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Writing Horror: Making the Crucial Connection

When you are writing a horror novel, it's very likely that your original inspiration stemmed from the Big Scary of the book-- the haunted house, the killer clown, the graveyard with teeth. After all, it's that element that brings the, you know, horror of it all. It's the most important part of the book, right? It's the only thing people look for in a good scary book, right?


Don't misunderstand-- clearly, your Big Scary is very important, crucial even. But in order for it to be the most effective, it is equally crucial to blend in a hefty dose of a more contemporary aspect, in the form of the main character's inner darkness.

This darkness, whatever it is, needs to correlate with the horror aspect in a way that the reader is only vaguely aware of the connection while they are reading but highly aware of the connection after they are through.

The reading experience for them should be like any other delicious consumption, simple, riveting, easy to continue and difficult to cease. The audience should feel super connected with your character as they deal with both a straight up Scary (the horror aspect) and the horrifying discoveries they make about themselves as a human. The Shining isn't just about an evil hotel, of course; it also showcases the gritty and painfully real emotions tied into alcoholism, anger management, and how family life is affected as a result of the two.

To avoid an empty horror book with no heart and cheap scares, it is so important that the terrible things in your novel are not just happening around your main character, but with them. They, and in turn, the reader, should feel an uncomfortably intimate connection with this Big Scary due to the horror that is currently happening within themselves. It's this perfectly balanced dance between the contemporary-horror and the horror-horror that will produce a truly knockout final book that people remember.

And, of course, something that will scare the holy hell out of them.

Amy Lukavics

Amy lurks within the forested mountains of Arizona. When she isn't reading or writing creepy stories, she enjoys cooking, crafting, and playing games across many platforms. She is the author of Daughters Unto Devils (Harlequin Teen 2015) and The Women In The Walls (Harlequin Teen 2016).

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  1. Great post! Horror films that have tons of gore and jumpy moments can be fun now and again for the ick factor but horror never started out like that. Take the Victorian gothic novels. They were seeing the horror in the scientific developments of the time. Sci-Fi B-movies that ruled the 50s with alien invasions = the horror of actually at war, being invaded, and taken over thanks to WW2 and the Cold War. I'd like to see more of this kind of horror in YA too! Keeping my fingers crossed!

  2. There are so many Stephen King novels that could be used as examples to illustrate this, Pet Sematary being another one. Yes, bringing someone back to life is freaky, and even more so when they act the way they do, but the scary part is asking yourself if you'd actually do it yourself if you could save a loved one, even if you knew the way they'd turn out. That adds so much more than the whole walking dead thing..:)

    1. YES Nina, absolutely! I adore Pet Sematary and how it explores the complicated and unknown aspects of death.

  3. Oh wow. I think you've just given me the tipoff to make my Bad Monster really frightening. :-D

  4. Thanks for the post. I love to read horror as well as Writing Horror. And watch horror.
    Good tips. Helped much!

  5. Brilliant post! I couldn't agree more. :-)


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Item Reviewed: Writing Horror: Making the Crucial Connection Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Amy Lukavics