25 Things You Should Know About Writing Horror

October 12th, 2011 by

From the deep, dark recesses of author Chuck Wendig’s mind, here are a few choice excerpts:

1. At The Heart Of Every Tale, a Squirming Know Of Worms

Every story is, in its tiny way, a horror story. Horror is about fear and tragedy, and whether or not one is capable of overcoming those things. It’s not all about severed heads or blood-glutton vampires. It’s an existential thing, a tragic thing, and somewhere in every story this dark heart beats. You feel horror when John McClane sees he’s got to cross over a floor of broken glass in his bare feet. We feel the fear of Harry and Sally, a fear that they’re going to ruin what they have by getting too close or by not getting too close, a fear that’s multiplied by knowing you’re growing older and have nobody to love you. In the Snooki book, we experience revulsion as we see Snooki bed countless bodybuilders and gym-sluts, her alien syphilis fast degrading their bodies until soon she can use their marrowless bones as straws with which to slurp up her latest Windex-colored drink. *insert Hannibal Lecter noise here*

5. We’re All Afraid Of The Dark

We fear the unknown because we fear the dark. We fear the dark because we’re biologically programmed to do so: at some point we gain the awareness that outside the light of our fire lurks — well, who fucking knows? Sabretooth tigers. Serial killers. The Octomom. Horror often operates best when it plays off this core notion that the unknown is a far freakier quantity than the known. The more we know the less frightening it becomes. Lovecraft is like a really advanced version of this. Our sanity is the firelight, and beyond it lurks not sabretooth tigers but a whole giant squirming seething pantheon of madness whose very existence is too much for mortal man’s mind to parse.

11. Characters You Love Making Choices You Hate

Suspense and tension are key components to the horror-making process. I’ve long thought that the best way to create these things is to have characters you love making choices you hate. When you see a beloved character about to step toward the closet where the unseen serial killer is hiding, your sphincter tightens so hard it could break someone’s finger. We recoil at mistakes made by loved ones, and this is doubly true when these mistakes put their lives, souls and sanities in danger.

Chuck has lots of list like this, so be sure to check them out at his website. And while you’re there, support the arts and buy his books.

For this list on horror writing, go here.

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