Number three in my “3 Things…” series and it’s all getting a bit scary. We’re delving into the horror genre to see what writers can learn from the mysterious and terrifying.
1) How to generate suspense
Horror thrives on suspense. Horror writers must build and sustain an atmosphere, something that prickles at the sense of both their protagonists and the reader. And it needs to exist throughout the tale, ebbing and flowing but never quite going away. All stories need some layer of suspense and tension, from questions that need answers, and so it’s worth seeing how horror writers manage it.
2) How to create characters we care about
Horror and death are inextricably linked. It’s inevitable in many horror stories that characters will die, or at least come close – or perhaps even suffer a fate worse than death. Sometimes horror writers will introduce unpleasant characters or barely written ones so they can be offed without upsetting the reader much. But these deaths will not leave an impact either. A good horror writer will create characters that we care about, full, rounded people whose fates are important. Finding out what happens to them is what keeps the reader turning the page – and that’s something all writers should strive for.
3) How to make the unbelievable believable
Horror can be very inventive. But in coming up with a fantastically scary idea, the writer must not forget to take the reader with them. However outlandish the horror, the monster, the apocalyptic event, it must remain believable. The writer has to keep things grounded, so the reader isn’t jolted out of the story, no matter how extreme things may get.
There are 3 things writers can learn from horror. What do you think? Please share in the comments.