Ragnar's Saga

The Story Behind the Story

Lady Emily

Posted by Christopher Hivner on October 21, 2010 at 12:49 AM

I got serious about my writing around 1992. The first year or two my horror stories were very plot driven. My characters didn’t have much depth, cardboard cut-outs with a dose of personality. Much like an AC/DC song which is all about the guitar riff, I was all about the idea. I was a plot junkie. My stories were short and sweet, 1500 words average; set up, twist, ending. Splash around some blood, throw entrails over the couch and some bones in the fireplace and I had myself a story.

I don’t remember the exact impetus, but I knew I had to evolve as a writer. My next short story had to have a strong lead character and the plot had to come from the protagonist’s life. I also wanted the lead to be someone the reader could care about because I had written quite a few stories with a completely unlikable protagonist. That’s something you can easily get away with in the horror genre, but I wanted to write about a good person. Ok, it’s a horror story so bad things will happen to her and she will more than likely meet a grisly demise but she’s still a good person.

Emily entered my head after watching a TV show with a female character who tried to do the right thing in every situation, but life continued to kick her around. Her rage would build up and she’d let loose, completely losing control. Emily presented herself to me as that kind of bad-things-happen-to-good-people type of person with the difference being she would do anything not to lose control. I pondered why she would feel this way and envisioned Emily seeing herself as a “lady” and her mother taught her a lady’s behavior must always be perfect. I could feel Emily’s drive to behave in a socially acceptable way and the overwhelming frustration when people treated her badly because of her circumstances.

The other element of Lady Emily is the graphic description of her fugue states. I love descriptive language. Adjectives are my friends: we hang out, watch sports on TV, play poker and come up with new ways to paint a lewd, repulsive picture. I tried to put myself in Emily’s place, to feel what she felt, every time the world tore her down. This helped me conjure up the hellish scenarios she imagined as she wrestled with her anger.

Lady Emily is a sad story. It was hard to write the ending. It was the natural culmination to the story I wanted to tell but Emily didn’t deserve all the bad things that happened to her. Hopefully when you read it, you will feel for her also.

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