Project Horror Writer's Review : Forum : Horror questions


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Horror questions

11 Years Ago


Here's some quick questions for you all to discuss.  What is horror?  What does a story have to have for it to be horror?  What sets a horror story and a suspense story apart?

 

Discuss!

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[no subject]

11 Years Ago


At first I thought it would be relatively easy to answer these questions, but as I actually attempted a reply I discovered otherwise.  I even found myself wondering, at one point, if "horror" is simply a way of marketing books, stories, and movies to the masses.  Mainly, I was thinking of Cujo by Stephen King.  If you ask anyone on the street what genre this novel falls into, they will immedately answer, "Horror, of course."  But there are no real supernatural elements in this tale and none of the traditional trappings of a horror story (vampires, werewolves, etc).  A dog contracts rabies and terrorizes a mother and her child (in a nutshell).  Yes, this is a horrifying ordeal.  But so is freezing to death in the wilderness . . . and no one has ever referred to "To Build A Fire" as a horror tale.  So what does it boil down to then?  Style?  Perspective?  What seperates Cujo from any other man vs nature tale?  This is something I'm going to have to think on a little further.
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[no subject]

11 Years Ago


I'll have to agree with Todd. i'm going to have to think a little more on this question before fully answering it.
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[no subject]

11 Years Ago


    Okay, I just reread "To Build A Fire" and I really do believe the difference lies in perspective.  In his story, London's focus isn't on the horror of freezing to death, it's mainly on the physical struggle to stay alive.  Cujo, on the other hand, delves more into the psychological aspects of facing death in a grisly manner.  So stemming from this, I would have to say that for something to qualify as horror it would have to elicit, or strive to elicit, some sort of primal and visceral emotional reaction from the reader.  Most often this takes the form of fear, but revulsion and a general uncomfortableness can also come into play.   Some of the best horror I've read hasn't necessarily been scary but rather . . . disturbing, I suppose is the right word.
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[no subject]

11 Years Ago


Well, for me it's all about the mood... creating an emotional reaction in the reader. As Poe said, a short story should be an effort to create a singular effect in the mind of the reader.

A story should be like a grand performance, a play set on the stage of the readers mind with characters, stage props, music and lightning.

Aside from emotional impact the other important reason for storytelling is to impart some lesson, moral or knowledge to the reader... like Aesop or Dickens, etc.

So what is a Horror Story? I would say it's one that creates a persistent mood of terror, of anxiety. One that makes your heart race and you feel like you're being watched by unseen eyes, one that makes you jump at the slighest noise and sleep with the lights on.

 

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[no subject]

11 Years Ago


Hmmm, these are very interesting questions.  It would seem easy to answer at first, but when you really think about it, they are not so easy.  I mean I have this point that just because something is bloody and gory it does not make it horror.  A blood fest is not always horror. 

 

I think to be called horror it has to have some aspect of human disgust, something that we would not always like to think about.  Something that makes the heart race, the mind wonder and that fascination we have with things that are often disgusting, revolting and inhuman.  Like passing an accident on the highway.  You know you shouldn't look, and it isn't right, yet you do it anyway.  Why?  Because we as humans have a morbid fascination with things that we know are not right.  That could be in appearance, say a vampire or a werewolf, or psychological like say a psychotic killer.  It is the darkness that we all have inside of us and yet we are afraid to let it out, or let it be seen.  That dark side that we hide.

 

The difference between suspense and horror is also a very thin line.  When does it cross from being suspense into horror and vice versa?  That's a hard question to answer. I think suspense is more something that makes the heart race and the mind think without going into those dark corners we try to hide.  Without delving into that morbid fascination we all have.  It is wondering what is going to happen next, but knowing it will not be something disgusting or morbid, dark and fascinating.  Yet it is exciting.  I wonder if that is where the line becomes crossed?  When it goes from being exciting and heart racing, into fascinating, dark and morbid?  Hmmm. 

 

These questions certainly need a lot of thought, and I think I will have to do some more thinking about them.  Still, maybe none of this even makes any sense to you and you look at it and think WTF is she talking about?   Ah, well don't worry, I ask myself that all the time. XX

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[no subject]

11 Years Ago


A couple of you mentioned typical horror stereo types such as "vampires" and atributed it to being some dark, almost morbid side of humanity and thus it becomes a horror story. 

 

Now, we all know that vampires and horror go hand in hand.  But what happens when someone takes something like vampires and puts a whole new spin on things that doesn't follow the idea of horror.  Look at Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles.  Yes, she uses vampires and because of that her books are sold as "horror" but once you read the books you realize that they are the furthest thing from horror and much more a study about humanity.  I guess what I'm getting at is this, is it possible to use certain elements of horror and yet the story isn't horror?

 

PS.  For Christmas my mom got me a book called "The Pyschology of Horror"  It's written by this lady that got her degree in pyschology, it's basicly a study on horror, what makes horror horror, why people like horror etc.  I haven't read much of it, but it's pretty interesting.

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[no subject]

11 Years Ago


Yes, I think it's very possible for traditional horror elements to crossover into other forms of literature and Anne Rice was the perfect example of this.  "Lullabye" by Chuck Palahniuk (one of my favorite authors) is another example.  It features a real estate agent who sells and re-sells and re-sells houses that are haunted by the spirits of their past occupants;  even more central to the story is a book of children's lullabies which contains a culling song.  The song has the power to kill anyone who hears it or who has the thought of the lyrics directed toward them.  Not to mention a necrophilic paramedic.  All of these elements could easily blend into a horror tale, but Palahniuk's style turns it more into a satire than anything else.
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[no subject]

11 Years Ago


These questions are quite a bit more dificult than they initially appear, providing me with many moment sof contemplation.  To me, horror sotries have an element that exceeds suspense stories; there is an almost supernatural or more accurately something that surpasses all rationality.  I suppose that's why I love Lovecraft; some of his work scares the s**t out of me and gives me something to aspire to.  While suspense novels//stories have an element of horror to them... certain horror stories elevate that sensation to an extreme.  Hell, I think I'm going to ponder on this a bit more and contribute some later. 

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[no subject]

11 Years Ago


Not all horror is prose, and not all horror is riddled with gore. Nor is it all murder, not all of it is about people. Read past the words, look at the concepts. Horror can be just a whimsical thought, an impulse that an author grabbed onto and ran with. Horror is what you think is horror, no more, no less. In essence, a story of a lost ring can be just as horrifying as a child being brutally gutted. It depends on the person reading it.
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[no subject]

11 Years Ago


Horror, hmmm, one thing I noticed there are many themes to horror; one that I hate is complete gore, but the ones that have an element of agony, suspense, thrill, irony, that lures all our sense of fear is what truly concieves horror.  :P 

 

----mishy

 

 

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[no subject]

11 Years Ago


I believe that horror is that feeling of being torn from your confort zone. We all have defense mechanisms we use to keep pain, fear and sorrow at bay. Horror is when these walls are knocked down.
As a horror writer I try to take away the comfort zone. Leave the reader with nowhere to turn.

I think suspense is building fear and tension without a tangible threat. Once the threat is exposed or encountered the suspense should become horror or terror.

Another thing I like to do is  make people question their moral compass. When confronted with horror, most people will turn inward to their believe system for salvation. Once you've rocked their fondation they have nowhere to turn but into the abyss.
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[no subject]

11 Years Ago


Originally posted by Dave Lounsbury

I believe that horror is that feeling of being torn from your confort zone. We all have defense mechanisms we use to keep pain, fear and sorrow at bay. Horror is when these walls are knocked down.
As a horror writer I try to take away the comfort zone. Leave the reader with nowhere to turn.

I think suspense is building fear and tension without a tangible threat. Once the threat is exposed or encountered the suspense should become horror or terror.

Another thing I like to do is  make people question their moral compass. When confronted with horror, most people will turn inward to their believe system for salvation. Once you've rocked their fondation they have nowhere to turn but into the abyss.

 

that last bit was interesting.  Could you explain a little bit more what you mean by having them question their moral compass?

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[no subject]

11 Years Ago


I believe that most people genuinely want the world to be a decent place. We'd like to believe that the same moral foundation that stops us from acting on our primitive urges, is shared by all of humanity.
A lot of people still believe that good will conquer and as long as you're a good person than things will work out.
As a horror writer, I try to corrupt this foundation. Force people to see the nasty underbelly. The truth is, our moral compass is easily thrown off balance by emotion. A rational mother will viciously and violently attack a threat to her child. Men will often abuse the women they love for hurting their ego. Once the emotions have simmered we often use our morals and guilt to rationalize our actions.
I guess my whole point is that humans aren't as in control of ourselves as we'd like to believe. Often times our morals only stretch as far as the public eye. We feel guilt because we are inclined to. Sometimes we act out of urge and sometimes because it's the acceptable thing to do. I like to make my readers question which side of the line they stand on. And why. Is it because of our moral compass or the consequences we'd face?