete while being systematic and compartmentalized.
I often look at the characters I've created in the past and wonder what it is that made me adjust them to who they were. I do not apply myself to characterization unlike many of my inspirations. I am not biographical. So if shapes and music and "lines" can draw a storyboard, what defines a human being? What defines an elder god? What defines the horror?
These are questions bombing through my head every time I recollect upon my notes. I think I write a human being based upon the concept of weakness. A centralized idea of "Sadness" may embody one character, or avarice to another, or loneliness to another. Using her as an example I would suggest that Aoife Hall is certainly the embodiment of disconnection with friends or family, loneliness, the fear of isolation and being trapped in an uncontrollable prison. So where would her love, Edgar Gray, fit into that? How can loneliness find a contrast in a character who is the embodiment (to a degree that is measurable to pure cliche) in greed and menace? This formula would assume her opposite, or attraction, should have been a character who embodies freedom and redemption and charisma. Perhaps that is why they're both dead.
I may seem abstract but the question is simple: If writing is formulaic, how can characters or god forbid, character relationships, be? Half of the picture cannot be mathematical. One half cannot be based on shapes and lines and construct and the other cannot be free and sapient and fluid. If a character is a cardboard cutout, it is obvious, hell -- there are trillions documented on tvtropes. But a character who is "human", the best of antagonists and protagonists, where do they fit into writing? Can such a character even exist?
Nonetheless I find myself staring down the barrel of rather philosophical questions in regards to writing and the study of language and presentation and sapience. I hope to answer these questions, pick one side or the other (systematic or free) and hone such a side -- a definition -- into a better style of writing that I can carry myself forward with.
I have come to realize that excess is not a good way to broadcast a story in the Lovecraftian genre and what is implied can work just as well as what is directly said. As Lovecraft himself employed (His tropes of "unnameable, unmentionable") instead of actually relaying the horrors works, and I have come to accept and integrate this formula into the foundation of my writing.
Triptych, my next project, will use this minimalism to a very emotional and baseline degree. Three simple chapters, no longer than a half hour each, represent highlights in the life of a man heavily ingrained in the occult. The atmospheres of each chapter have been heavily taken from three Lovecraftian stories, namely
The Doom that Came to Sarnath
I have also outspread my literary and cultural influence, to Dunsany to Poe to Bloch and Hemingway. I am looking at what makes the fantastic work in as few words as possible, and this has immediately improved and influenced the quality of my work. What would be written in 30 pages is now written in 3, and what took a hundred voice acting lines will take one. The rest is implied, through higher polished visuals and art direction, to beautiful imagery and minimalistic music.
Dynamic, open ended, upsetting; these words have been used to describe my current project, the Worry of Newport series. I thought it would be fitting to aknowledge these reviews with a look into how I write, and what I write, and what makes something a horror.
Scaring people, for all intents and purposes, is usually the crux of any horror project. Making you jump, yell, react; getting your primal defenses engaged and your sense of danger boiling. Incidentally I disagree that this form of media is any kind of horror at all, but rather I suggest it is just a drug. People can get addicted to getting scared, or detune reality, and take it for granted. As such, I do not believe in any form of amusement park level design or highs/lows of emotion. I keep things neutral, on one level, on one wavelength. Engaging the player's mentality, morality and sense of immersion naturally through writing, but never *forcing* them to enjoy a hgih or a low to a situation.
It came as a surprise to one player who finished the Hamlet sidestory in Worry of Newport Part 1 that there were no scares at all, "But a lingering sense of dread even after I closed the game down." This was the best thing I've ever read as far as compliments go. There were no monsters, sounds, jumps, crashes or yells. The town was open ended and you could follow the trail of evidence to the pure truth behind Dr Mendez' horrorible secret, or you could stop halfway and continue with the game.
Worry of Newport is a horror game in my eyes because it invokes emotions we are not used to. Dread, unease, panic, dark curiousity and revenge play prominent roles across the two parts and tuning into these emotions with nothing but visual, sound and reading is masterfully difficult.
There is an early part in the second half of Worry of Newport where you can find a grave caretaker. His diary suggests he investigated into grave robbery of a man named Dorian Caulm. After three days, he says he found something out, that the truth of Dorian's vanishing had to do with the marking on his gravestone, and then mentions he has resigned himself to inevitable death by assassination that night--which happens. Dorian's gravestone tells, "I am. I was. I will be again."
The player is left standing there, staring at an empty iced over grave. There is no music shrill, no cue, no jump--just you. You absorb this horrible detail, then move on, having free reign over your emotion the entire time. Deadpan and neutral presentation and narrative that does not force you to react through music/visual queues is what is the point of telling a story, no matter how horrible.
Worry of Newport will creep you out, immerse you, and make you wonder. It will require multiple playthroughs when it is all said and done to uncover the rich backstory and the terrible secrets in Newport Colony, but it never once will force you to jump, engage creatures, cover your ideas, scream or anything. And that is what makes true horror, the beautiful simplicity of narration and reaction of the player.