Sunday, July 01, 2012

Master of the Macabre? Electric Boogaloo

This is the second time I've tried to post this; the first time it seemed to publish an empty file, even though I'd written it to the end.

So, last year I had the opportunity to participate in a writing contest called "The Masters of the Macabre."  It was organized by Horror Addicts ( and had a theme (Phobias) and each person who entered was given a specific phobia to write about.  To qualify for the contest, you had to 1) Register your name, 2) submit both the text and an audio file, and 3) have a penis.  Size, apparently, wasn't an issue.

I wrote a story called "Friends in Paradise" that, while not great (or even good?) was fairly easy to create, and would never have been written without their prompt.  I didn't win, but I had fun, and that counts for a heck of a lot.

This year, when they announced another contest, I grabbed my aforementioned penis and volunteered once again.  The theme this year was Curses, and I was given A Cursed Story of the Romany.  Apparenty, in Gypsy circles, there's such a thing as a story that curses the listener, and can only be broken by telling that story to another.  I went to work on it, but everything I wrote felt chillingly similar to the movie RINGU (that's THE RING to you round-eyes).  My heart just wasn't in it.

Luckily, the contest had an escape clause, and I asked for another curse to write about.*  I was given The Curse of Macbeth (aka The Scottish Play).  You probably know that it's considered bad luck to say the name of that particular Shakespeare play when you're doing a production of it, but in reading up on it, there are a handful of theories as to why the play is supposedly cursed.  One of those theories really amused me, and the story fell into place quite easily.

My story is called "The Scottish Scene," and tells of Sammie, a high school girl who volunteers to do a dramatic reading from Shakespeare for her English class.  She (and two female friends) of course choose the witch scene from that play, and end up getting cursed.  My conceit is that even doing an excerpt from the play is enough to stir the witches' wrath.We were to write a horror story based on our curse, and mine ended up being "The Scottish Scene," about a high school girl who, along with two friends, chooses the witch scene from that particular play to perform as a presentation for her class. The trio discover that an individual scene can be as cursed as the whole play. Hilarity ensues, yada, yada.

Unfortunately, there was a length limit on this year's entries, so when I finished, I knew I'd have to do some trimming.  Even worse, I discovered that I'd misjudged the time, and the deadline was that Friday.  Not just to send in the story, but to submit an audio recording as well.

So, I cut it down significantly**, and didn't have time to do the full cast production I had planned.  I had asked Renee Chambliss to voice the main character, and wanted Big to narrate, but I ended up just reading it myself, and asking Renee to perform all the female parts.  She was hip-deep in actual paying work at the time, but she kindly took a few minutes and recorded some really excellent voices for me, managing to sound different for all three girls.

The damn thing was still too long, and I tried speeding the file up enough that it would fit the length, but it was too obvious, so I hacked it again and re-read certain passages a lot faster.  Just between you and me, the deadline loomed before I ever got it short enough, so I just sent it in, hoping that forty seconds or so wouldn't matter.

I don't imagine this will be what the listeners of Horror Addicts like, since they tend to go more for the die hard cannibalism, demonic possession, meat cleaver, acid bath type of Horror.  My tale is pretty light, simplistic, and PG-rated, but it's what I enjoy writing, and I like this story way more than the one I wrote last year.

The entries (there's only five of them this year) were posted today (at, and you're welcome to go there and listen to the stories.  The contest ends on July 27th, so you can vote for the one you prefer.

Again, I doubt I'll win, but that's not what this was about.  I was motivated to write a story I never would have come up with on my own, I finished it, and sent it in, and that makes it worthwhile, to me anyway.

I fully plan on doing it again next year, and wish I knew about five or ten similar contests, just to get me to put pen to paper more than I usually do.  Until that happens, I think I'm still a journeyman of the macabre.

Maester Rish Outfield

*Ominously, the rule was that you could swap for another curse, but were not allowed to go back to the original curse if you ended up liking that one better.

**I ended up eliminating four characters (three male, one female) and all their parts, and it made a pretty big difference.  I still hate to have to cut down my writing, but that wasn't a bad way to go.

No comments: