Monday, October 30, 2017


Title: Whispers and Fangs
Author: Meagan Noel Hart
Genre: Flash Horror/Fiction Collection
Release: Available on AmazonKobo & iBooks!


At its best, horror shakes us to our core and makes us cringe at our own humanity. It terrifies and humbles and offers a hell of a good time. Whether it’s a lonely ghost story or a gruesome murder, this collection of short and flash fiction offers 27 different glimpses into the dark and unnerving world that haunts us all. Open the book and unlock unstable minds, become a murder weapon, live as a ghost, and provoke the demons that haunt the edge of your vision. Don’t worry, it’s only fiction. Or is it?

Special Guest Article, Straight from the Author!

Writing Horror With a Pulse
By Meagan Noel Hart

Whenever I assign Stephen King, I assign his short story “The Last Rung on the Ladder.” In the story, Larry remembers in vivid detail the day, decades ago, that he both endangered and saved his sister’s life. It’s a beautifully detailed scene where Kitty hangs from a broken barn ladder and a fretful Larry rushes to lay down hay to cushion her fall. Since growing up, they’ve fallen out of touch with one another. The story ends by revealing that Kitty has committed suicide. Two weeks after her death, Larry receives the following letter:

“I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately,” Kitty writes, “and what I've decided is that it would have been better for me if that last rung had broken before you could put the hay down.” Or in other words, I wish I’d never been saved at all.

There is a lot to say about this story, but the first thing my students turn to is the deep emotional rush at the story’s completion and the sudden need to call their families. After that, there is usually some kind of comment of surprise. “Wait, isn’t this the guy that wrote It?” Yes, and The Shining, and Misery, and Cujo, and Carrie. King is an extremely prolific writer, but there is no question that his best-known works are those of supernatural horror. The question my students really mean to ask is -- how could someone who writes horror also write something like this?

This question actually gets to an inherent misunderstanding about writing horror.

While what might stand out to us about the scariest of stories are the building suspense, the jump scenes, an unforgettable monstrosity, and a lot of running in the dark, the truth is that good horror also has to have heart, and it has to tug, often indirectly, at the most internal and human struggles within.

We fear the dark because we fear the unknown. We fear possession because we fear that those we love may not be who we think they are, or we fear losing control of ourselves. We fear poltergeists because we fear that what is ours--the places we should feel most at home-- don’t really belong to us. We fear slasher films because we fear we live in a society where such violence happens everyday and there is no way to stop it. We fear zombies because they challenge our understanding of life and science, and we indulge in them because they allow us to live in a world without the stresses of school, work, social obligation, and debt.

My favorite modern monsters are the weeping angels of the Doctor Who series. Angelically gorgeous statutes that can’t move while you’re looking at them, but which spring to gruesome life the second no one is looking, moving faster than imaginable. If they catch you, then they steal you away to another time and place, feeding on all your lost potential. I mean, can you think of a single better metaphor for the sudden passing of time itself?

While some would write horror off as mere genre fiction, easy scares, shallow characters, and plots with nagging holes like “if the aliens can’t touch water why would they come to Earth naked?” -- the truth is, good horror isn’t really about the monster. The monster, if anything, makes the story palpable. It is something that can be fought, defeated, sorted out. We get a rush from facing and conquering our fears. Even if the characters do not survive, we do. And those last minute scenes of the hand popping out of the dirt or a hint that the monster isn’t really defeated are so effective because we know the real fear can never really die.

Horror can even be crafted directly around exaggerated, dreaded social challenges. Like the SAW films. People don’t linger on the ridiculous puppet riding a bicycle. What eats at them are the morally preposterous positions the victims are put into. In order to save yourself and your boyfriend, do you kill the girl he cheated with? Or do you let him die so the two people he wronged can live? Can you even trust your fellow victims? 

Ultimately, to write good horror, you have to tap into something much more human and banal than monsters: our primal fears, worries, concerns, and all those unanswered questions that haunt us in the night. Do they really love me? Am I an imposter? Without all those nagging social obligations and rules, would I survive? Could I save my family?

And, you have to let this connection happen naturally. Like all good ideas, and arguably all good metaphors, you need to trust your subconscious to take you somewhere meaningful, allowing the words and ideas to flow without judgement, and only after it is finished -- trust the conscious editor within to take the reins and make it pretty.

While there are many questions you can ask as you edit your horror story -- How do I build suspense? Are my characters well developed? Should I kill them anyway? Is the language here too vivid or gruesome?  -- none of them are going to matter if you didn’t ask the first, most important question, before you started writing:

What scares you?

And remember, it’s not really the clown.

About the Author 

Meagan loves a good scary story, but besides that one time she's pretty sure she caught a ghost on camera, her life is pretty normal. She usually writes flash fiction but occasionally poetry or essays. 

Her work has been included in Mothers Always Write, Everyday FictionWelter, and Unusual Pet Tales, and will be included in the Writers Workout's 72 Hours of Insanity in 2017. 

She has three collections of work, Twisted Together, Whispers & Fangs, and A Short Stack of Silly Shorts for the Morally Sidetracked. She lives in Baltimore with her husband, two rambunctious but lovable sons, and a house full of fur-babies. By day, you can find her teaching English at Stevenson University. She maintains a healthy fear of the dark.

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Get fictional - it's fun! Thanks for stopping by, and I hope to see you again soon!