A Writer's Life

A madman's quest to become a recognized author

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Being Scary

I was watching a horror film the other day and I couldn't help but think about how forgetable horror movies have become these days. This is one genre in which literature has a distinct advantage I think. When I watch a movie I never get scared any more. Most of them are all about blood and gore and hardly any substance. This sort of thing may have scared me when I was much younger but these days it doesn't even make me look away.
Books on the other hand have always been the pinacle of horror for me. While movies and books both have their respective advantages and disadvantages, books come out on top in this battle. Books have been able to scare me and leave thinking about what I read for days afterward.

A really good horror story creates a mood that is thick and unescapable. It submerges you in world where you are both wanting to find out what will happen next and at the same time scared to keep reading. Two of the most essential things I always include when writing horror are confusion and helplessness.

There are few times as a human being that you are more scared than when you have no idea what's happening around you. The confusion of being in a situation where everything is foreign is a major component of being scared. I mean, how many horror stories can really occur in your everyday life. Even familiar surroundings can become foreign when a special situation is attached. Think about your office being suddenly invaded and everyone held hostage - that is scary. Think about having to run for your life down a path that you'd never been before, the area is dark and you have no idea what you're running towards - that's scary.

Helplessness is one of those things that can really be frightful. Being forced to do something against one's will or seeing something happen to a loved one and not being able to help are both examples of this. Think how you would feel if you saw something about to cause you harm but you could only watch it happen. You stand frozen and as the danger gets closer and closer knowing there is nothing you can do about it. Helplessness is definitely scary.


At September 08, 2006 11:49 pm, Blogger jayne d'Arcy said...

This is something I am also beginning to discover with movies. The subtle horror I used to see is being replaced with shock and the grisly. I enjoy my books much more than ever I did before.

What you say about the horror of helplessness reminds me of an event my brother related to me a few years ago. He was traveling with his band down a lonely highway and they all got into an arguement. They decided to stop their van on the side of the road and my brother got out to walk and cool down. Several minutes later, in that quiet empty evening, he heard an ominous thunder. Just as he turned around to look at the van, full of instruments and four members of the band, he saw a huge winnebago barreling down the hill behind the van. It was obviously out of control. My brother wanted to shout, but he had no time. He closed his eyes, knowing he couldn't stop what was going to happen. The winnebago plowed into the back of the van. All four band members luckily survived, their instruments didn't. That night an inch wide section of my brother's dark brown hair turned white.

Terrifying reality.

At September 10, 2006 11:28 am, Blogger Russell Ragsdale said...

Thanks for that phoenix! Lack of control/helplessness is a major issue for most of us and the extreme sitution may be the reason why we carry it out into the minutia. Look carefully at the Kubric classic reappraisal of the horror genre - the Shining (1980, may be hard to find). This is control and loosing control, this is the question of what part of us is out of our control. In spite of the absence of cordwood piled bodies - this is scary stuff.

At September 21, 2006 5:20 am, Blogger Ragnar said...

Watch Japanese or asian psychological horror movies..
A lot of thinking involved but in the end, really scary..
Asian people are quite sick when it comes to horror movies :P
It seems at least..

At February 20, 2010 8:38 am, Anonymous San Francisco web content writers said...

We are only humans and we are tend to react on a certain things like those sounds and scream over the horror movie.

It's natural.

At June 11, 2010 8:48 am, Blogger Nessa Ann said...

As a writer myself, I completely agree with you. Horror is something of distinct advantage in literature. For me, movies have never captivated my soul, never made me want to reach out and crawl inside their worlds. Literature can do that quite frequently, well, good literature anyway. Horror specifically has to strike a cord deep within someone in order to be effective. The more that you are within the moment, the more you will be frightened by what happens in it. Movies tend to only provide the surprise factor as they have things suddenly jumping in your face. Older horror movies captured things much better because they were about the story still, they had intense plots that were worth hearing about. Now it seems that they just want to make you scream and I've walked out of many a movie thinking to myself, 'That didn't even make any sense.'

At December 14, 2010 8:20 pm, Blogger Kold_Kadavr_flatliner said...

Just my Way of giving back to God what He has bestowed upon this sinfull mortal. Eight, insane blogz YOU may steal/plagiarize to thy heart's content, just to arouse in you thots and ideas you may have never thunk!! Be prepared, though, Upstairs in Heaven Above, my blogz of humble wisdom and avant-garde-efficaciousness will be attributed to moi, aussi in some kinda trilogy. I don't think you'll much care in the Great Beyond, though, fulla beyond kick-some-assness and party-hardying. God bless.

At September 25, 2011 11:55 am, Blogger Dav Crabes said...

Shifting words, intermittent voices. miniskirt-stepping dirty bitch.


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