I’m rather surprised by how much good ink “In The Gloaming” is getting. I wrote that story as a deliberate pastiche of the EC Horror comics that I grew up with (and the pre-code reprints that came out in the 80s). It’s probably the most derivative thing I’ve ever written, and certainly one of the easiest–I think it took me an afternoon, once I came up with basic idea.
But that’s not the only nugget of knowledge in that thread.
Bestselling literary critic Jeffro Johnson chimed in by pointing out the modern writers are weak on plotting:
+Misha Burnett It’s just like +Kevyn Winkless was saying. Today’s writers are experts in everthing EXCEPT how to create a plot. The type of story you were emulating is old hat to you, but you can’t tell me you can pick up anthologies and magazines at B&N that do anything remotely like that. The techniques you use are, as +Nathan Housley pointed out, literally magic. In today’s milieu, that means that your flawless execution is going to be a bombshell. All the more so since you are going up against the most abominable of Mythos derivatives. You cannot go out and buy that right now. You just can’t
And Burnett follows up by telling us how so much modern writing simply copies the surface features of the genres it imitates:
So much of the alleged pastiche or homage fiction these days (“Lovecraftian”, “Hard-Boiled”, “Space Opera” and so on) feels like the “sporty” versions of mid-sized cars that auto makers like to produce.
You’ve got the same engine and drivetrain as everything else on the road, but we’ll stick a spoiler on the back and a tach on the dashboard. The people who buy the cars don’t even know the purpose of those design features, they just look cool.
I see the same sequence of events (I hesitate to call it a plot) repeated over and over, with different trim.
Glue some gears on it, and it’s Steampunk.
Glue some tentacles on it, and it’s Lovecraftian.
Glue some 40s slang on it, and it’s Hard-Boiled.
And so on.
The idea that the structure of the story is a consequence of the overall esthetic just doesn’t seem to occur to people.
This right here is instructive. It’s simply not enough to emulate the most well-known features of a genre; instead, look into what assumptions that classic genre made if you want to truly capture its spirit.
That being said, there is no shame in combining an older aesthetic with a more modern aesthetic — but it requires you to understand why the older aesthetic worked, and how to write it.