The following article is courtesy of Ty Schwamberger. You can catch a little of the background on how the article came to be on his website at: Check Yourself At The Door
If you look up horror (a noun) in a dictionary, you will find something similar to the following (your findings could be different depending on the name of the dictionary you’re looking in) – an overwhelming and painful feeling caused by something frightfully shocking, terrifying, or revolting; a shuddering fear: to shrink back from a mutilated corpse in horror (I particularly like the dictionary’s example of something horrific).
But, I think horror, true horror, is something that is embedded deep within the human psyche and can be different from person to person depending on the past experiences you’ve gone through. This also explains why some people like watching or reading scary stuff, while some do not.
Let me explain.
I think, at least to some degree that all people like to be scared. It is just part of human nature. Have you ever noticed someone cover their eyes when watching a scary scene in a movie? Sure you have. These people act like they don’t want to see what is happening, but they’re still looking through the spaces in between their fingers. Some people say we, as humans, are inherently good. Overall, I believe that is true. But, at the same time we all have a ‘bad’ side. It is that bad side that comes out when we stare at the news and watch the devastation that some mad man just caused on the highway. If we didn’t like hearing about other people’s misfortunes we would turn off the news, flick the off button on the DVD player or put down the book. But, we don’t. Instead we just shake our heads and think (and never or rarely ever say out loud) “I am so glad that it didn’t happen to me.”
Personally, I like writing scary stuff simply because that is what I have always been into (I grew up watching the slasher films from the 1980’s). I like how a horror writer can make pretty much anything into something scary.
For instance, a horror writer can start a story with a man walking a cute dog down the street, enjoying the outdoors, his life and his dog. Now, you can make that scary by having a madman in a car jump the curb and taking them both out. Say the dog dies and the guy ends up in the hospital and has to fight for his life. Then after getting out of the hospital, perhaps the guy goes on a mission to find the reckless driver and put him out of his misery.
See what I mean? Even the everyday things we enjoy (walking a cute dog down a nice quiet street in middle America suburbia) can turn into someone’s nightmare.
That is what writing horror is all about. Trying new angles on a classic story or character or writing about something no one else has ever thought about before.
As far as those out there that say, “I don’t like watching scary movies or reading scary books” – you better check yourself at the door to your high school English class. Because if you like ‘classic literature’ than you’ve probably read horror before (Romeo and Juliet killing themselves in the name of love is pretty horrific and pretty much just downright dumb) and might have even enjoyed it (those stories were always too tame for my taste). And if you watch your local news – guess what? – you’re watching horror taking place in real life (which is far worse than any writer could come up with – maybe) and … ok, I better stop before I get on too much of a rant here.
Horror is all around us whether or not you enjoy watching or reading it. It’s in your face in the media – the made-up stuff and reports of unfortunate things that happen to innocent people on a daily basis. Some of it is fascinating in a macabre sort of way (the made-up stuff, of course … ha ha), while some of it is just downright sick. I guess when it comes down to brass tacks, horror means different things to difference people – but really it’s all the same thing – horror. So, if you’re one of the people that look down on those who like to watch a good scary movie or read a great horror novel, you better watch who you’re bashing, because more than likely you’re just putting yourself down as well.
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