In honor of Halloween, I thought I would upload a post that has to do with horror writing.
I’ve always found the scariest horror not to come from a lot of blood and gore (though as I rule I generally avoid zombie movies and anything from the Saw series), but from an internal change in the protagonist, in particular a change that’s shattered the world he or she once knew. Author Elizabeth Hand, winner of both the World Fantasy Award and the Nebula Award, made a similar point in The Writer’s Guide to Fantasy Literature: From Dragon’s Lair to Hero’s Quest: How to Write Fantasy Stories of Lasting Value, edited by Philip Martin.*
In a sense, I almost feel like the truly horrific stories are the ones that end tragically for the hero. Not necessarily on a large scale, just what the hero or heroine feared losing most, or even what it was the hero or heroine didn’t realize what it would mean losing it. Taking the “and-then-he/she-died” approach is a little too easy, but but a loss that cuts the hero or heroine to the bone, is what proves to be the truly horrific thing: what the hero or heroine feared losing, is lost; the worst fear comes true.
Even if the hero or heroine overcomes the dark horror that’s invaded his or her previously safe and comfortable world, if you want to leave your reader in chills, like in Jeannine Garsee’s The Unquiet, end it with one last frightening hook-jab in the side, as she does on the very last page. I won’t give away what that ending is, but you can read the book for yourself, click on the title to go to the book’s page on Barnes and Noble’s website.
I like to think of horror as coming from the Roman tragedies, which were indeed tipped towards the horrific end of things. There was one play where a man gets tricked into eating his own children for instance. Stomach-churning, right? Just imagine. *shudder*