How to Design Evil: Human

WARNING: strong language within (sorry, I have a potty mouth when I’m excited or passionate about things)

Image result for serial killer photos

I get asked this question a lot. I want to state for the record, I’m not putting myself as the expert, but as a publisher it’s time I put on my “big girl” panties and accept that I have an area of expertise. I figure, if I didn’t? People wouldn’t ask me as often as they do.

So here is my response. Take from it what you will and my hope is it will serve you well.

People love monsters. What does it mean when you turn a human into a “monster”? It means this human is a machine. They run through the forest and they are hacking up young virgins, or college kids. They might be a faceless man killing for the joy of killing. Or they have a disfigured face and they prey on young beautiful women because they’ve been scorned by the beautiful people. The point is, there’s no rhyme or reason. Where’s there is blood, and body parts, there they are.

Are they scary? Uh … duh? No matter where you hide or run, this non-thinking, massive human usually donned in a butcher’s apron is barreling down on you (at a glacial speed), and will find you. I don’t care where you are. The problem is all these characters start to blend in with one another. No matter how creative you arem they end up getting compared to Jason or Leatherface.

How many times can you improve on “dysfunctional family of inbreds”, or “backwoods cabin”? And don’t even get me started on, “a group of college friends get lost” because that’s so overdone. I never get past those words before I start watching re-runs of whatever is on TV.

I know. Everything is kind of played out. So, how do we, as writers, stand out? It’s not easy. Suspense is akin to being a great fisherman. You throw out the bait and wait until they swim in. Once they take the bait, they get hooked. You have to pull them in but you can’t tug too hard, and reel them in too fast. You have to have patience. Allow your words to get them anxious and build suspense. Make your reader squirm and fight you. They’ll want to know what the hell is going on, right now. (Man, I love to use that phrase)

Stay strong! You cannot give in, yet. The prize comes at the end of a great battle, and this battle is all mental.

The reader doesn’t really want to know everything right now, but they have to know some things and the picture has to be clear. They have to know at the end of the hook there is a big, fat, juicy worm. If you let them get away too soon they will go away feeling dissatisfied and resentful.

The best part of characters like Jason and Leatherface is the slow gait. Yeah, there are some jump scares, and no one is taking away from the unrelenting gore (or the boobies, for those who are fans of the mammary gratuity). I’m not taking away from those bits and pieces. Think about it, though, for just a second. You can run as fast as your legs will carry you, but no matter where you hide, where you run (…or fall *facepalm*), or how fast you climb, he can find you.

That’s some scary shit! It’s like those dreams you have as a kid where no matter how fast your arms and legs were going, you felt like you were running in cement? Seriously, I hated those dreams.

There is so much horror going on in the real world. Take your cues from everything around you. Supernatural “powers” are/were tales made up to explain things we don’t/didn’t understand. Exercise your mind by taking everyday normal things and changing them. (Example: It’s not a normal hand mirror. Your mother found it at a resale shop and it belonged to a woman who died. Her spirit is caught in its reflection.)

Create characters who seem nice in public, but behind closed doors they are horrible. Maybe you’re inspired by the seemingly benevolent neighbor who always smiles and waves as you pull into your driveway, but at night he’s always climbing into a crawlspace in his garage. What is he doing in there? (Ok, fine. It was my own neighbor, but seriously! Why was he in his crawlspace at 2 AM?!)

The best part about creating these characters is getting back into your child-brain. No, I don’t mean peeing your pants and shoving toys in the toilet. I mean the child-brain where every shadow was a monster and a dark room held creatures with flippers and teeth. This is where you get to be free and let your imagination run amok. There’s no right or wrong in a story, only in the process. The more you practice, the better you’ll get. Let others read it. Ask them for honest feedback. Did it scare them? Why? Did it give them bad dreams? Was it a childhood fear of theirs, too?

Don’t be afraid to face your own demons. Writing is cathartic, and you always get to be the hero … (or at least you can kill the bad guy off when you’re done).

The biggest challenge is to create a believable “evil”. In this day and age, it’s not as easy as walking through a park and killing teenagers making out in their car. C’mon, cellphones and livestream are everywhere. Our evil creations have to be smarter, and scarier than ever. My biggest advice is start with the basic template and add to it. It’s like drawing. Start with a model and layer. Is it a male or female? What drives them to do what they do? Are they strong? Are they smart? Are they human?

Once you have your basics, you can begin to piece the character little by little.
Are they quick tempered, or slow to anger? Do they have an addiction? Are they compelled to kill by certain events? Do they have a broken family?

The reader must relate in some way to the main character. They don’t have to be serial killers but maybe they were bullied as a kid, too. Put yourself in a similar scenario. How would you react? What consequences would there be? Would you be able to forget it and move on, or would it stick with you forever?

Read the news. Trust me, there’s an endless supply of craziness in the world every single day. Catch up on true crime shows. Watch how people react to one another in the mall. (Alright, stop staring, that’s just creepy.)

It helps to always have a small notebook nearby to jot things down. Our memory is a strange thing. Sometimes we think we remember things and our mind will play tricks on us. Having the ability to jot a thought down helps, a lot. There’s nothing more frustrating than having an idea come to you, and getting distracted hours before you can begin writing only to discover … you forgot what you were going to write about!

Creating a character others can place a face to is a sure fire way to get them into your story and keep them there … locked away until you set them free.

Who are some of your favorite “evil” characters? What made the impact on you so profound? Who is your favorite author who can create these characters for you? Leave a comment and share!

The Unfleshed: Tale of the Autopsic Bride

#amreading #amwriting #horror #womeninhorror #Halloween #Giveaway

Young Morrigan, the daughter of a local aristocrat, is full of innocence and life. Angus Wulfe is an eccentric and devious doctor who stalks her while he cultivates a plan to win her affection. Their two worlds collide in a grisly twist of fate when the Plague arrives on the shores of their town. With no cure in sight, and bodies dropping incrementally every day, the doctor uses his influence, along with his reputation in medical advances – stemming from his clandestine and macabre experiments-to manipulate Morrigan’s father. In return for her hand in marriage, the doctor would save her life. Clinging to life, Morrigan begins to feel a change. Has the doctor cured her, or did her father make a deal with the Devil?

♦◊Win your own copy on GoodReads


Lisa Vasquez proves with her novel “The Unfleshed: Tale of the Autopsic Bride” she is a writer of nightmarish vision and a new, poetic voice in today’s horror genre. Her prose sings like a sonnet while driving the knife of dread ever further into her reader’s imagination. In her villain, Angus Wulfe, Vasquez has created someone so dastardly and surgical in his malevolence he lives and breathes on the page. I also hope to see Wulfe again in another installment, if possible, as I was sorry to see the book come to a close. Wulfe is as terrifying in his polished yet sociopathic intent as Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lecter. “The Unfleshed” sets the standard for the modern horror novel, and raises the bar quite high!

– Peter Molnaron, Author

A copy of The Unfleshed: Tale of the Autopsic Bride, was sent to Confessions of a Reviewer by the author, Lisa Vasquez in exchange for an honest review. This is said review. This book is published by Stitched Smile Publications.

It has been quite a while since I have read anything from Lisa Vasquez. I think this is a combination of me being busy and Lisa being hellish busy setting up Stitched Smile Publications. I have been watching from the wings and this press is putting out some rather nice titles.

The first book I read of Lisa’s was The Unsaintly. I really liked it but it didn’t tick all the boxes for me so I was hoping for a bit more from The Unfleshed.

This is what I thought.

The year is 1348. The Plague is ravaging everything in its wake. In London, Doctor Angus Wulfe is convinced he can find a cure. For this, everyone thinks him a saint. Little do they know the level of depravity that goes on behind his closed doors.

He is in love with Morrigan. When she becomes infected, Wulfe convinces her father that he can save her, as long as he consents to giving Wulfe her hand in marriage.

Is he really Morrigan’s salvation, or is he really going to cause the total destruction of London.

In terms of characters in this one, Angus Wulfe is without doubt the main one. In the times, he is known as an upstanding member of society, purely because he is a doctor. No one truly understands the level of evil lurking inside this man. He is one of the characters I have hated most in my reading career. His sidekick, Marshall, goes along with most of the bad things Wulfe does. But he has a conscience at least. It’s a case of being too afraid to do the right thing. Morrigan is the beauty in this tale opposite Wulfe’s beast. Coming from a well to do family, she is well respected and lusted after by many. She was destined for bigger and better things before the plague hit.

There are a host of other characters that all play their parts extremely well in this tale, but I want to talk more about the writing than the characters in this one.

The plot is simple. Wulfe loves Morrigan but doesn’t stand a hope in hell of ever getting her. Until she gets ill, and he cons her father into his consent to their marriage. He takes Morrigan back to his pad and……….

It sounds simple. It actually sounds a bit like a chick flick, doesn’t it? Ugly boy falls in love with beautiful girl who wouldn’t normally go near him and they end up together. The sort of film you could watch with your mother.

Oh, how very wrong you are!

The previous book I read from Ms Vasquez was very deep. It was confusing at times and the story took a bit of getting used to in terms of how everything came together in the end.

Not this baby. This is horrible. I don’t mean that in a negative way. I mean it in the most positive way possible. Lisa Vasquez has a really nasty streak in her, in terms of her writing. The previous book was centred around a wholesome girl. This one is centred around, as I said earlier, a character that I hated more than most I have ever read about. He is vile. He is evil personified. If he was standing beside the person you most hated in the world and you had a gun with two bullets and were allowed to shoot them both, you would put both bullets in Wulfe.

The clever thing about this? You wouldn’t hate him as much if it wasn’t for the way Lisa Vasquez has written him. This can only point to one thing. This girl writes good!

The story itself is simplistic, there are no two ways about that. It has the possibility of turning into a rather stale tale but Ms Vasquez keeps the story entertaining and revolting at the same time. Each time you think it is going to go lame, she introduces something else and takes it back to the horrific side of things again by introducing some scenes that I would not like to read whilst eating.

The story develops very well into a fast-paced race against time, for both Wulfe, and those against him.

So why not full marks then? There were a couple of things that I found to be a little off-putting, for want of a better phrase. Even though it is made clear that this story is set it 1348, it felt, to me anyway, like the times got a little bit mixed up. There were a couple of occasions where I found myself believing this was set much later in history and it pulled me out of the story a bit. I have a feeling that I will be the only person alive to think this when reading the book but I need to be honest after all.

I also was a little disappointed in the ending. Again, I am probably being over critical but it felt as if it ended very quickly. A bit rushed.

Putting that aside though, this is a crackin book. Lisa Vasquez has taken some interesting facts from our history and given them a distinctly evil twist, turning this story into a style of horror that some of our ancestral horror writers would be very proud of, if they had written it.

To summarise: a horror tale set in olden times that will thoroughly entertain you while turning your stomach and having you scream for someone to kill the bad guy the whole way through.

General rating:
★★★★ enjoyed this one.

Horror rating:
★★★★ certainly scary.

‘The Unfleshed’ is definitely the scariest thing I’ve read this year. I pride myself on my de-sensitivity to violence and my ability to stomach even the most macabre Rob Zombie flick- but this shook me a little.

From the very first page Vasquez drops us into the proverbial and she doesn’t stop hitting us with gore until somewhere after the second chapter. This is not a ‘blink-and-you-miss-it’ horror, nor is it a build-you-up-for-five-hundred-pages slow burner. ‘The Unfleshed’ hits you in the face on page one and doesn’t let you go until long after you realise you are dealing with a serial killer. Hard hitting is an understatement. Reading it is almost a dare…you dare yourself to turn the page, you dare yourself to finish the chapter…It would seem that if you want a good scare you need to get this woman to do it.

The cold depth of the male antagonist gives a fresh approach to the serial killer genre. A true killer- an evil maniac; is not Dexter. He is not approachable and friendly, he is not warm and fuzzy and he does not make you laugh. Vasquez has somehow managed to capture the monster without making us want to throw up all over the page. Great work lady, keep paving the way for women in horror.

And one last thing… Do not read this before you go to bed.

– Katriona E MacMillan
(author: Edelwiess; Dark Science )

Zombies, Night of the Living Dead, and other things that go “bump”

Lisa Vasquez - EXAMPLE.In 1968, an American Independent Horror Film directed by George A. Romero forever scarred audiences with visions of zombies shambling across the silver screen. Who would’ve known then the “undying” love of these creatures would continue to breathe until present day?

One of the best memories of Halloween for me was recreating monsters portrayed on screen and stalking through our neighborhoods, door to door. Long hours of care were put into makeup, sewing, and crafting. If your mother or grandmother had a gift for such things, you might have a leg up on the others. For those kids who didn’t have this advantage, Halloween was a time for them to challenge their artistic and creative side. (Those aren’t wood boxes, those are Frankenstein’s shoes!)

Years later, there were a few movie studios who challenged the right to purchase costumes and began a war by copyrighting/licensing them. I think for many of us, it killed a little piece of Halloween in our hearts. Halloween, for those who ran to the stores as soon as they were stocked for the holiday, began to see an increase in prices reflecting the added costs. On the bright side, it further encouraged families to be more creative.

Since then, copyright laws have grown deep, hidden roots.

In the mid-to late 2000’s, comic conventions and Cosplayers faced backlash when corporations attempted to make their move in this arena. NOTE: I’m not a lawyer, and I will never claim to have an expert grasp of the fine print of the law. But I would like to make a note to the creators of these characters who we love so much: Without this craze for dressing up to embody the spirit of our inspirations, would you have the free publicity and continued success you have now?

Let’s use our original example: Zombies.

 It would be impossible to count the number of movies, books, poems, and costumes that personify the zombie culture. Does any one person actually “own” it though? Can you put a copyright on a type of zombie and claim it as your own? The background story, of course. If there’s a unique quality which can be proven without a doubt to be uniquely yours, I suppose you could.

I, for one, am all for the Right of Creativity and Expression. I want to see my beloved characters explored in new ways when it does not harm the integrity or reputation of the original. Call it my inner Geek-dom, or call it my rebel nature. Whatever  you call it, I know I’m not the only person who has sat down and analyzed a movie and the creature’s plausibility. (Can a zombie really run after being dead for 30 days? Can a werewolf really rip out of its skin and no one find the remains, then just shift back?)

We are grateful for George A. Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead” (1968) because it gave us a reason to fear the dark, but because it also made us ask, “What if?”

What if we could rise after we died? Would we be hungry for brains? Why brains? Would we attack other humans? Why not animals? Would our bodies have muscle memory of how to open doors? Would there be any brain function, and if there was, would it be enough to shamble…let alone run?

There are Voodoo Zombies, there are Fungus Zombies, there are Virus Zombies, there are medically induced zombies … while you can argue that some characters are recognizable (Jason, Ash, Freddie) … are zombies?

I mean they shouldn’t be. They’re dead! And if you want to get really nit-picky, once you’re dead, you relinquish rights to everything. Right??

Ok, Ok, not the same thing. I know this post is half-silly, half-serious, but I’m curious. As the CEO of a small, independent publishing company, I see this everyday. People never grow tired of zombies (or vampires, or werewolves, or demons, or … ). I have to admit, neither do I.

Mark Deloy came to me with an idea last year. I wanted to do a fun anthology so he asked, “How about Monsters Vs Zombies?” and my heart swelled with love. Man, this was a great idea! I couldn’t wait! When we put out the “open call” for our anthology, Monsters Vs Zombies I ended up with more than I bargained for. I wasn’t the only one who loved the idea.

We had hundreds of submissions. That’s not so unusual you might say. I normally would agree, except I must remind you…we are a small, independent publishing company and we had been “alive” for less than a year! There were so many good stories I could not refuse all of them. I decided I would have to do two volumes. That’s when the idea came to us. We would make it an annual anthology! So many monsters, so many zombies. This could go on, and on, and still remain fun!

None of this would be possible if the word, or concept of “zombie” fell under protection of Copyright Laws.

Now, I’m an author, and I’m a creator. I do understand the importance of such laws. But I also understand-as humans-we are storytellers. We write what we know. There are no ‘new’ stories to be told, my friends. Only new angles and plots. It’s a dangerous road, for sure. I, for one, try as hard as I can to be original but I cannot help but pay homage to my heroes and inspirations.

When I wrote The Unfleshed: Tale of the Autopsic Bride I knew that it was similar to the story of Bride of Frankenstein but it was my own version. I changed enough of it to – hopefully – never be accused of “stealing” or “offending” its creator … The creator who made the movie as a follow up to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Universal may own the rights to the green, box-head-and-bolts appearance of the Frankenstein Monster, but Mary Shelley is the only person who owns the words who inspired the look.

Chime in! What are your thoughts?