May 19th, 2016


Writing Excuses 11.20: Horror As a Subgenre

Writing Excuses 11.20: Horror As a Subgenre


Key Points: Why does horror make people turn the pages? Horror is universal. We recognize it, we connect to the characters in it, and we get a moment of catharsis at the end of it. We like to think that perhaps what we imagined is worse that what the author came up with. We want to know how it turns out and hope it will be a little better than we expect, but we're wrong. So in adventure, we want to see how they overcome, while in horror, we want to see how big the train wreck is at the end? Rubbernecking for horror? Yes, although some people want to be afraid, they want to be anxious. But still safe! You get people to keep reading by focusing on how the horrific element changes the story, the characters, the plot, the setting. Horror exerts profound change on characters, it illuminates and motivates the character. How to you transition to a horror segment? How do you get into the cave? Anticipation, dread, being afraid of the moment and what is coming. A horror segment can expose important points about the character. Don't forget uncertainty. And development. And loss of control. Oh, and visceral sensory details. Open the door to the basement, and it breathes on you. How do you hybridize horror? Loss of control. Beat, beat, stab. A moment of horror may be seeing the one thing that's out of place, realizing that this is a clue to something terribly wrong about to happen, and the emotional reaction to that. Look at the contrast -- horror in normalcy. Use the inescapable certainty that the character you love is going to do the wrong thing, because they have to. Horror can make the humor funnier, the action actionier, and the love lovier. Horror as a spice can set the reader up to really enjoy the good stuff.
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[Brandon] All right. It's been great. I have to actually cut us now, so that we can…
[Brandon] I know.
[Dan] You have to cut us now?
[Steve] Wait a minute.
[Mary] Wait! [Scream]
[Brandon] Mary, you have some homework for us?
[Mary] Yes. So we've been talking about using this as a spice, and the contrast that you can get. So I'm going to ask you to write two things. It's basically the same scene, but the first time, I want you to write it so that there's a funny element and then tragedy or horror happens. Then, I want you to take that and reverse it so that the second time you write it, the horror comes first and then the comedy.
[Brandon] The exact same things?
[Mary] The exact same things, but just reverse that so that those elements are in different relationships to each other. So that you can see what happens when you start flipping these pieces around.
[Brandon] Excellent. Once again, thank you Steve.
[Steve] Thank you.
[Brandon] This has been Writing Excuses. You're out of excuses, now go write.