So, I don’t consider myself a Horror writer. Science Fiction and Fantasy usually fall into my keyboard. My heart belongs to them, reading and writing.
It’s not that I have anything against Horror, because I don’t, and not solely because it’s not my way to piss on other people’s art. Although that’s a nice rule to add to your personal book.
But I don’t enjoy being disturbed by my entertainment. I get enough of that from my reality, thanks.
No, I should correct that. I’m not interested in being disturbed by my entertainment when that’s its sole or primary purpose. There’s nothing wrong with having disturbing situations in a story to advance the story or particularly having your villains do disturbing things. The first can do wonders for your characters’ development. The second can do that, and may your readers cheer when the villains get what they deserve. (And they should get what they deserve. I have a personal preference for happy endings, but it’s more important that they be satisfying endings. If you can save or redeem the villain, that can be okay, too.)
When the primary purpose of the disturbing situation is to disturb your reader, I have to ask, what’s the point? What do you get out of it as a writer? What does your reader get out of it? What is the message you’re trying to give?
Because there’s always a message, whether you intend to give one or not. And people will read things into it that you didn’t put there. That’s one of the beautiful things about being a writer: not everyone sees or reacts to things the same way.
I have written Horror, and I have sold a couple of Horror stories. I may do both again. In fact, I’ve got a couple of submission out right now to Horror markets. But I don’t read it much and I don’t watch it much. When I do, it’s because I’ve been promised by sources I trust that there’s more to the story.
On those rare occasions I’m writing in Horror mode, I don’t promise not to disturb you, but I do promise there’s a reason for it. For my part, when I’ve written Horror, the character(s) learn something or figure something out. At least the ones who survive. And maybe the ones who don’t, as well.
My own published examples, I think, back me up. First, three stories I’ve published that have been classified as horror (mostly by someone else, but remember that labels are personal), along with my intention when writing it:
“Absence of Garlic”, published in the October 2009 issue of Bards & Sages Quarterly. Sort of Vampire Noir.
“Common Ground”, published in Alienology: Tales of the Void by Library of Horror Press in May 2011. Deep space SF action on a derelict alien space ship.
These next three, I did intend to be Horror when writing writing them. All are weird (one is icky). All might be disturbing, depending on your experience and perspective. But all were written with the intent to be something more than that. Of course, your mileage may vary. I’m just the writer. It’s the reader’s impression that really matters.
“Worm Bait”, published in the Dead Bait 3 e-anthology from Severed Press in June 2012.
“Mummy Powder”, posted as a 7-part serial here in 2012. Still completely free and a good read, if I do say so myself.
(With the exception of “Mummy Powder” and Baconology, everything here also has an e-book version on Kindle and Nook, if you’re interested.)
So that’s my perspective as a writer, backed up with my own examples. Anyone else have any thoughts on horror for horror’s sake? Agree or disagree that there needs to be more?
Be well, everyone.by