Saturday, June 13, 2015

Starting With the Big Finish: Always Leave 'Em Haunted

June 2015:
The start of a this year's Clarion Write-A-Thon.

June 1960. 
The start of what was my first genre-based addiction.

I was five years old. And the start of this "affliction" that in those less-than-halcyon times was viewed by the adults in my limited milieu as highly inappropriate for a pre-schoolgirl; unspeakably wrong for "little ladies" of the era.

I was hooked on horror and Hitchcock.

The big horror movie event of that year was the release of Hitch's newest: Psycho.

And I wanted to see it like I wanted to take my very next gasping horrified breath.

The hype was brilliant because it had to be.

Because it was a budget flick shot in black and white when Technicolor was all the rage, because the subject matter was dead extreme and quite experimental for those tender times and thought to be at the very edge of what was possible in the genre. Today we tend to forget how Psycho set the horror mark to a new level upon release.

So, Hitchcock dreamed up a gaggle of gimmicks. No one to enter the theater after the movie started, and you had to agree that if you died from shock, Hitch was off the hook.

And for me the worst of all the hype rules: No one under the age of 18 unless accompanied by an adult.

Add to that barrier the final crushing gimmick: after the full theater run ended, Psycho was not to be aired on network television until 10 years later. This was pre-Netflix stream, pre-torrents, pre-DVD. Radio, TV and movies were literally the only shows in town.

You think my teetotaler, church deacon, pillar of the community/pillar of salt of the earth mother was about to take me to see this abomination? In 1960?

She'd rather hand me a loaded Derringer and advise me to go play Dillinger downtown. Way rather. At least bank robbery would be contributing to my upkeep.

What's a horror-loving, hyper-hovered-over kid supposed to do?

For one thing, not get to see Psycho until 1970.

But I did get the maternal unit to buy me an Alfred Hitchcock short story anthology. Hardcover. And I learned a little about closing a story with a haunting image.

"Bad concierge. No tip for you!"

Protip: Sometimes the last line comes to you at the initiation of writing and defines the story arc.

Sometimes during the process of crafting your prose, the finale starts to write itself.

And, sometimes you have to wander the woof and weft of your writing to find that big finish.

By "haunted" I don't necessarily mean "scarred and scared into cardiac arrest." Rather, leave a lasting impression.

Welcome to 2015 Clarion Write-A-Thon. Pull up a pen, dim the desk-light, dare darkness 'til daylight and begin. Ready...Steady...Start.

Ready to think the unthinkable? Steady with the unwavering eye. Start the Write-A-Thon and remember...

Always leave 'em haunted, begging for just a little more terror.


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