EelKat's Guide to Writing Genre Fiction
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"Does good written horror have to be psychological? What with my favorite annual horror contest being announced (...link to expired contest removed...), I've been thinking about what it takes to make good written horror.
I personally like the horror that makes you scared but you don't know why. I realized that I have no examples in mind that are able to rely on gore alone to frighten people.*
In that case there are probably tons of horror-themed books that just focus on the more disturbing side of real life. I have enjoyed some that explored subjects such as parasites, the different scientific studies that have been done with corpses, the psychology of serial killers, and cannibalism. Depending on how squeamish you are, that could be horror.
It's kind of amusing to read Victorian era horror stories. Like really, that was scary? I see a lot of people get freaked out by, for instance, 'Saw'--that's horror too, isn't it? Half the time I'm just laughing hysterically at the people scared of it. I think the first Saw was way more psychological than the sequels? Never saw past the first, I liked it too much to ruin it with what I heard were terrible followups.
I'm not so sure that mere gore can evoke a reaction of horror on the written page. In film, of course -- we react instinctively to the sight of blood, and internal organs spilling out, but it's really hard to make the same thing happen with words alone. Some people have pretty vivid imaginations. And if you start describing what it feels like to saw off your own limb or whatever....That would be pretty disturbing. But would it come from the fact of what's happening, or the subjective sensations and state of mind that would lead someone to do it?
So you need to evoke the reader's own emotions to scare him. It's interesting how close to humor this is--with humor, you want to set up expectations and then derail them, but do it in a way that's safe. This is also why bad horror movies are funny....not threatened, so it's funny instead.
And you can totally have horrific nonfiction! Do people consider that horror? I mean, I know every time I bring up that one wasp which Darwin basically said proved there is no God...people get kind of 'eeeew'. But there is a conceptual side to it.Do people consider that horror? I mean, it's not written specifically to scare people...or is it.
So, thoughts? Is it possible to have a 500+ word story (going all the way up to a novel) that relies entirely on the reader's visceral reaction as opposed to the mental stuff, or vice versa? And is it necessary to have a blend? What is it that makes something terrifying? Better yet, what truly defines the genres of Horror? You'd need to get the reader immersed. The one advantage of written is you can incorporate smell, too, but I rarely see that. It's the most powerful type of memory!
*I don't actually scare, I do love a good gore scene but that's probably deep seated psychological issues. I think the best horror will manipulate with the victims (and readers) mind and psychosis. "
I like how I have readers who ask questions that are longer than the answers I write.
But uhm, wow, yes, how to answer this one? Where to even begin? You covered so much, bring up so many points and ask so many questions.
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As my long time readers will already
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Thankfully everything was saved on a separate hard-drive and the site is
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Your Questions Answered
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<<< Back To
EelKat's Guide to Writing Genre Fiction
Or Head To How To Write:
OSRIC Compatible RPGs
Poe-isk Tales of Terror
Satire & Dark Humor
Serial Pulp Fiction
For help in creating characters in genre fiction try:
EelKat's Guide to Character Creation
Most of the articles I write in response to reader questions are genre specific, making the genre section of this web site the largest section.
My areas of expertise are:
#1 Horror and all of it's subgenres esp Gorn, Tales of the Macabre (Poe style) and Gothic Romance.
#2 "Dark" (BDSM) Medieval Historical Erotica, esp gay M/M.
#3 Alternate reality speculative/weird/bizarre science fiction
#4 Dark/Gory/Slasher retellings of folklore, nursery rhymes, and fairy tales
On occasion I also write Westerns, WWII War Stories, and Dark Fantasy.
Everything I write tends to have predominately non-human characters, usually alien races of my own invention that are trapped on Earth, along side Fae races (usually Phookas, FarDarrig, and MerFolk) and monster races (Vampires and their kin.)
I do not write happy endings, villains tend to win, good guys usually die at the end, and most everything I write falls under heavy "Dark Gallows" satire focusing on taboo topics. Everything I write, even my children's fiction, walks on the Dark Side. Most of my non-children's books are M-rated for adults 21 and older. About 90% of my books have been banned and most book stores refuse to carry them.
My stories are often short, rarely longer than 35,000 words (7,000 to 13,000 word average). I write nearly as many stage plays as I do short stories. I also write children's books (early readers, why tales, bed time stories, picture books, and quick classroom play scripts.)
I do not write novels (novels are books of 90,000 or more words, most being in the 120,000 to 240,000 word range), so questions specifically regarding novels are going to be answered in reference to my novellas (a novella being a story 25,000 to 90,000 words).
I rarely write articles about any specific genre other than those listed in the link headings above, because the genres above are the genres I write.
Keep these facts in mind when asking advice from me, about your own writing career. I will gladly try to help you out, but my knowledge of writing is limited to what I know and write in my own career.
If you are looking for advice on Westerns, War Fiction (other than WWII), Fantasy, Contemporary Romance, Mystery, Action, Adventure, Suspense, Chick Lit, Romantic Comedy, Humor, HEA, etc I'm probably not the best person to be asking your questions to. You can certainly ask and I will try to answer, but I don't write these genres so they are not my area of expertise.
Recommended Books for Genre Writers:
Below are books I use as reference when writing my own books, articles, and short-stories. A quick heads up, these are not linking to pages where I review each book, here on my website! I have
a list of those review pages elsewhere . Each of the books shown below are linked directly to the site/book seller which carries it for sale, so clicking on any of the books below will take you away from my website.