Abstract: Writing Horror

For my upperclassman Monroe project, I will be writing and revising a full-length screenplay, titled Mother Knows Best, that I prepared a treatment for in my screenwriting course last semester. Screenwriting is my intended career path, and I cannot think of a better way to set myself up for success than by adding a polished product to my creative writing portfolio. The question that this script would explore is: how does one write a horror screenplay that provides both the generic scares and tropes that make viewers feel comfortable while delving into more intimate and serious conversations surrounding society and culture? The script that I intend to write is about a man’s mother returning to him after death, and the story focuses on a love triangle between the man, his mother, and a childhood crush. All three of these connections and relationships are used with common horror frights and scares to create a final product that is both familiar and unfamiliar, usual and unusual.

Through my studies, I have come to the idea that experimental and avant-garde film techniques are their most effective when placed directly beside more mainstream modes of communication, and this screenplay would be an exploration of that idea. A departure from reality is most effective when the film in question can define and create that reality that we (as viewers) are departing from, and my script would define and acknowledge the genre from which it is born before diving into new pathways. The film Hereditary (2018) is a big inspiration for this project, as I felt that it was a precisely and carefully written film that brought the issues of family bonds and relationships into the category of horror. In many ways, I will be attempting to accomplish the same feat with my screenplay.

The research portion of this project will revolve around immersing myself in the horror genre itself, using the groundwork laid by filmmakers before me to aid in my own writing. This research will manifest itself in three distinct forms: watching horror films, reading and analyzing screenplays that were successful in the genre, and reading/watching interviews with horror writers and directors. For the production portion of this project, I will be doing two things, both in great quantities: writing and revising. Lucky for me, I have prepared a treatment for this script in the past semester, so I have the backbone of the story that I wish to write. My job over this summer is to flesh out every small detail, making sure that I can create and maintain a specific style and vision over a 100-page screenplay. This means that I will be doing every character-development exercise in the book (writing fake letters between characters is a favorite technique of mine) as well as sketching out rough drawings of what I imagine each setting of the story to be. I want to create a world that I can inhabit with effective characters, and that will take a considerable amount of time. Together, the research will help me create a high-quality screenplay.

For this project, there is a clear deliverable: a full-length, 100+ page screenplay. It will be professionally formatted using an industry-standard word processor, and will go directly into my creative portfolio to show to employers when I am looking for a writing career. I am very excited to begin work on this project, and to show what new and exciting perspective I can bring to an already-changing and innovating genre.

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