HomeWritersLiterary AgentsEditorsPublishersResourcesDiscussion
Forum Login | Join the discussion
+ Reply to Thread
Page 1 of 2 1 2 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 15
  1. #1
    Senior Member Gilfindel's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Location
    Dallas, TX
    Posts
    688

    What makes a good horror story?

    I've hit the halfway point in Simulated Assault, and I thought I'd take a moment or two to ponder my next magnum opus. (If I don't have at least five ideas percolating at once, I get bored.)

    I wrote "Lucky" for my youngest daughter, and now my oldest is asking me what her book will be about. She tells me she'd like it to be a horror story of some description, although I'll likely combine it with another genre just for fun. Could a steampunk horror story be termed "screampunk"?

    Regardless, I started wondering what the elements of a good horror story are, since I read so little of it myself. What makes such a tale gripping/exciting/scary/whatever reactions horror aficionados look for? I'm thinking more Lovecraft than King for this, if that makes a difference, but I'll take what I can get.

    Your opinions and insights, as always, are appreciated...



  2. #2
    Administrator Wickett's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Posts
    662
    I don't have much experience at all here, as I'm not a horror guy, but I can say that the biggest problems with horror in my opinion, is the lack of story and most importantly, the ending. If you can make a horror with a catchy ending then it'll be way ahead of most. Too many horrors try to be suspicious and scary even at the very end, and it just isn't satisfying.

  3. #3
    Rogue Mutt
    Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by Gilfindel View Post
    I've hit the halfway point in Simulated Assault, and I thought I'd take a moment or two to ponder my next magnum opus. (If I don't have at least five ideas percolating at once, I get bored.)

    I wrote "Lucky" for my youngest daughter, and now my oldest is asking me what her book will be about. She tells me she'd like it to be a horror story of some description, although I'll likely combine it with another genre just for fun. Could a steampunk horror story be termed "screampunk"?

    Regardless, I started wondering what the elements of a good horror story are, since I read so little of it myself. What makes such a tale gripping/exciting/scary/whatever reactions horror aficionados look for? I'm thinking more Lovecraft than King for this, if that makes a difference, but I'll take what I can get.

    Your opinions and insights, as always, are appreciated...
    You should hurry and trademark "Screampunk" before someone else does.

    What scares people varies from person to person. Generally though I think we're most scared by what we can't see or understand, which is why all those bump in the night movies like Paranormal Activity work.

  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Posts
    684
    The same thing that drives other genres: tension and well-drawn characters we care about.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Gilfindel's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Location
    Dallas, TX
    Posts
    688
    All good stories should have relatable characters, so that the reader can become immersed in the tale. For a horror story, I suspect the more effective ones rely on the slow building of tension (as opposed to "boo!" moments, which frankly don't work all that well in print), along with a continued sense of mystery. If the reader knows what's going on, then there's no tension, but the clues have to be there, building the picture up bit by bit until the final climax.

    For a Lovecraftian story, the added color comes from the macabre elements that crop up more and more as the tale unfolds, bringing the reader into a world that used to seem normal, but slowly becomes unrecognizable, like the reader took a wrong turn somewhere and has ended up in a different universe. The building unease and the growing disconnect from what is common and comfortable heighten the terror that the character experiences, and (with any luck) the reader along with him.

    I'll start sketching out some concepts for the story, although it will be another couple of months before I can get serious about it. Keep your thoughts coming, though...

  6. #6
    Senior Member Gilfindel's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Location
    Dallas, TX
    Posts
    688
    Quote Originally Posted by Rogue Mutt View Post
    You should hurry and trademark "Screampunk" before someone else does..
    Sadly, there's already a Steven Jackson "Screampunk" game out there, so I'm too late :-(

  7. #7
    Senior Member John Oberon's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Location
    Columbus, Ohio
    Posts
    3,063
    What scares me are stories about good, upstanding, honest citizens who are blind to evil in themselves. You know...married and faithful, 2.5 children, always goes to church and pays his bills...a regular guy who likes beer and football gives you the shirt off his back, but also likes to butcher young women. He views it as kind of a "hobby", or a way of "relaxing", like wood working or cars. That kind of utter blindness in a person who otherwise exemplifies all that is best in humanity has always given me the creeps.

  8. #8
    Administrator Wickett's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Posts
    662
    Quote Originally Posted by John Oberon View Post
    What scares me are stories about good, upstanding, honest citizens who are blind to evil in themselves. You know...married and faithful, 2.5 children, always goes to church and pays his bills...a regular guy who likes beer and football gives you the shirt off his back, but also likes to butcher young women. He views it as kind of a "hobby", or a way of "relaxing", like wood working or cars. That kind of utter blindness in a person who otherwise exemplifies all that is best in humanity has always given me the creeps.
    Agreed. A seemingly harmless psychopath can sometimes be a good character to use. Only thing about it is that it's been used a lot.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Gilfindel's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Location
    Dallas, TX
    Posts
    688
    Those types of characters can be truly frightening, especially when you start to project them onto people you know ;-) They strike me more as the Stephen King style of horror, though, essentially normal people doing awful things. To some extent, it's the difference between horror and terror. The latter is abject, paralyzing, personal fear, usually in the face of physical danger. The former strikes me as more cerebral, in the sense that horror is a reaction to something that the individual cannot comprehend or rationalize. Lovecraft's Old Ones were incomprehensible to the characters, and stirred a visceral response accordingly.

    I may be over-thinking all this, of course, and I suspect a good thriller combines both horror and terror in some reasonable mix. Hopefully once I start dabbling I'll get a sense of what works for me.

  10. #10
    Administrator Wickett's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Posts
    662
    Quote Originally Posted by Gilfindel View Post
    Those types of characters can be truly frightening, especially when you start to project them onto people you know ;-) They strike me more as the Stephen King style of horror, though, essentially normal people doing awful things. To some extent, it's the difference between horror and terror. The latter is abject, paralyzing, personal fear, usually in the face of physical danger. The former strikes me as more cerebral, in the sense that horror is a reaction to something that the individual cannot comprehend or rationalize. Lovecraft's Old Ones were incomprehensible to the characters, and stirred a visceral response accordingly.

    I may be over-thinking all this, of course, and I suspect a good thriller combines both horror and terror in some reasonable mix. Hopefully once I start dabbling I'll get a sense of what works for me.
    Best wishes. Just a tip, stray away from zombies and vampires. Haha.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts