[Notes on Weird Fiction]

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Szerző: Howard Phillips Lovecraft • Év: 1933

1. Suggestions for Writing Story

(The idea and plot being tentatively decided on)

 

1. Prepare synopsis or scenario of events in order of occurrence—not order of narration. Describe with enough fulness to cover all vital points and motivate all incidents planned. Details, comments, and estimates of consequences sometimes desirable.

2. Prepare synopsis or scenario of events in order of narration, with ample fulness and detail, and with notes as to changing perspective, stresses, and climax. Change original synopsis to fit if such a change will increase dramatic force or general effectiveness of story. Interpolate or delete incidents at will—never being bound by original conception, even if the ultimate result be a tale wholly different from that first planned. Let additions and alterations be made whenever suggested by anything in the formulating process.

3. Write out the story, rapidly, fluently, and not too critically, following Synopsis 2. Change incidents and plot whenever the developing process seems to suggest such change, never being bound by any previous design. If development suddenly reveals new opportunities for dramatic effect or vivid story-telling, add whatever is thought advantageous—going back and reconciling early parts to new plan. Insert or delete whole sections if necessary or desirable, trying different beginnings and endings till the best is found. But be sure that all references throughout story are thoroughly reconciled with final design. Remove all possible superfluities—words, sentences, paragraphs, or whole episodes or elements—observing usual precautions about the reconciliation of all references.

4. Revise entire text, paying attention to vocabulary, syntax, rhythm or prose, proportioning of parts, niceties of tone, grace and convincingness of transitions (scene to scene, slow and detailed action to rapid and sketchy time—covering action and vice versa. . . etc. etc. etc.), effectiveness of beginning, ending, climaxes, etc., dramatic suspense and interest, plausibility and atmosphere, and various other elements.

5. Prepare a neatly typed final copy.

 

In certain cases it is advisable to begin writing a story without either a synopsis or even an idea of how it shall be developed and ended. This is when one feels a need of recording and exploiting some especially powerful or suggestive mood or picture to the full. In such procedure the beginning thus produced may be regarded as a problem to be motivated and explained. Of course, in developing this motivation and explanation it may be well to alter—or even transform, transpose beyond recognition, or altogether eliminate—the beginning first produced.

Once in a while, when a writer has a marked style with rhythms and cadences closely linked with imaginative associations, it is possible to begin weaving a mood with characteristic paragraphs and letting this mood dictate much of the tale.

Once in a while it is effective to devise a striking title or series of titles—of such a sort as to evoke poignant imaginative associations—in advance, and write the fictional matter around it or them. Later, when the work is done, title or titles may be changed.

In rare cases, an effective story may be written around a picture.

Often well to spin out a tale at great length in one’s head—with notes—before actual formulation. Dream it leisurely—slowly—with any number of changes.

Weird stories are of two kinds—those in which the horror or marvel concerns some condition or phenomenon, and those in which it concerns some action of persons in connexion with a bizarre condition or phenomenon.

Having decided on a mood, picture, situation, legend, tableau, or climax to express, it is often advisable for the author to explore the list of basic horrors quite thoroughly in order to find one especially adapted to the given framework. This being done, all possible ingenuity must be used in order to develop a logical and naturally motivated explanation for the given effect in terms of the basic horror adopted.

Record all bizarre ideas, moods, images, dreams, conceptions, etc. for future use. Do not despair if they seem to have no logical development. Each one may be worked over gradually—surrounded with notes and synopses, and finally built into a coherent explanatory structure capable of fictional use. Never hurry. The best stories sometimes grow very slowly—over long periods, and with intervals in their formulation.

In a tale involving complex philosophical or scientific principles, try to have all explanations hinted at outset, when thesis is put forward (as in Machen’s “White People”), thus leaving narrative and climactic sections unencumbered.

Be willing to spend as much time and care on formulation of synopsis as on writing of actual text—for the synopsis is the real heart of the story. The real creative work of fiction-writing is originating and shaping a story in synopsis form.

Have no scruples against introducing two or more separate basic horrors, provided the story’s natural and internal logic calls for them. Be sure, however, to keep the tale absolutely logical and realistic except in the directions chosen for departure from reality.

It is occasionally useful to concoct a story half-irresponsibly and spontaneously from some given horror-element, letting it develop as it goes along, changing when desirable, and recording it in the form of a loose, rambling synoptic outline. From this careless outline a real story may often be fashioned.

In order to ensure an adequate climax, it is sometimes advisable to prepare one in considerable detail first, and then construct a main synopsis explaining it.

An utterly bizarre and striking mode of approach is sometimes desirable. Time, scene, or other elements wholly remote or non-human.

 

2. Elements of a Weird Story

 

(a) Some basic, underlying horror or abnormality—condition, entity, et cetera.

(b) General effects or bearings of the horror.

(c) Mode of manifestation—object embodying the horror and phenomena observed.

(d) Types of fear-reaction pertaining to the horror.

(e) Specific effects of the horror in relation to given set of conditions.

 

3. Types of Weird Story

 

(a) Expressing a mode or feeling.

(b) Expressing a pictorial conception.

(c) Expressing a general situation, condition, legend, or intellectual conception.

(d) Explaining a definite tableau or specific dramatic situation or climax.

 

4. A List of Certain Basic Underlying Horrors Effectively Used in Weird Fiction

 

[1.] Unnatural life in a house, and unnatural linkage of lives of separate persons.

[2.] Premature burial.

[3.] Listening for some approaching horror.

[4.] Metempsychosis—a dead being forces its personality upon the living.

[5.] Offspring of a mortal and a daemon.

[6.] Any mysterious and irresistible march toward a doom.

[7.] Unnatural life in a picture—transfer of life from person to picture.

[8.] Prolongation or persistence of an abnormal animation in the dead.

[9.] Duplication of a personality.

[10.] Ravages on a grave—discovery that the seemingly dead is alive.

[11.] Unnatural connexion betwixt an object and some image of it.

[12.] Membership in hellish cult of witchcraft or daemonolatry.

[13.] Presence of horrible hidden race in lonely region.

[14.] Shocking metamorphosis or decay of living human as induced by taking unknown and evil drug. Idea of monstrous companion.

[15.] Beasts acting deliberately against man.

[16.] Unseen cosmic presences in certain region—idea of genius loci.

[17.] Psychic residuum in old house = ghost.

[18.] Village whose inhabitants all share monstrous secret rites.

[19.] Elemental spirit intrudes or is invoked.

[20.] Holy organisation secretly goes over to diabolism.

[21.] Subtle vampiric preying of one being on another.

[22.] Terrible hermit in lonely place—preys in some way on travellers.

[23.] Powers of darkness (or cosmic outsideness) besiege or take over sacred edifice.

[24.] Hideous daemon attached to some person (& after his death to certain objects pertaining to that person) through sin, incantation, etc.

[25.] Hideous sacrifices attempted through exercise of some bygone paganism. Ghostly reprisal.

[26.] Changes in a picture corresponding to actual events (present or old) in scene it depicts.

[27.1 Evil wizard employs metempsychosis to survive in animal forms and carry out revenge.

[28.] Ghostly room in house—sometimes there, sometimes not.

[29.] Wizard acquiring evil companion through trip to strange region of horror.

[30.] A pursuing thing called from the grave through an injudicious incantation.

[31.] Blast on an exhumed whistle of unknown antiquity summons vague and hellish presence from the Abyss.

[32.] Monstrous supernatural guardian set over treasure or book hidden in ancient ruins.

[33.] A dead man comes from the grave to bear off or punish his murderer.

[34.] Inanimate object acts as living thing to avenge crime.

[35.] Ghost of victim convicts murderer.

[36.] Disturbance of an ancient grave looses a monstrous presence on the world.

[37.] Magical telescope (or cognate device) shews the past when looked through.

[38.] Excavation of an ancient and forbidden thing saddles excavator with a hostile shadow, which eventually destroys him.

[39.] A household in great terror of the coming of some unknown doom.

[40.] A sacrilege toward an ancient church summons out of space or the sea an avenging monster which devours the desecrator.

[41.] Perusal of a certain hideous book or possession of a certain awful talisman places person in touch with shocking dream or memory world which brings him eventual destruction.

[42.] Man abnormally akin to lower animals. They avenge his murder.

[43.] Insect hypnotizes man and leads him to his death.

[44.] Ghostly vehicle. Man boards it and is carried into unreal world.

[45.] Sleep-walker drawn nearer and nearer to some horrible place. Tryst with dead, etc.

[46.] Body buried beneath cellar hounds murder (or injurer) to death.

[47.] In savage land, hermit priest guards old shrine containing a very strange and ancient Presence. Accident looses presence, and harm is done to person responsible.

[48.] Remote island region at extreme limit of world—Edge of Abyss. Strange horror appears there.

[49.] Ghouls of the sea that come to land in guise of seals and prey upon mankind.

[50.] Reconstruction of ancient temple or re-dedication of ancient altar evokes dangerous, unbodied forces.

[51.] Evil student reanimates mummy 4000 years old, and forces it to do his murderous bidding.

[52.] Man tries to recapture all of his past, aided by drugs and music acting on memory. Extends process to hereditary memory—even to pre-human days. These ancestral memories figure in dreams. Plans stupendous recovery of primal past—but becomes sub-human, develops a hideous primal odour, takes to the woods, and is killed by own dog.

[53.] Traveller coming upon something horrible in strange place—as a horror in a cabin with lighted window found in a forest’s depths.

[54.] Dream and waking worlds confused.

[55.] Some past (or future) horror just outside memory (or prescience).

[56.] Entire scene and set of events caused by hypnosis—proceeding either from living person or from corpse or other harbourer of residual psychic force.

[57.] Coming to unknown place and finding one has some hitherto latent memory of it, or hideous connexion with it.

 

5. List of Primary Ideas Motivating Possible Weird Tales

 

[1.] Objectivisation of imagination-products

[2.] Metempsychosis

[3.] Return of Spirit

[4.] Return of Body (vampire)

[5.] Hereditary Memory

[6.] Abnormal vision into future

[7.] Advent of alien entity to world

[8.] Daemon summoned by rite

[9.] Vision opened by evil book

[10.] Daemon guardian of a spot

[11.1 Evil forces focussed in spot

[12.] Change or vision induced by a drug

[13.] Ghoul

[14.] Monstrous birth

[15.] Lingering influence in house

[16.] Lingering influence in tomb

[17.] Tower or other relique of pre-humans

[18.] World under sea

[19.] Inhabited daemon tower in remote place

[20.] House of horror in old city

[21.] Transposition of mind

[22.] Interference with time

[23.] Archaeological horrors exhumed

[24.] Evil force enters edifice as bat

[25.] Seizure—taking away—of a person by Forces

[26.] Parasitic entity infuses its memory into one it feeds on

[27.] Materialisation of some Thing through rite or magical act

[28.] Distinct tones: intense, clutching, delirious horror; delicate, dream-like fantasy; realistic, scientific horror; very subtle adumbration.

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