For those of you who may not know the movie “Hellraiser” and the franchise it spawned was based on the novella “The Hellbound Heart” by Clive Barker. When I first read “The Hellbound Heart” it was because I had seen that Hellraiser was based on a novella and I thought to myself (having not overly enjoyed the movie) that the novella had to be weird or at the very least something drastically different than I was used to. So I listened to a few reviews of it and decided that even though years before when I’d watched “Hellraiser” I didn’t like it I should read “The Hellbound Heart”.
I was shocked. The book starts with a truly horrific scene that I thought was just gratuitous when I’d first seen “Hellraiser” but in the light of the book with the intensity of the writing I really enjoyed it and overall I learned a lot from the Novella.
How few Characters you need for a great story– There are 3 characters that matter in this story and the cenobites. Every character including the cenobites is well developed and understood. It goes very far to show you what you can accomplish by keeping story simpler with lower character counts.
Writing Sexual Content– Sexuality is prime and center in this book. Lust and the need to fulfill our sexual desires is the cause of the puzzle box being opened and the Cenobites being called. The way the sexuality in the book is talked about is done mildly at times and bluntly almost in your face at others. It drew me in and made me more interested because it had context and drove the story. Indeed the story could not have happened without sexual desires.
Graphic Scenes– There is a time and a place for intense graphic content. This book made me feel ok with writing almost any graphic even into my own works so long as it feels right for the story. I almost feel ashamed that I had to see someone else do it gracefully before I felt like it was ok.
Shifting Character– The bulk of the novella is about Julia and her interests in Frank and her helping to bring Frank back to being his old self. The first character, arguably the main character, is Frank. We start seeing him go to hell. Then we focus on Julia as she and Frank’s brother (Rory) move into the old family home. Slowly the story moves from a focus on Julia to a focus on Kirsty, Rory’s friend, and finally, ends with a confrontation with the Cenobites. The Ceobites are a huge part of the story but they really aren’t in the book that much. When they do show up they really bring the horror but at its heart, this novella is about the people, not the monsters. Showing a focus on the people and sort of handing it off as the story goes made the story relatable for me. It made me even appreciate the move.
Verbiage– I was taken by the language of this novella. The way it was written, the word choice and the voice of the piece really spoke to me and made me want to read more. It made me think about my own voice as a writer.