This course is about writing horror and exploring the topics that make us scared. With faster pacing, stronger plotting, and a lack of passivity, like other genres, horror is about movement. Running, fighting, hiding, arguing, making selfish decisions or sadistic ones, all while engaging with atmospheric settings on the fringes of normal literature. It is writing for senses and for pushing the reader to the edge of their comfort zone.
Whether you’re a novice writer, or you’re more experienced in fiction but have yet to step into genre, this course is a safe space to get vulnerable, icky, and to embrace particular subject matter that may have a harder time outside of the genre.
Over our eight weeks, we will read and discuss published examples of horror writing—and from subgenres like cosmic, sci-fi, erotic, splatter, and extreme—which we can use as models for our own writing. Students will be challenged to respond to different prompts, each about 3-4 double spaced pages. Then, after working with various prompts and dipping their feet into different subgenres, students will have a better idea of which subgenre to embrace for their flash fiction piece or novel premise.
This course is for students who may feel intimidated by the word “literary” and just want to write something that makes your skin crawl. We’ll go over world building, suspense, the uses of narrators, and how to follow to a grim conclusion. Again, all skill levels are welcome.
Please note that due to the nature of this course, it’s possible that some content may be triggering. Students should come to class expecting to encounter some challenging material, but this classroom is meant to be a safe space and students should be considerate of their peers and be willing to include content warnings on their own workshop pieces, if necessary.
Class meetings will be held over video chat, using Zoom accessed from your private class page. While you can use Zoom from your browser, we recommend downloading the desktop client so you have access to all platform features.
- The student will have a polished horror piece. Whether it’s flash fiction, a short story, or the premise for a larger work.
- The student will feel comfortable writing horror and engaging with the various subgenres there within. They’ll find where they belong!
- In-depth feedback by classmates, emphasizing structural critique over line edits.
- A safe space with me or with other classmates about subjects that might be considered taboo in so-called literary fiction and how to broach them.
- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes
Students will be expected to read and write for each course. Each week one or two short stories will be recommended and the student will write 2-3 pages implementing a certain facet of the reading: gore writing, cosmic writing, suspenseful, monsters, etc.
Students will be expected to write a flash fiction piece (no more than 1500 words) and share this story with the class for workshop, during which they will receive feedback from their peers and from the instructor.
Week 0: Introductions
Week 1: Setting
Week 2: Strangers
Week 3: The Villain's Perspective
Week 4: Morality
Week 5: The Proverbial Creature
Week 6: Excess gore and violence
Week 7: Putting it all together
Week 8: Flash Fiction
Alex Gonzalez is the author of Land Shark and the co-creator of horror zine You Are Not Alone. He's been published by Death's Head Press and People Holding. He's also a WGA screenwriter with representation, and his fiction is represented by FinePrint Lit. He is currently working on his second novel.
"I had the pleasure of working with Alex on the Venus Radio Theater audio play production of his story, 'Make it Scarier.' Aside from being a terrifically talented writer with a natural sense for pacing and an ear for dialogue, he’s a great collaborator… The rewriting process can be a grind, but with Alex it has been a joy. It’s lovely sharing feedback with and working towards making the best possible script possible. Working with Alex is a breeze! Oh, and the final product is great too!"
"Alex Gonzalez was a conscientious, attentive organizer of a short story reading I participated in along with other horror authors, and was able to create an excellent atmosphere for readers and audience alike. I would absolutely sign on to any other projects he may organize in the future." -,
"I met Alex through an online forum where he was posting horror stories. They were always top-notch! More often than not I got to the end and was blown away as I didn’t foresee the story playing out as it did. I contacted him out of the blue for some assistance on my own writing. He was quick with a response and super helpful in looking over my draft and giving suggestions. Of all the people who I let read my story, he was the only one who took the time to document via markup on problems, suggestions, and helpful hints. Having someone whose writing style I admired look over my work really meant a lot to me. He is a great writer and a great mentor."
"Everything is crazy and the world is ending, but [Alex’s] workshop was so fun and great! I love writing gross stuff and have really struggled knowing if there was a home for it. This was one of my favorite workshops I've ever taken FOR SURE. Thanks for everything! I hope I get to take another workshop with you in the future!"
"Alex is one of the most talented and wide-ranging writers I know. I never know what to expect when I start reading something new of his, but I know I’ll be entertained. Alex's writing can be funny, scary, horrifying, creepy, but it's never stuffy or static, and always grips me."
"Poignant and insightful, LAND SHARK is a horrific tale of obsession and transformation that speaks to the human condition."