What is horror, exactly?

T.C. SchuelerAbout 22 Dutch Road, About Reading and Writing HorrorLeave a Comment

Help me out, here, please. My novel 22 Dutch Road is supposed to be a horror book, but my monkeys aren’t sure if it’s got enough, well, to put it bluntly, gore. (Allergen alert: copies of the book are printed in facilities which also process gore). Is gore necessary for a “horror” book?

Per book-genres.com’s definition: “Horror stories are designed to evoke fear, fascination, or revulsion in the reader,” using either supernatural elements or psychological circumstances to evoke feelings of terror. Fear, fascination, revulsion? They sound pretty serious, don’t they? Really, am I trying to terrorize my readers? Seems like something one might get arrested for or at least get talked to sternly after having been told to stand in the corner.

Still, terror is the general point: getting one’s heart racing, getting anxious—okay, fearful. All of this is to be done vicariously, of course, in the comfort of one’s well-lit home while wearing fuzzy slippers. A cheese Danish might be involved.

So, do I have the three ingredients? Do I have fear? Stalked characters get injured under a variety of dire circumstances: auto wrecks, storms, gunfire, fits of murderous rage, so “check” there.

Revulsion? Like maggots? Not so much. No maggots. I personally find maggots disgusting. But there are distasteful elements in the book, like riotous cancer, so I think check.

Is the story fantastic in the old-school sense of that word? Well, natural laws get violated, slowly at first, then eventually, off to the races. Check.

So, fear, revulsion and fascination: I got all three. That’s enough, right? I thought so and told my monkeys—to shut them up—but they just laughed.

Frickin’ monkeys.

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