I have always enjoyed the little frightful thrill I got from reading horror fiction. I would read Edgar Allan Poe and afterward could only sleep if the lights were on. Did that stop me? Of course not. I had graduated to reading Stephen King by the time I was 12. The first King novel I read was The Stand. (An ambitious piece to read for someone that age. I was so proud that I could even finish it. It was so long. I always thought it was a testament to how good it was that I read it all within a few days. It was the longest novel I had ever read at that time.)
It was after reading King, I gradually began to realize that I wanted to try my hand as a horror writer. As I grew older, I saw that being good at writing horror was not that far off from being good at writing comedy. To write comedy, you need to know what makes people laugh. To write horror, you have to know what makes people run screaming from the room.
It all comes in steps … in order to be effective as a horror writer, you have to be a good horror reader. Know thyself.
“He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened.”
― Lao Tzu
You have to begin with analyzing why YOU read horror. What scares YOU? Also, if it scares you, why do you keep reading it?
There is a cold, seduction to facing one’s fears in a good piece of horror fiction. It will horrify, scare, or disturb you, but you won’t be able to stop yourself. You are compelled to walk in the direction of that noise you heard in the empty room in the middle of the night.
That’s why I don’t like to read stuff that is just gratuitously gory. It grosses me out, but doesn’t scare me. Causing real fear is an art.
Once you know what frightens you, then you should begin to take a closer look at what frightens other people.
I recent enjoyed a listing of the top things that scare people at the LiveScience website. While not completely in-depth, it hits on the major fears. I can think of a few things that I am afraid of that are not included in that list … can you?
If you have some interesting things that scare you and are not listed in the most common fears, then why not write them down and examine why you’re afraid of that scary clown face, or the way tree trunks look when they’re wet (some species of tree trunks look snake-like after a rain).
Once you examine these fears, you might just hit on some ideas that are truly, uniquely frightening. If you are an effective writer, you can present that idea to the hungry public in dire need of a good scare.
Until you write that treasure of terror … take a peek at the common fears … Read … enjoy …