The Issue I find with Horror

imageOr rather, in the amateur ones I have come across on Creepypasta, anyway

Lack of realism.

No, it’s not a real story, but that doesn’t give the writer the right to put anything they want regardless of plausibility. The story has to be plausible within the restrictions of that world; there’s only so much disbelief the reader can suspend. Imagine if your sword-wielding character in this ancient land is trying to reclaim his throne and there have been no dragons at all mentioned, ever. Then suddenly a dragon appears at the climax and crushes the whole city and declares the character king.

Yeah. What? Me too.

And if the writer wants to make the story sound like it could actually be a real life account, then it’s all the more important it has to be plausible. It irks me more in stories that revolve around physical or mental health issues, hospitals, physiology etc. Misrepresentation can give the wrong message. And because I know a little more about it, it’s very obvious when the writer hasn’t done enough research.

Recently I’ve read three Creepypasta posts that are just that. One depicts the story of a boy allegedly brain dead in a hospital setting, except he’s not brain dead. He has locked-in syndrome, and apparently the doctors aren’t aware as he’s effectively fully paralysed and unable to communicate. He’s able to describe hearing his mum crying, the conversations taking place nearby, and the beeping of the obs machine, but he can’t do a thing. Plausible? Yes, so far. If anyone has read or seen The Diving Bell and the Butterfly can fully appreciate this plausibility.

Then the doctors tell his mum that he is in a coma from which he can’t recover and they have to let him die. The character describes feeling a ‘jag’ and then he flat-lines.

Plausible? Unlikely. If they are to let him die, then why still attach him to an obs machine? Surely it’s part of withdrawing all care — why have an obs machine still attached if they won’t be doing anything about his slowing heart, dropping oxygen levels etc.?

And what was that jag? Euthanasia is illegal in most first world countries. Let’s say it’s not euthanasia. What did they jag him with? He’s paralysed, unable to show (or feel, as far as the doctors are concerned) distress, so it’s not a sedative for him as they withdraw active treatment. What else could it be? Why didn’t they let him die naturally without life support?

It seems very rushed and unrealistic to me, especially as he died so quickly, too. Seems unlikely to be anything but euthanasia.

Or put it another way, why are the doctors so sure he’s brain dead when he’s obviously got enough electrical brain activity to generate these thoughts and process the sounds and sensations? Brain dead people do not have reflexes (think tendon-tapping and knees jerking) or brain waves. But we don’t have equipment to detect electrical brain activities.

Except we do. So that’s highly unlikely they would misdiagnose him as brain-dead. Having said that, someone has subsequently posted me a link saying doctors have misdiagnosed brain death before in a man who had locked-in syndrome, so it’s not entirely implausible. The entire story is implausible, however, and can potentially give people the idea that doctors will kill you if they’re convinced, even if erroneously, you won’t survive.

A second story I read was of a girl who was born with facial abnormalities and had her face burned off by bullies. She then takes a knife and transplants another girl’s face onto her own burned one and masquerades as her at school.

So many things wrong with this. You’re saying a medically untrained teenager surgically removed another girl’s face and undergoes self-transplantation of face tissue? Did she anaesthetise herself? How does she see what she’s doing? Does the writer have any idea how many years (answer: over a decade) it takes to train a maxillo-facial surgeon after medical school? How does she remove it all intact and remove enough of her own facial tissue to make that transplant viable?  The nerves and blood vessels? Immunological rejection of foreign tissue? Infection? The healing process — no scars? She’s that good??

Not to mention the entire implausibility of her masquerading as another girl just because she has her face.

A third story I read is of a boy playing with a mystical machine that stopped time. Every single molecule that is not the involved characters has stopped. So the unaffected characters come to the realisation that they are dropping dead if they stay still because they aren’t driving air into their airways.

I’m not too sure about the physics behind molecular movement in frozen time but biologically that doesn’t make much sense. You don’t drop dead with no warning if you’re deprived of oxygen. We’ve all been deprived of oxygen to one extent or another: exercise, holding our breaths, being in high altitude. You get dizzy, short of breath, feel a bit sick, headachey — you don’t just drop dead.

Some may argue that I’m nit-picking too much. A story requires the reader to suspend their sense of disbelief, like I said earlier, but if the story set in our world flagrantly disregards the world’s laws, how much disbelief can one suspend? If a giant crocodile came down from the sky and ate her up, is that still a plausible story? If a demon exploded from her stomach, is that still a plausible story? Hey, it’s just a story, right?

To answer your question: no, I’m not much fun at parties. I still want to enjoy horrors, though, and stories like the above are products of poor research and I’m just really too grumpy to please.  “It’s just a story” is not an excuse for poorly researched pieces. This is why researching the topic you’re writing about is so important.

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