Lets Talk Horror » PenTwist

Lets Talk Horror

Lets Talk Horror

Let’s talk:  Not drama, not fiction writing, not even suspense for the moment, but the idea of horror in fiction.

The tingle that couldn’t, wouldn’t dare happen to your audience; they are allowed to live through your characters, using the carefully forged words of the wordsmith.
Benignly reviewing other authors’ attributes and hidden schemes seems to be a popular pastime with most books and classrooms and a foray of websites.  There seems to be some safety harness attached to a lack of unique thought like the gopher popping its head above ground.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

                                  Albert Einstein

Where the real trouble begins is when you initiate something yourself and express an original opinion, now that’ll get the whole community in a self-righteous uproar.
That’s when the gopher has to run in terror for its life!

“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”

                                  Anais Nin

I’ve made mention of different authors over the last year- my favorites are pretty evident.  I like to make mention of H.P. Lovecraft from time to time as a foundational figure in horror fiction.

What has my curiosity peaked at the moment is the difference between raw unattached horror and the horror that wakes all your senses personally.
The lifting of hands as you drop down tiny metal rails from hundreds of feet above the ground…, that horror.

“Fear is pain arising from the anticipation of evil.”


You know its coming, you know what to expect, yet it still makes your stomach drop and forces a scream.
Some great examples in recent media:

  • Buried – claustrophobic hell
  • The Mist – perfect ending for a horror movie
  • Drag me to Hell – silly, funny, gross – the rollercoaster

Pure horror, without normal emotional attachment, such as natural disasters or simply the unknown, have been blown out of the proverbial water by a generation of Spielberg’s, as well as brilliant CGI technology, flooding us with sensory overload.

  • The derailed train
  • The falling plane
  • The sinking ship
  • Trapped in a cave
  • Earthquakes
  • Tornados

These and many more have flooded the silver screen and HBO for so long it has desensitized the masses to the point of dealing with fear by disassociation. 

On September 11th many people across the U.S. commented on the surrealism of the events as if watching some Hollywood extravaganza while New York dealt with the reality of lost lives.
Disassociation:  A very cold day for American society.
These vivid on-screen images have brought about a recession, if not a temporary failure of horror in literature – Look at the slack volume of new horror fiction at your favorite bookstore.  Most of what you’ll find are “Twilight” wanna-be knock-off’s or “I think I’m a teenybopper witch.”     Please. 

Okay, admittedly, that’s not horror; it’s some type of hybrid genre and there are a few good series in motion.
It may be that horror in movies has reached a zenith for the time being as that audience awaits something more tragic, or exploring deeper than the core of the earth and higher than the oblivion of space.
But horror survives in its basest form when a friend jumps from behind the dark corner and surprises you.

Which brings me to my next observation:

Frame of reference – That same innocent prank to scare the breath out of us usually ends in laughter or a stiff punch on the shoulder.  However, that same prank aimed at someone with PTSD for instance, might get you knocked to the floor or send him or her to the hospital.
When emotional anchors are involved, your audience can’t seem to turn their head even though they want to.
The scene, the script, or the entire theme may not seem to affect your audience directly, but indirectly affects someone or something they care about and associate with.
Conversely, that same scene may have multiple meat hooks deep in your audience, while your associated character seems to be casually or maybe even helplessly looking on.
Love – Romance – Devotion, are three gold medal winners in associating your audience with those emotional anchors.
Husband, wife, children, or even the family pet that has become a greasy spot on the highway can become the deciding factor to hold your audience spellbound.

“I have a perfect cure for a sore throat: cut it.”

                                  Alfred Hitchcock

Then there is true evil in the form of Psychoses.
Pure evil.  We see glimpses of this in Genghis Kahn, Jack the Ripper, Son of Sam, and other very real historical tragedies…

“I do not see why man should not be just as cruel as nature.”

                                  Adolf Hitler

The above quote (which I almost abandoned for obvious reasons) proves the next…

“Common sense is not so common.”


Truth in horror only proves that there can be entire chunks of gray matter missing from the person right next to you and you might (hopefully) never know it.

Finally, a recommendation:

An excellent, five star example of psychosis in fiction is in Scott Bakker’s- Neuropath.
A must read for neurotic horror fans (pun intended).

“Give them pleasure.  The same pleasure they have when they wake up from a nightmare.”

   Alfred Hitchcock





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