This post was written for the Author Toolbox Blog Hop where we share our new discoveries on the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, and blogging tips. Posted every third Wednesday of the month. For rules and sign-up click here.
I’ve read all kinds of how-to writing manuals. That said, I know that I won’t write romance, but some of my stories will have romantic elements. I include several genre elements in my work, so why not horror.
It’s October and during this month I watch, read and eat up horror stories.
Stephen King built his career on horror in the early years. Some quotes to consider:
“Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.”
― Stephen King
“There’s no bitch on earth like a mother frightened for her kids.”
― Stephen King
“We make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones.”
― Stephen King
My favorite is psychological
Some people imagine blood and guts when it comes to horror. I don’t. I’m more of the person who makes sure the windows and doors are locked because I suddenly suspect there is a vampire outside. I’m all about atmosphere and the creepy feeling that doesn’t go away after the story is over.
It’s exhilarating, and to me that’s horror!
It starts off in a normal world we are all familiar with. Then slowly changes into a world no one else would recognize.
Why it works
Horror has monsters—human and otherwise.
Darkness brings an element of the unknown it. Degrees of shadows that warp everything from playgrounds, and backyards to our neighbor’s face. Friendly streets become sinister when the lights flicker off.
We can’t help but instinctively want to avoid the imagined danger.
A flashlight is just a flashlight swinging in someone hand. But when it falls to the ground and rolls to a stop, it changes.
Without the deepened shadows, we’d easily see the fellow who dropped the flashlight bending over to pick it up.
And if we can’t see what’s there?
For all we know something’s lurking. Possibly behind the flashlight carrier. When the flashlight falls and is left untouched, there is only one answer. The answer is unique to each of our imaginations. If it frightens us, and we can’t call for help, the most we might do is watch as the batteries die.
Already imagining what we’ll find only inches from the Maglite come dawn.
Suspense is not Horror
Just as not all fingers are thumbs and all thumbs are fingers.
Suspense and tension are in all good stories. We want the reader to care. To feel the emotional escalation that drives the page turner.
Horror uses suspense with a mix of the fear factor (maybe sprinkled with the terror of it all) to drive the story forward.
Heroes are different too
In horror, we count on the hero doing more than we would dare. It has become cliché for a hero, alone and unarmed, to hear a sound and pursue it into a dark basement. It’s a cliché for a reason, fellow horror lovers.
Heroes offer hope. Out of all the things that happen, one person might live. And when we watch or read on, we need our hero to fearlessly face what scares them most. They jeopardize their lives saving others or trying to. To feel the failure, the heartache and shake it off long enough to try one last time.
Survival brings with it a giddiness that makes life sweeter, even if we still carry a little fear with us afterward.
Are you writing any horror this month? Reading some? Tell me about it.
Also: I’ve joined Wattpad. If you’re there too, let me know. Link’s on the sidebar. 😉