By: Trista Herring Baughman
Countdown to the most spectacular time of the year-the Spooky Season crowning moment-has begun. If I’m honest, it started last year on October 32nd. (Yes, that’s a thing. Didn’t you know? ;))
Take a deep breath. Do you smell that? The cool night air brings with it familiar scents; freshly fallen leaves, campfires, adventure — Ahh! — and pumpkin-spice everything!
Your favorite creepy songs are on Spotify. Hocus Pocus is playing on some channel, somewhere, every night. The neighborhood is starting to look like a haunted forest. (Goblins and Witches and Ghosts! Oh my!) These Autumn tokens evoke the phobophilia (the love of fear) inside writers and movie watchers everywhere.
While not everyone enjoys a good horror movie or book this time of year, I think it’s safe to say most of us do. There are so many subgenres of Horror–Psychological, Killer, Monster, Paranormal–that can be further categorized into sub-subgenres. From slightly spooky to gory and disturbing, there’s something for everyone.
What is it about Horror that so many people love? What is so intriguing about menace and murder? And where might one find inspiration to write such stories? I have a few ideas.
Why we love Horror
Idea numero uno:
Curiosity. What makes a serial killer tick? Which characters will make terrible decisions and die? What would you do if you were in the same situation? It’s like looking at that roadkill on the side of the road. (You know you’ve done it.)
Ask yourself the above questions when you’re crafting a scene to keep yourself on the right track. If you’re curious about what happens next, your readers will be. Of course, you will know the answers to these questions, but hopefully, you will keep them guessing. At least for a little while.
Idea number two:
Perhaps our love of Horror is more thrill-seeking in nature. We’ve all experienced an underlying need to prove ourselves to our peers or significant others at some point. For example, riding on one of those crazy carnival rides (that you were dared to ride). It spins you around until your guts creep up into your throat and threaten to spew all over the gyrating world below. Fun times.
Or perhaps you find yourself on a date to see a scary movie. The lights are dim; the foreboding, anxiety-inducing music is playing. You know something awful is just around the corner and then BAM! It happens. Your date grabs your hand with a shriek. Talk about an adrenaline rush! Think about these things as you write. What makes your heart pound?
Could it be that we’re attempting to keep our feelings in check?
If you’re depressed or lonely, or even anxious, Horror can be a welcome distraction. Shifting the source of your anxiety can make you feel more in control. And who doesn’t have that one nemesis that they daydream about turning into a potato and gouging their despicable little eyes out with a fork? (No? Just me?)
Although it’s unlikely you possess the ability to turn someone into a spud, gouging their eyes out with a fork is doable. However, I must point out that this is frowned upon in most civilized societies. You’d likely end up in the looney bin.
That latent lynch-mob mentality lies deep within us all. Reading, watching, and especially writing Horror, allows one to “act” on their darker urges without physically acting on them. Think of this as a form of release, if you will. And this is a terrific place for inspiration. Take those forbidden desires, those impermissible longings, and transform them into a spine-tingling tale.
These are just a few reasons why we gravitate to Horror. I’m sure there are many. What are your reasons? What inspires you to write it?
If your own experience is lacking, or you’re looking for inspiration to write horror, pick up a novel. There’s no better way to fill your creative psyche than to curl up with a good book. Dim your lights, leave that window slightly ajar so that your curtains billow eerily in the breeze. Now you’re ready.
Here’s a list of some well-known horror writers and their work to get you started:
- Edgar Allan Poe – The Cask of Amontillado
- W.W. Jacobs – The Monkey’s Paw
- Stephen King – Secret Window, Secret Garden
- Henry James – The Turn of the Screw
- H.P. Lovecraft – The Call of Cthulhu
- Bram Stoker – Dracula
- Shirley Jackson – The Haunting of Hill House
- Dean Koontz – Night Chills
- Ray Bradbury – Something Wicked This Way Comes
- Neil Gaiman – Coraline
- Clive Barker – Books of Blood
I hope I’ve given you some insight and inspiration. Happy Spooky season; don’t forget to check your backseat for serial killer contortionists.
Trista Herring Baughman is a proud military wife and a homeschool mama to two handsome (if she does say so herself) sons. She is the author of The Magic Telescope. Her second book, Zombiesaurs, will be available soon at Barnes & Noble Press. You can find The Magic Telescope on her website, or catch up to Trista on Facebook.