I'm in the middle of reading Justin Cronin's The Passage which is about a vampire virus that causes the end of the world, and I got to thinking "what is it that really scares me?"
Cuz it ain't vampires...
Horror is a tough genre to write for and define, because it's so different for different people. I think, however, there is one element that defines horror that you can keep in mind while you're writing:
Think about it - the scariest thing about any story told is whether or not IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU!!!
That's why ghost stories are always so popular, because everyone hears something shift in the house when they're all alone. A board creak, a rustle of leaves outside the window, maybe a branch scraping against the siding. Everyone knows that they could have a ghost in their house, despite any lack of real evidence that ghosts exist. Or maybe BECAUSE of the lack of evidence that ghosts DON'T exist.
Think about the stories you told (or were told) around the campfire. They had their shocking moments, depending on the storyteller, but for the most part they scared the crap outta you if they took place IN a camp or a forest. Like the one you were in. The guy with the hook for a hand. Jason Vorhees from Friday the 13th. As a friend of mine used to say, "that shit could happen!"
We're less inclined, now-a-days, to believe in vampires, werewolves, the mummy etc. than before, like say, in the twenties. "So wait, dude," you might be saying, "why are vampires so hot right now? Why are werewolves on the rise?"
Well, honestly, consider this: are they really "horror" stories? I view the Twilight series as Romance. Chick-lit, almost. And Zombies are coming out left and right AS COMEDIES. Werewolves? Never really had a market because their not romantic AND not believable (just don't tell my daughter that).
No, horror writing, I think, has more to do with the unexplainable AND plausible aspects of our lives. If you put the book down worried that what you just read MAY happen to you, that's horror. And it'll stay with you for a loooong time.
And with that, I've got to go back to writing my own summaries. Two weeks and no word back from Special Agent CB! I hope she's ok!
I'm starting a new book today with that as the title. "The Strength To Stand Up. Memoirs of an Unemployed Man." People have...
Great time had at the SCBWI conference on Saturday! And a big hello to my friends from that conference who've hopefully joined us here....