{Book Review} Writing In The Dark: Tim Waggoner

Writing In The Dark: Tim Waggoner

Reviewed By J.A. Sullivan

Back in May 2019 I was fortunate enough to take a few classes while attending StokerCon. One of them was called “The Art of Suspense” taught by Tim Waggoner and it was fantastic. So, when I saw Waggoner had a non-fiction book, dedicated to the craft of writing horror, I had high expectations. Writing in the Dark was all I hoped for and more!

Typically, when reading books on writing I find my eyes glazing over because the content is so dry and stale – it’s like they suck all the fun out of their biggest passion. By contrast, you can feel the joy and excitement Waggoner has for the genre and the craft of writing on every page. The author’s engaging approach hooked me immediately and held my attention throughout.

Some of the chapter contents include breakdowns of how subgenres are used in marketing, finding the emotional core of a story, how to infuse unique aspects into familiar plotlines, a look into the physiology of fear, and what makes the Horror Hero’s Journey different from other genres. Even being familiar with these ideas, I found Writing in the Dark discussed these topics from angles I hadn’t thought of before, creating a refreshing learning experience.

Informative and thought-provoking, this book felt like a complete course study on how to write effective horror. And while there is a lot to get through, Waggoner breaks down complex concepts into easy-to-understand segments.

What really makes this a standout how-to book is the introspection it forces upon the reader, including wonderful exercises at the end of each chapter. While other books ask you to think about why you write the things you do, Waggoner goes a step further, encouraging you to try things you might not normally write and then contemplate the results. He guides you through the exercises with examples most horror fans will be familiar with but using broad enough terms that even if you aren’t familiar with the piece of fiction being dissected, you won’t feel lost.

Chapters also include great mini-interviews, with a vast range of horror authors such as Graham Masterton, Alison Littlewood, Jonathan Maberry, Michael Knost, and Lisa Morton. All these writers have their own approaches to what creates the best dark fiction, which helped drive home Waggoner’s main point that there is no one-size-fits-all way to write. Each creator should collect as many viewpoints as possible, to examine and evaluate them against your own ideas. And I think encouraging this type of critical thinking is what makes Waggoner such an effective teacher.

Having read quite a few titles on the craft of writing, I’d rank Writing in the Dark among the best. I’ll certainly be returning to this resource often. No matter where you are on your writing journey, I highly recommend checking it out.

Writing In The Dark

In this comprehensive textbook devoted to the craft of writing horror fiction, award-winning author Tim Waggoner draws on thirty years’ experience as a writer and teacher. Writing in the Dark offers advice, guidance, and insights on how to compose horror stories and novels that are original, frightening, entertaining, and well-written.

Waggoner covers a wide range of topics, among them why horror matters, building viable monsters, generating ideas and plotlines, how to stylize narratives in compelling ways, the physiology of fear, the art of suspense, avoiding clichés, marketing your horror writing, and much more. Each chapter includes tips from some of the best horror professionals working today, such as Joe Hill, Ellen Datlow, Joe R. Lansdale, Maurice Broaddus, Yvette Tan, Thomas Ligotti, Jonathan Maberry, Edward Lee, and John Shirley. There are also appendices with critical reflections, pointers on the writing process, ideas for characters and story arcs, and material for further research.

Writing in the Dark derives from Waggoner’s longtime blog of the same name. Suitable for classroom use, intensive study, and bedside reading, this essential manual will appeal to new authors at the beginning of their career as well as veterans of the horror genre who want to brush up on their technique.

You can buy Writing In The Dark from Amazon UK & Amazon US

J.A. Sullivan

J. A. Sullivan is a horror writer and paranormal enthusiast, based in Brantford, ON, Canada. Attracted to everything non-horror folks consider strange, she’s spent years as a paranormal investigator, has an insatiable appetite for serial killer information, and would live inside a library if she could.

As curator of “Scary’s Voices” on Kendall Reviews, an article series reviewing horror podcasts, Sullivan loves listening to all things spooky. If you have a horror podcast recommendation, let her know.

On top of contributing short stories to Kendall Reviews, her fiction has appeared in Don’t Open the Door (2019), It Came From The Darkness (2020), and she acted as an assistant editor for Black Dogs, Black Tales (2020). Other spooky tales and updates on her writing journey can be found on her blog.

You can follow J. A. on Twitter @ScaryJASullivan

Check out her blog https://writingscaredblog.wordpress.com

Find her on Instagram www.instagram.com/j.a_sullivan

Find her on Instagram www.instagram.com/j.a_sullivan

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