Writing Excuses 10.3: Lovecraftian Horror

Cherie Priest joins us for our “wildcard” episode on Lovecraftian horror this month. We’re still doing the master class format, and part of that format is that once per month we’ll have a guest, or otherwise step away from the month’s topic a bit.

This episode talks about what Lovecraftian horror is, its influence on genre fiction, and the tools it offers for modern writers.


Take a character, and from that character’s point of view, describe their reaction to something horrific and awful, but do so without describing the thing itself.

Maplecroft, by Cherie Priest, narrated by Johanna Parker and Roger Wayne.

12 thoughts on “Writing Excuses 10.3: Lovecraftian Horror”

  1. Wonderful podcast, as usual. A special plea: this week’s is live, so it’s worse than usual, but for the love of Pete would you please figure out your sound issues. Every episode is clipping and distorting. Either your output levels or your mic inputs are way too hot. It’s abrasive and it makes listening to my second favourite writing podcast physically painful. Otherwise, yah, immense content as always. You rock etc.

  2. Once again, an episode where I read title and description, go “meh, that topic doesn’t affect me, but let’s listen anyway, for the fun”, and than realize “DUH”:

    Some of my WIP is definitely not Lovecraftian Horror, but an action/adventure/drama/comedy mix; nevertheless, the last act will go “dark places”, I mean, really, and in a way that has to be very specific, and needs to turn a couple of Tropes on their head. And several of the ideas that are explored in the podcast are surprisingly relevant and inspiring.

  3. “Nobody hates anything that they’re not afraid of.”
    Ah. the great debate killer! Just attach “phobic” to the end of a word and you automatically discredit the arguments of the other side. It is the “have you stopped beating your wife?” of arguments. Fortunately, it works both ways…
    That said, Lovecraft actually was a pretty nutty, racist, classist, Darwinian snob. If you weren’t as “sophisticated” as he, you might as well be some kind of monster crawling out of the sea, especially if you were one of those idiotic Christians. He was actually married to a Jewish woman for awhile and accepted her because he saw her as “well assimilated”. Both his mother and father died in the same mental institution, and I believe there was more mental illness in the family. But I think all this actually made his writing all the more intriguing. As Cherie said, he was The Other.

  4. @Derth: Absolutely! “-phobe” and “phobic” aren’t particularly useful if you’re trying to have a discussion, unless you’re talking about actual crazy people with actual phobias. They’re GREAT if you’re trying to halt all discussion. They’re practically Godwinian in that regard.

    But yeah, Lovecraft? Actual crazy person with actual phobias, plus a suite of sane-but-vile biases. Hell of a writer, too. These things are not mutually exclusive, as Cherie points out.

  5. I’m loving the new format. Wouldn’t hurt my feelings if you did all the same w/out the wildcard., Your posted casts I think are off from the recorded order, don’t screw w/ my mind, it’s screwed up enough already.

    Thanks again for lo these many years of writing lore.

  6. Howard, I have been dying to read “Flight of the Runewright” ever since you posted the opening on your site, but money is super tight for my family right now. So, if that anthology ever goes on sale, would you please be sure to let us know either here or on your blog?

  7. This one is a struggle; certainly putting me outside my comfort zone. Freewrites aren’t getting me anywhere. When in doubt, leverage what you know yes?

    I know I am afraid of what changes are occurring to the planet. I am also afraid of those people that deny it. So I am attempting to somehow leverage that knowledge.

    First attempt from a climate denier has stalled. hmmm. Will try again from someone afraid of what happens after all the tipping points have happened.

  8. There is a filk song called “Where of Where has Cthulhu Gone,” Sung by Leslie Fish. The song is about why Cthulhu and the other great old ones aren’t around anymore. The song posits that they fled Earth after a certain bomb was first used in August 1945. The idea being that the old ones realized just how powerful and dangerous humans had become.

  9. Something clicked :)

    My struggle has been replaced with two versions of the theme I mentioned previously.

    While very rough right now, 2500 words on the side of those who fear what is happening climate wise, and 2700 words from the side of deniers. I thoroughly detailed fear, horror then terror building up to the climax until the protagonist reaches a breaking point. Then I modestly describe the results.

    Thanks for the wildcard!

  10. I found this an interesting exercise. It really made me think about how to provoke some kind of emotional response to a thing by showing someone else’s emotional response, instead of by showing the thing itself. Also, I discovered how many ways there are to accidentally slip into describing a thing. Saying a sound was a whisper, or a cackle, or a shriek, or a sigh is describing it. Even saying that it was stronger, or louder, than it had been, or that it was horrible, or overwhelming, is still describing the thing itself, not the character’s reaction.

    At any rate, this writing prompt made for some interesting mental gymnastics. Thanks, Howard. :)

    Here’s what I came up with:


  11. Ho, ho, ho… Here comes Cthulhu, here comes Cthulhu, right up over your toes…

    Anyway, here’s the transcript. Fair warning, I had the Elder god’s cold last week, and did the transcribing around sneezing and blowing, which means I may well have made some mistakes. If you find something, let me know, please?


    Also available in the archives.

Comments are closed.