Writing Prompt #3 -- Sick and twisted

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

May 4, 2009 -- 4:52 a.m.

It's that time again...

Title: Sick and Twisted
Genre: Any
Type: Description

99% of the description in books is cliche. Dressed up cliches, maybe, but still cliche. Yet some description still moves us to horror, to shudder, to moan with pain.

What are the things that absolutely revolt you? What characteristics of a person, animal or situation make you want to toss your cookies all over the floor?

For me, there are certain color combinations, smells and sights that just sicken me. Jiggling jowl fat. Yellow and purple together. Drool glistening in the light.

What kind of things naturally revolt you? Write down the five most revolting things you can think of. For each of them, then write down five more things connected to those original objects having to do with why they seem so horrible.

For example, I once had a nightmare about bees crawling under my skin. The most horrifying thing was sitting there watching the bump under my flesh rise and fall and ripple, and the feelings of utter, utter powerlessness that came from watching it.

So I might write down the words "burrowing skin bees." Then, I might write: 1) helplessness, 2) queasy motion beneath skin, 3) sharp stingers, 4) yellow, 5) my veins popping.

The trick is, none of the 30 items on the list can be the same. I can't write "blood" next to my burrowing skin bees (who WILL show up in a novel someday) and also next to my carnivorous footworms (one reason I'm not likely to move to certain parts of Africa...).

Now, can you evoke the same shivers in your own writings? Can you use some of the same description points as references in your text? Can your villain's laughter not just hurt your hero's ears but "burrow into his flesh until he could feel it squeezing his veins, like a fist whose nails were sharp enough to make them pop"?

If you can't scare/horrify/sicken yourself, there's no way you can terrify your reader. One of my friends was in the middle of reading Test of the Twins, by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. When one of the villains put his hand on his apprentice's chest, searing five ever-bleeding holes into the skin beneath, someone came up to my friend and touched her. She jumped five feet into the air.

That should be your goal.


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