Saturday, 2 November 2013

Move Over Stephen King

In October I did a workshop at Clough Hall Technology College in Kidsgrove. I worked with Years 8, 9, 10 and we concentrated on the Gothic genre.

After reading them an excerpt from "Dragonfire" we discussed how to build up tension, fear and suspense.

As always working with talented creative groups the hour we had simply wasn't long enough. A morning, maybe even a day would have given us more time to discuss, draft, re-draft and produce a polished piece of work. The tyranny of the bell however meant that there was time only for first drafts, but even those were spine chilling.

Halloween is past but if you need a taste of horror, look no further.

Year 9:
The shiver slowly rose up my leg. Soon my whole body was shaking.
“It was only a puddle,” I thought to myself. But then things began to spin round and round in my head.” That wasn’t a puddle Elizabeth. You know what it was.” They kept spinning. I couldn’t get rid of them.  

I looked all around me and that’s when I saw my way out. An alley, a dark and abandoned one at that. I sprinted down the narrow passage. I could hear footsteps getting faster Something clamped on my arm. As I struggled to get free all my belongings smashed to the ground. My phone shattered into a thousand pieces.

The next thing I knew a sharp pain hit my head. My eyes became heavy and I just wanted to sleep. I let the fatigue take over my body. The last thing I could hear was someone screaming my name.

Hearing an unearthly noise, groaning, moaning, it was starting to make me anxious. I decided the smart thing to do was run. I ran with incredible speed, almost inhuman, then I fell. Lying in an open grave feeling the breeze hit me.

I remember the days when I used to be content; the time when all my family were well. That one day changed everything…

Visiting my mother’s grave was always a challenge for me. For one thing, I never had any free time. For seconds, the graveyard always sent a shiver down my spine. On this particularly chilling February evening, as soon as I passed through the rusting iron gates, I felt tense.

Slowly I ran my hand across the white cracked paint of the door. With not much force it creaked open. The dust that had fallen from the frame indicated that no one had been here for a while and that it probably wasn’t safe to enter.

It was dark and dingy. The grotesque smell of dampness hit me almost immediately. I turned my torch on to see what was inside. I stepped in.

To my right was an old white staircase covered in spider webs. To my left was what appeared to be the living area. There was no television, no light, just an upside down lounge chair. I decided not to go into this room, until I saw what looked like a lit candle. I stopped frozen, chills racing down my spine. I was trembling. Someone had to be here.

As he leapt into the vast network of tunnels below, the thick taste of evil enswirled his nose and throat, burning him. The hunt had begun. Slowly he began to follow the tap of what he thought was water.

A thunderous bang made him swing round and fall back on his rifle, which slid  from his hand as the darkness enclosed and began to consume him. A second passed before the sensation came back to his hand. He looked down and saw the gleaming crimson pool below him.
“Still warm,” he muttered. His gaze drifted to the left as something passed his line of sight he dived for the rifle. A metallic thud ricoched across the passage as his beam on the rifle gave a loud buzz whirring into life. His heart skipped a beat as he stared into the abyss beyond…

A hand brushing against mine. If felt cold and it terrified me. Who is this? What are they doing here in my dad’s house….It’s been a year since my granddad died and I thought he needed comforting.

I was in my bedroom minding my own business when I saw the door open. At first I thought it was my dad coming to check up on me but when I looked the door was open and no one was there.
“He’s playing tricks on me,” I thought. He was always doing things like that. But that’s when I realized that there was something trickling down the inside of the window. It was a dark, cold night and it was raining heavily, but how did the rain get inside?

Laura C
As I stepped inside I felt a heavy gaze focused on me. I glanced around the Victorian room but saw nothing other than sheer darkness. I felt like my eyes had betrayed me as I was left stumbling around the vast space using my arms to feel around. It was no use. I seemed to be doing nothing but clutching air.

What was that? I stopped. Trembling I turned to my left and with a swift movement a cold hand brushed past mine.

He is walking past the window like a shadow and my hand tightens on my stake. My other hand instinctively goes to the cross on the end of my chain.
“This is it,” I think. “I’ll get you and when I do you’ll wish you’d never touched her.” My fear chokes me.

The dampness of the grass came through my shoes as I trudged down to my father’s grave. It was a freezing night in the middle of March and I could hardly feel my toes. As I approached the grave I felt a cold breeze behind my back that made me shiver, but considering it was a cold night I thought nothing of it. That was until I felt something brush past me. I quickly turned around to find nothing there.

Opening up my back past I got my mobile phone out. I unlocked it , but had no signal. Then I tried to use my back up signal but it would not work either.

Terrified I ran around the house with my phone in the air like a mad man until finally I got a bar of signal. I thought I would ring my dad but as soon as I pressed ring the phone went dead.

I could hear footsteps behind me, so I slowly turned round to see what it was…

The house looked deserted, old smashed windows and a fragile door. Marco was suspicious about this house so he walked near the back door and a grey ice cold hand swept over his shoulder.

Legend says that vampires patrolled these woods on stormy nights like this, but Ryan didn’t care. He’s grown up now. Vampires don’t exist, do they?

The trees moaned in the wind. The moon glimmered on the brim of each leaf. Ryan was felling confident, he wasn’t to be confronted. Swiftly, he strode through the wood. His boots splattered each puddle stained to the brim. Ryan picked up his pace then, at an instant, he stopped….

White roses All around there are white roses. Not your usual flower that sits in the window of shop dying. This flower was different. It wasn’t dying it was already dead.

Someone with a heart of stone, the passion of a murderer has watched these flowers grow into their beautiful bodies with strong thick petals that could survive the natural element, but would never be able to run away from the unnatural beasts that destroy.

A cold hand came out of the dark shadow grabbing my wrist tightly. I could feel his stone cold breath on my cheek as he pulled me towards him.

A cold blooded hand reached out and brushed up against my wrist and pulled me into the gloomy opening in the hallway. I could feel its cold breath on my neck and cheek…

We stopped a few miles down the lane, so that we could eat our packed lunch. That was when we saw it. A dark old, abandoned mansion loomed out of the shadows.

Owen pulled up at the end of the long, bumpy drive. Climbing out of the carriage the smell of iron blew with the wind. Slowly and calmly he started to walk towards the house.

The wind whistled like a dying soul as I walked through the big double doors of the museum. I heard the guard tell my brother
“Enter the vampires’ lair, if you dare!”

We stood watching. Ready to pounce. The midnight sky beckoned us as we walked down the cracked steps into the subway. The subway’s dimmed light and stench of wee made it the perfect place for blood, fresh blood…
I stood in the corner and so did my mum. I examined each human as they walked past. Some looked down at me and some looked scared of my black cape and bloodthirsty eyes. I was capable of anything. They just didn’t expect if from a teenage girl.
Then the perfect candidate approached the subway, long hair, green eyes, about twenty, she had the most delicious metallic blood, which made me hungry.

As the lights flickered, I pounced and bit slowly into her smooth skin. She tried to scream but quietened. Then it was my favourite part. Watching the rose I her cheeks turn into pale white daisies.

Tentatively I opened the door. It groaned and creaked as the rusty hinges struggled to release. Slowly my eyes adjusted to the darkness of the mysterious, desolated house.

As I urged myself to step along the vast old damp wooden deck, I was welcomed by the stench of dampness. I could taste it in my mouth. I stepped into the captain’s cabin my eyes caught sight of an old rotten skeleton.

It was a cold night that night. The night I lost it. It was a terrible idea We shouldn’t have gone there. We should have listened. Only a few go in and survive. It is the wood of mysteries. That is where they live. The ones that kill. The werewolves!

Running for my life, I’m no way near my house. I see white roses. Where am I? Smashed wndows. I walk to these double doors that open by themselves

Where am I? Black gates, creaking doors, smashed window. I’m alone in a  place like a prison. The darkness keeps creeping into the room. The wind gently blowing open the loose window. Step by step the cold polished floorboards creak. I can sense movement in the room and it’s not me! I slowly walk over to the bed. Is it safe to even think about lying down? Wait. What was that? A noise downstairs. Should I go and see what it is?
   It’s midnight and the clock is ticking. Silence. The night sky blinds the trees, while they sway in the breeze. Sometimes I see the branches in the ripped curtain. The suddenly a shadowed figure approaches the painted gates …and that’s when I fall in love! Brown hair swooshing in the whistling wind. Blue  eyes shining in the moonlight.

The demons are screaming again. Laughing as they…never mind. I arrived at the home as a dare. A dare from my friend; the friend I had before this all started. My name is Sarah. I’m fifteen and I’m alone trapped in this house, forever. I’m dead and in a way it’s a comfort…

Year 10 concentrated on language and the Gothic genre

had phrases I could steal.
“I could smell how ancient the walls were.” She used repetition effectively
“There was nothing but darkness. Empty darkness.”

 “As the dancing leaves of one tree swayed to the side something behind them became very clear. My eyes widened, my mouth grew dry. A graveyard. We lived  behind a graveyard.”

Ethan wrote,
“As my clock chimed ten the door slammed with a vicious force almost like someone in a bad mood had shut it.”

chose a bus journey late at night, increasing the tension to the last paragraph using a classic technique.
“I was half way down the street. I looked behind me and the old man was standing on the corner. At this point I knew I was safe. I turned around again one last time and he had gone. I turned back around and he was on my drive.”

 drafted and re-drafted as all writers must. She began in the third person.
“It was getting later and later. About four young girls …were walking round the graveyard.”
But in the end moved to a much more effective use of first person.
“As the night drew in, it grew darker and darker I was walking through the deserted graveyard.”

writes about a new house fraught with menace.
“The house stood isolated and lifeless.” And used questions to increase the tension.
“I wondered who lived here and why did they leave.”

Chose a railway station in London to create a very Gothic situation.
“I remember getting onto the rain with  my school group, but now I’m here on my own!

The atmosphere suddenly became damp The signs to say “No Entry” started swinging, the hinges screeching in the breeze. I automatically felt my body stiffen. Where is everyone? Why did this happen to me? Why can’t I remember anything?

My eyes glance up and down the isolated platform. I spot the sign saying “Platform closed” Am I in the wrong place?”

Chose an abandoned warehouse.
“As always I’d go and check it out but this was different. The place began to feel more and more sinister.” 

wrote of the horror of being abandoned.
“I gradually lifted my hand towards the door handle. I slowly turned it, trying to be as quiet as I could. I glanced around me. My family was nowhere to be seen. I was all alone.”

However sometimes  it’s better to be alone.
“I could hear the rustling of branches being stepped on. I was not alone. My heart began racing, faster and faster. Who was there? Why were they there? Were they following me? I picked up my pace and began speed walking.  The sound of footsteps grew louder. They were following me.”

meanwhile gives an illusion of safety.
“My pace was increasing again and so was theirs. I breathed heavily, only to inhale the smell of rotting meat. Whoever was behind me was not leaving anytime soon. I could see a bright street lamp in front of me. I felt safe. But the smell had not gone.”

went straight into the horror.
“It was cold and extremely dark. Why me? Why did I have to be the one they’d chosen?
As I sat up I could only see my fingers if I held them close to my face. Not being able to see my arm scared me even more. All I heard was the owls outside and the noise of floorboards creaking.”

There was more horror from this writer who unfortunately did not put their name on their work.
“I stood at the bottom of the bed. White disembodied feet were poking through the bed sheet. The feet were still and lifeless. Sounds of footsteps shook the old wooden floorboards behind me. I turned to see if there was anyone there. There wasn’t. I turned to look at the spine breaking feet. They were gone and the stench they left behind was horrific. I could almost taste it.”

Personification of the graveyard was very effective.
“The room was dark, barren, isolated. There was nothing around apart from the graveyard, staring, watching, waiting for someone to cease. It stared past the curtains through to him There was a chill in the room. It came from outside. It was creeping in. When Kevin left he room there was a surge of euphoria. It was as if the graveyard had released its grip on him. It had let go.”

Had a great sense of the dramatic.
“I sank into the corner of the dark engulfed room. The boor burst open A strange shape emerged from the shadows. It crossed to the bed. I thought, this is my chance, I have to go. My heart was pounding. I dashed out of the corner and out of the door. The mysterious shadow followed. Its footsteps were following me and catching up. My heart was thrashing against my rib cage . I didn’t stop. The corridor was along and lifeless. The cobwebs caught in my hair as I ran.

achieved a sense of menace.
“Lurking in the shadows like a prisoner in a cage. As she walks through the tunnel she hears something tapping. “Tap, tap.” It was footsteps but where was it coming from? There is nobody around.”

conveyed an eerie sense of place.
“I walked light foot down the silent street. My footsteps echoed as I trudged on. It was pitch black and I was alone. The only light came fro the pale moon that lit up the slippery road that went on ahead of me.”

Year 8 worked on shape changers. I read a passage from Dragonfire and these are some of their responses

As I woke up there was a sudden bang. I went downstairs and saw a shadow change from one thing to another.

I hear a rock being thrown. I turn around. Nothing is there. I start to shake and sweat………….I close my eyes as I think it is all a dream, but when I open my eyes slowly his colourful creepy face was right behind mine and his cold pale hands were touching my warm scared face. All I saw was a clown.

As I opened the old rusty door in the decaying warehouse it was one minute past midnight. The light flickered. My heart was racing. In the distance there was a shadow. What was it? I called by there was no answer.

I got out of bed to see what the yapping was about. As I was walking down the stairs with half open eyes I heard the dogs yelping again, but now they were rustling around in their basket like rabbits. I slowly opened the kitchen door and turned the light on, but it strangely started to flicker and I could have sworn that I saw a figure as if someone was standing there. I got so scared because I saw a snake tail with human legs, with tiger face, but what looked like a stare was half way across its face. By the time the light had stopped flickering the figure had gone.

I push open the door. I look in.  I say “Hi”. Someone answered but I can’t see anyone. I shout louder, ”Where are you. They say, “I am down here.” I look. It is a snake. It has the body of a snake and the head of a human.

I entered the woodland and heard branches snapping. I was really cold and it was damp. It smelt like a dead body, mouldy rotting and old. It was horrible. It felt like someone was watching me, so I stared to run. I tripped over a branch and started to cry. I heard something come whipping past me

There was something behind me. I looked. There was nothing there. I heard footsteps. I saw a white face. I panicked. I went to see. There was nothing there. I turned around. There it was on the corner looking at me. Then it went. I stopped and thought and I heard it shouting me. It came towards me and then ……

We saw this abandoned house, that someone used to live in along time ago – then I heard a sound and I saw a shadow and I grabbed Molly’s hand.

Phil walked into a man. He was tall with an ageless face.
“What are you doing here?” said the man. His voice was like a whisper but it was like he was shouting at them at the same time. -----------The man’s arm fell off and turned into beetles, but then the man’s head grew bigger like it was about to explode. The head started floating and the man’s body fell to the floor. Wings came out his head.

A shadow appeared standing behind the door. I turned and nothing was there. I lay back down and closed my eyes, then opened them again. A face appeared. I suddenly jumped out of my huge bed and all I could hear was “I am going to kill you.”

Out of the darkness came a knife pressing across my throat. I could feel the blade piercing my skin with blood dripping down me.

I saw I had my phone so I texted my mum. She was not answering. She was asleep. If I rang her, he would see, so I put my phone back in my pocket and opened the window and stared calling for help. Then he stopped the car and got tape and put it around my mouth, feet and hands. A tear dropped from my face and I started to cry.

There was a house. Something black was there. I started to run There was a shadow gaining on me. Something cried out and stopped me from running.

In the old abandoned firestation the rusty old door opened. The windows cracked and….

A hand jumped out of the van and grabbed my wrist. There was a bang as the van doors shut. Before I knew it, I was in the back with lots of people.  -------what were the going to do with me?

A hand crept out from the darkness. I carried on walking.-------- Then someone said my name.

I turned on the light and found that it was just my coat so I turned it of again and got back in bed. I was badly wrong. I could hear footsteps coming and there was a nasty rotting smell. I could feel it getting closer and closer.

A hand reached out and grabbed me. ---------I could see right through him and he could touch me but I couldn’t touch him. He had a knife and put it to my throat and I could do nothing because I could not touch him. I couldn’t get away.