There’s a scene in my novella The Noctuary where the main character, writer Simon Ryan, wakes up to find he has murdered his literary agent after a steamy rendezvous. But he hasn’t just murdered her – he’s stripped her of her flesh and eaten it. It’s quite a grotesque scene, one which was difficult to write; I’d never written anything so graphic, yet it was in context. Simon’s act of anthropophagi was important because it would carry the story forward when Simon uses his gifts as a “Scribe” to erase the murder and the agent’s body from existence.
The Noctuary is a very dark tale and contains numerous grisly moments, but always in context and sparingly. Horror fiction isn’t all blood and gore, it’s also equal parts suspense and dread and the psychological struggle of its characters. When you’re dealing with concepts like damnation of eternal souls and unveiling a vision of Hell however, of course it’s not going to be pretty; there’s going to be that sense of an all pervading darkness, there’s going to bloodshed and I wanted my vision to be memorable.
There’s another scene where Simon sees a man in a café eating something undiscernible, something wriggling and bloody, while other patrons just carry on with their candid chatter. This is very early on in the story when Simon is struggling with what is real. In a way I’m not just testing Simon in that scene, but also the reader; trying to get them to ask themselves if it could possibly be real.
Having admired authors like Clive Barker and Edgar Allan Poe for many years, I understand the power that the emotions of horror and terror has over the reader. “Terror” is directly tied to that sensation of dread – the moment when a protagonist can literally feel that something monstrous is lurking around the corner. “Horror” is that moment of revulsion when the protagonist actually steps around the corner and beholds what’s there.
I use horror and terror in equal parts in The Noctuary as I have done in all my tales. I feel you cannot have one without the other in dark fiction. In the end, terror and horror can reveal more about a character than any simple conversation or inner monologue can. It strips away the flesh and shows us who they really are.
Greg Chapman was born and raised in Rockhampton, Australia. Writing was once a hobby but it has now become a passion that he indulges in between a full-time marketing job and being a dad. Previously, Greg was a journalist on three regional newspapers for a period of eight years. Apart from his writing ability, he also has qualifications as a graphic designer and illustrator. He is a member of the Australian Horror Writers Association and was selected for its 2009 mentorship program under the tutelage of author Brett McBean. Since then he's had three short stories published and he will be hard at work on much longer stories in 2010 and beyond. He loves films and speculative fiction.
Visit Greg’s website to find out more about him and his work: http://www.wix.com/darkscribe/gregchapman