Thursday, May 9, 2013

Going Back to "The Well" by Chris F. Holm

The very first item I purchased for my Kindle was 8 Pounds: Eight Tales of Crime, Horror and Suspense by Chris F. Holm, and boy howdy did it deliver! Since then I've devoured all things written by Chris including the available books in his Collector novels, and his latest short story collection Dead Letters: Stories of Murder and Mayhem. His story The Well, found in the Feeding Kate Anthology is beyond creepy creepy... which is exactly why I love it so. Many thanks for lending this little gem of a story to the Feeding Kate antho, Chris. It's perfect... just like you!

Going Back to "The Well"

It’s a funny thing, being asked to write a blog post about an 800-odd word short story. If I’m not careful, my post will wind up longer than the tale itself.

“The Well,” which centers on a particularly scrappy little girl who has the misfortune of falling down the titular aperture, has the dubious distinction of being one of the creepiest things I’ve ever written. In fact, it’s one of two stories (the other being “A Better Life”) that disturbed me so much as I was writing them, I had to ask my wife if they were too distasteful to submit. She said no, and either she was right or you people are way more twisted than I give you credit for, because most folks who’ve read my short fiction cite one or the other as their favorites. And when I gave Laura her choice of stories for FEEDING KATE, she picked “The Well” in no time flat.
I’m not sure what kind of lesson I should take from that.
The idea for “The Well” hit me all at once – and when it did, it wanted out. That’s rare for me; typically, I have to let a story percolate a while before it decides it’s time for me to write it. Unfortunately, I was at work at the time, so over lunch I sent myself a crazy, stream-of-consciousness e-mail, getting as much of the idea and imagery down as I could.
But when I sat down at the computer that weekend to flesh it out (if those who’ve read it will pardon the pun), something wasn’t right. The more detail I added to the story, the less I liked it. It became too explicit – too graphic. I don't mind pushing boundaries every now and again, but I think that when it comes to writing horror, restraint is a virtue, and I didn't want to cross a line as a writer that I wouldn't be willing to cross as a reader.
That’s when I went back to that initial e-mail. When I reread it, I was struck by something -- my notes had what my attempts to flesh it out had lacked. Subtlety. Ambiguity. Restraint. There was no explicit violence or anything overtly objectionable. Just a pervasive, eerie mood that, either in spite of its brevity or because of it, still managed to creep me out. So I decided to try polishing up my notes rather than starting from scratch, and not long after, I had my first (and to this day, only) work of flash fiction. 800-odd words did what 5,000 couldn't. If only my novels would write so easy…

Chris F. Holm was born in Syracuse, New York, the grandson of a cop who passed along his passion for crime fiction. His work has appeared in such publications as Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, Needle: A Magazine of Noir, and THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES 2011. He’s been an Anthony Award nominee, a Derringer Award finalist, and a Spinetingler Award winner. His Collector novels, published by Angry Robot books, recast the battle between heaven and hell as Golden Era crime pulp. He lives on the coast of Maine with his lovely wife and a noisy, noisy cat.

Feeding Kate: A Crime Fiction Anthology is available from Amazon. All proceeds from Feeding Kate benefit the Lupus Foundation of America.


Sabrina E. Ogden said...

Thanks so much for participating, Chris. I really do love hearing how stories come to be... and have to admit that I'm a lover of the creepy horror tales you like to write. Excellent post, sir.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Loved "The Well," Chris! And I have to say it's one of the creepiest things I've ever read. But beautifully subtle in the way it's written. Your decision was the right one.

Sabrina E. Ogden said...

after the part where i describe it as creepy, linda, i was going to say how beautiful the story is... it really is.

Chris said...

Happy to, Sabrina! And thanks to you both for the kind words.

Steve Weddle said...

Emailing story notes to yourself. Man, that sounds familiar.
Nice work, as well.