The Horror of it All

The Horror of it All

by J L Hill

There are two genres of writing that lends itself to every other, romance and horror. Every story contains a love story. But even more, every story has suspense and fear, the basis of horror.

You can dissect any story, be it sci-fi, fantasy, or romance and you will find suspense that moves the plot along. And a fear of not knowing what will happen next that keeps you reading. I am not a horror writer. I started out as a science fiction and crime author, but my two biggest influencers and favorite authors are Edgar Allan Poe and Stephen King. Both men include the five elements of horror in their stories, suspense; fear; violence; gore; and the supernatural.

For Poe the violence is implied in his plots. In the Cast of Amontillado, the plot for Fortunato’s murder, buried alive by being walled inside the depths of Montresor’s wine cellar, touched on the horror of the day. Death from starvation in a tomb would be worse than shooting, stabbing, or bludgeoning. Also, there was the fear that someone who was supposed to be a friend could kill you so easily and get away with it because there was no evidence of the crime. In Poe’s time, and still today, people do disappear without a trace.

If Poe is the father of horror, then King is his favorite son. He weaves supernatural elements into the lives of good but flawed individuals whom you immediately take pity on and fear for their lives. Then soaks the whole thing in blood.

The inspiration I get from his writing leads me to stories with a dark slant on life. King’s Firestarter is a great example of a sci-fi that subtly crosses over into horror. A little girl must use the abilities that she inherited from her genetically altered parents against an evil government entity that created her. All while she is hunted by an Indian Shaman. The government “as the monster”, is a modern-day trope.

In the Shinning by King and the Masque of the Red Death by Poe, the Specter of Death hunts the main characters through rooms of partiers until time finally runs out. They are physically and psychologically terrifying. I like using that combination in my novels as it builds fear in my readers knowing my characters cannot escape the inevitable. No one can. You feel the horror, inside and out, building as you are pulled, chased, and driven to your death.

The fantasy genre seems like it would naturally lend itself to horror. The supernatural, ghosts, demons, and all sorts of monsters find a home on its pages. But the reader already knows this is an unreal world and therefore comes with a barrier to fear. To overcome that feeling of “this is not real”, fantasy authors must use a good amount of blood and guts. The gore must be overly descriptive to the point of repulsiveness. A simple stabbing won’t cut it. There needs to be the three d’s, decapitations, dismemberments, and disembowelment. The reader needs to be shocked out of his world. The Murders in the Rue Morgue Poe shows the world the bestial nature of killing. 

The reason the element of horror pervades all forms of fiction is because people like the feeling of life being out of control. It is the same reason why we like the roller coaster, for a short while we feel totally free. We go wherever the ride takes us. There is danger, yet we know we will arrive safely at the end. We hope.

You can find elements of horror and dark themes in my novels, Pegasus: A Journey To New Eden, Killer With A Heart, Killer With Three Heads, Killer With Black Blood, Killer With Ice Eyes (Killer Series Book 1 – 4), and The Emerald Lady.

You may also like...