Friday, 10 February 2012

Horror Fiction or Psychological Terror?

H - Horror
“Any horror element is as much psychological as special effects.” Christopher Eccleston

The above quote is probably as true a statement as one is likely to find regarding the finer points of writing horror thrillers, or indeed producing films.
For myself, I believe the psychological effect of the fear which is engendered in the reader, is what makes a horror thriller horrible! And scary…
It is when the everyday things that we are all familiar with turn to something unfamiliar and uncomfortable. It takes lots of real, normal, everyday detail to write good horror fiction – and then the horror comes when something doesn’t quite gel. When ordinary life is infiltrated by the extraordinary or inexplicable, that is when horror happens.

I think that is what makes horror and/or supernatural thriller writing so fascinating and so rewarding. We can (or at least we ought to) generate that psychological effect in the reader – i.e. make he/she feel scared when just one single mundane thing turns into something unexplicable. Stephen King and Dean Koontz are the masters of this style of horror story. Although, that is not to say there is no blood and guts in their stories... Just that they do not rely on the gore and mayhem to make their stories scary.

Blood and guts and so-called ‘slasher’ stories are all well and good - and many people love reading and watching that kind of thing - but they do not make me feel scared. Most of them simply make me wince.
The true horror story for me is the one where the psychological element is elevated to fearful heights; where the tension is ratcheted up to unbearable levels because the reader is waiting with bated breath for the really scary part - made all the more scary because the setting is a normal every day one.  

Of course it is all in the imagination of the reader – or is it?

 So, do you think horror is scarier when it is set in the ordinary, everyday world?


  1. Agreed. Which is Hitchcock's films were so effective.

  2. Incisive. I must find out more about the human ordinary, everyday world. Mine is quite different.

  3. Oh, definitely! There's something about those quietly chilling thrillers that get under my skin.

  4. I do think it's scarier in the everyday world. It has you looking around you constantly. Just to check.