“I wants to make your flesh creep”
(From Charles Dickens – Pickwick Papers)
The world of horror writing is tied up stoutly with the world of suspense writing. And, for me, every tale of horror should ultimately be about the struggle between the forces of good and evil. This struggle can be outside ourselves, as in the fight between the Devil and God (or whatever your beliefs deem him/her to be), or inside ourselves as in the fight between the good and bad in all of us.
In my opinion, this Manichean (between good and evil) tussle is the essence of all supernatural thrillers and not the gore and senseless bloodlust you see with many ‘horror’ tales.
Some of the best horror writers in the modern era have used fear and suspense so skilfully that readers go to bed with one eye on the curtains! And yet they use no actual violence. Because ultimately fear (emotion), is in the mind of the reader.
Horror writing, I believe, is more than mindless violence based on screams and monsters. It is the human experience woven into fear of the unknown and fetched up from the darkest corners of our minds. The world of horror writing for me is essentially the world of the everyday but with twists (maybe paranormal?) thrown in that seamlessly take the reader on a journey of ‘what if’s’ and hopefully scare the pants off them because somewhere in the deep primal subconscious we wonder ‘could it be possible?’
First of all horror writers must aspire to produce good fiction with all the requirements that entails, i.e. conflict, suspense, good characters, rising tension, meaningful settings, and proper resolution. Then the curtain can go up and the terror can start…
So what do you think? Do you prefer blood and guts or more subtle tales of terror?