Write What You Fear with Gemma Files

Get to the root of what scares you and produce the sketch of a submission-ready story in this two-week workshop.

Your Instructor: Award-winning horror author Gemma Files

Where: Online — Available everywhere!

When: This class is not currently enrolling. To be notified when it is offered again, Click Here

Enrollment: 16

Price: $249

Class Description

Personal experience is the grit from which horror's most resonant pearls are grown.

One only has to look at any given writer's body of work to pick out the details and themes which make their brand of horror recognizable: the cosmic despair and body horror of H.P. Lovecraft, the quiet antiquarian creep and malice of inanimate objects of M.R. James, the small-town nostalgia and monsters-among-us reversals of Stephen King, the surreal wrongness and intense physical violence of Laird Barron. All of these stem from personal experience, the things each writer chooses to write about because they know them well enough to fear them.

And in this two-week workshop, award-winning writer Gemma Files will help you find your own.

This course is divided into two intensive week-long sections, each beginning with a lecture and an assignment. By the end, feedback from instructor and peers will help students end up with at least one viable idea rooted in personal experience that they can then develop into a short story on their own.

What This Class Covers

Week One: Find Your Fears/Sketch Them Out

Horror is one of the hardest genres to define and easiest genres to get “wrong." Much like porn, all we as individual readers and creators can say is: “I know it when I see it.” What disturbs, shocks or frightens one person often bores another, and vice versa. Like everything else, horror is a spectrum, but one routinely defined by only its most extreme elements—overused tropes often assumed to automatically translate from one medium (film and/or TV) to another (novels and/or stories).The challenge is to create original horror with universal appeal. The solution, more often than not, is to go wide by first going narrow: look specifically at what scares you, then build outwards.

This week, you’ll access your own specific memories of instances in which you have been personally disturbed, frightened, made aware of a sense of wrongness. Sometimes these will be practical instances—bad experiences and related traumas, injuries, threats—but others will be more tenuous, the sort of fears you may remember from your childhood: theoretical fears, metaphorical fears, the fears of fairytale and folklore, urban legend and rumour, anecdote and misheard information.

Assignment: Rank these fears in ascending order, fashion potential story pitches around three to five of what you consider the most potent, and submit them for feedback.

Week Two: Trauma Into Narrative

As we move into the second week, you’ll receive feedback on your ideas that might be the most viable, leaving it up to you to choose which one you think has the best potential. We will also have a brief discussion of potential markets, industry standards and practices, word-count and manuscript format, etc.

Assignment: You will then extend one of these ideas into a piece of prose. It doesn't have to be a complete story, just a three to five-page sketch or section in which you try out potential combinations of plot, characterization, delivery systems and effects.

Again, these will be submitted for feedback, with an eye towards figuring out the most effective—and disturbing—way to tell the tale in question, while also mapping out prospective pitfalls to avoid as you move further ahead with your first draft. Hopefully, you'll leave with at least one thing to work on at your own pace, suitable for wrestling it into submittable shape on your own time.

Go wide by going narrow—inflict your fears on an unsuspecting world!

Goals Of This Class

  • Look inward at what you’ve experienced and select those memories that you can work with
  • Draft a horror story from what you know
  • Secure the groundwork of your story’s plot and receive valuable feedback on what works and what doesn’t
  • Get one step closer to creating a name for yourself as a writer of distinctive, original horror...someone capable of using your own fears to disturb and frighten your reader

Additional Info

Gemma Files in conversation with horror writer Michael Rowe, on "Queering the Genre."

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