A person holding a trophy stands on a stage under blue lights, surrounded by an exuberant crowd with hands raised in celebration.

How will you win Twisted 3?

by Christopher Stanley

Twisted50 is back for a third and final outing, so for those of us who have yet to place a story in the series, this is our last chance.

I was wondering: what’s the ideal story for a Twisted50 competition? Is it better to write something that’s never been written before, or to stick with tried-and-tested tropes and rely on the quality of your writing to win over the judges?

The many flavours of fear

One of the reasons for the enduring popularity of horror stories is the many subgenres that have emerged over the years, including:

  • Psychological (home invasion, madness, phobias)
  • Slasher (serial killer, final girls)
  • Body (werewolves, mutations)
  • Monsters (zombies, vampires, kaiju)
  • Occult (devil worship, witchcraft)
  • Supernatural (ghosts, haunted houses, possession)
  • Weird (cosmic horror, non-traditional horror)

Having read this year’s excellent entries, the most popular flavours so far seem to be ‘slasher’, closely followed by ‘monsters’, with no entries (yet) for ‘occult’ or ‘supernatural’.

What’s your favourite flavour of fear? And have I missed any? Leave a note in the comments below.

The politics of horror

I know, I know – you were hoping you could forget about politics now the election is over. But have you ever considered the politics of horror? John Carpenter (The Thing, Halloween) once said “There’s two kinds of horror. Left-wing horror and right-wing horror. In right wing horror, the evil is out there and it’s coming to get us. In left wing horror, the evil is inside us.”

By my reckoning, the majority of this year’s stories lean towards the right, but not all of them.

Which way do you think the judges will vote? And which do you fear most?

The secret of a good scare

Towards the end of 2023, I was invited to run a workshop on writing horror fiction. I was tempted to say no – I hadn’t ever run a workshop before, and I hadn’t written any horror for years – but I do like to try new things, and they were offering to pay me, so I figured: why not?

The question of whether horror needs to be scary is one we discussed during the workshop, as it’s one of the biggest challenges we face as horror writers. Everyone has different thresholds for fear, and we’re all afraid of different things, so how can we possibly know whether our hard-written words will make a reader’s skin crawl?

Whenever I’m wrestling with this question, I keep coming back to the following quote:

“We have all experienced moments, or feelings, in which the world is suddenly not quite as we thought it was—in which that which was familiar is suddenly revealed to us as strange, or that which was strange is suddenly familiar.” (Darryl Jones, Sleeping with the Lights On)

For me, this captures the essence of horror. It’s something uncanny that makes me lose faith in my surroundings, that makes me want to double check the doors and windows. When I’ve judged horror-writing contests in the past, this is what I wanted to experience.

I’ll be honest, I have no idea how to win a horror contest like Twisted50 – other than to re-read the previous collections in search of inspiration. And take part, of course. There are no prizes for sitting on the sidelines.

How are you planning to terrify the judges this time around? And how will you make your twisted tale bite a little deeper than the rest of the ghoulish crowd? I’d love to know your thoughts. Leave a note in the comments below.

Best of luck to all ye who enter Twisted 3.

4 thoughts on “How will you win Twisted 3? by Christopher Stanley”

  1. What great advice from a great Twisted role model!

    The left wing v right wing horror is a very interesting concept, I admit I had never thought it in that way before, and how apt for the world we live in. The idea of evil being inside us is far scarier than something that goes bump in the night. What’s scarier than not being able to trust yourself or trying to hold back your dark side…. I know I’ve written tales of a similar ilk, looking at philias and phobias, and look forward to looking to my inner demons for inspiration…

    Really excited to be back and open up the Twisted community with faces old and new once again.

    Jess

    1. Christopher Stanley

      Hi Jess – great to see you back in Twisted50! Yes, I agree – horror ‘out there’ is scary, but horror ‘in here’ is flat out terrifying. I look forward to seeing what treats you cook up for us this time around. Thanks for reading the blog 🙂

  2. Interesting! In real life, I agree. Finding myself in situations where something ‘doesn’t quite feel right’ can be really scary. I’m currently sleeping in my spare room and waking at night in the dark, needing the loo can be very disorienting!
    My current effort comes straight from my real life nightmare which is why I am in that spare room 😆
    I will definitely try to write another, and may well work on the mental rather than the physical next time.
    Great blog!

    1. Christopher Stanley

      Hi Jane – thank you so much for reading! And yes, there is something about sleeping in an unfamiliar room that’s disorientating. One of my earliest published stories was based on a trip I took with my four-year-old son to Norfolk. I woke up in the middle of the night with his hand on my face, and it was so dark in the bungalow (pitch black, compared to my bedroom at home where there’s an LED alarm clock glow etc.), I couldn’t see a thing. It was terrifying. So I hope you’re back in your own room soon enough. Thanks again for reading – I look forward to your next story.

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