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Horror Philosophy: It's Time to Be Brave

If you're currently brainstorming a shiny new horror idea, please consider this: while writing something with super widespread mass appeal sounds smart in the obvious sense, I wonder if having that goal in mind could not only hold you back on the quality of your own work, but also hold back the genre of YA horror itself.

Let me explain.

The horror genre, in general, has really dug itself into a hole. Things have become far too formulaic, and therefore, predictable, making it so much more difficult to become truly afraid while reading or catching the latest horror flick in the theaters.

Because of this, the horror loving audience has been whipped into being expectant of these formulas, and if the product doesn't follow the yellow brick road of what should happen in the typical horror story, they are displeased. Therefore, it is my belief that horror artists are easier inclined to cop out by compromising original, fresh ideas with ones that are a little more compliant to follow this mainstream path.

(For a seriously genius take on this entire philosophy, see the film The Cabin in the Woods. The underlying message in that movie is something that I believe to be groundbreaking and very important for the horror genre in general--the idea that the horror audience is like some elder god that refuses to accept anything less than its wanted situations and cliched character sacrifices.)

So why would you want to write something that doesn't have mass appeal? It doesn't sound very smart career-wise, right? Here's why I think it's still worth it: Classic style horror that is presented with a fresh, unique take is something that CAN and WILL pull the audience out of the rut that is holding horror back from being as huge as it has been in the past. And even more, it is something to be valued in the market by long time horror fans.

(So in a weird way, it's actually a very smart move career-wise, if that is something that worries you.)

The best way to gain success with your writing is word of mouth, end of story. And if your story was unconventional but still scared the person who read it, they WILL talk about it.

By showing the audience what YOU have to uniquely offer them, you are encouraging them to look outside the box as far as what they want and expect out of a scary story. In turn, the genre of YA horror can become something completely new, something exciting, something that stirs up those old feelings that the masters before us brought on: Lovecraft, Hitchcock, King.

So when you're working on your horror and coming up with the elements and characters and arcs and general scares, do NOT allow your mind to wander to that place of, "but will THEY think that this is scary? Is this what they want?"

Avoid the stereotypical roles that seem to be staining otherwise good horror: the meathead character, made to feel incompetent before being picked off; the fool character, whose spot-on insight is cancelled out by their previous foolery; the whore character, made to be ashamed of her actions right before she bites the bullet; the virgin, whose pureness and clear head pulls him or her through to the other side, allows them to survive, makes them the hero. (This is not to say that characters like this don't have anything to add-- in fact, it's actually their ultimate fate that ends up making them a stereotype, not the type of people they are.)

When it comes to horror, staying true to yourself and writing what YOU believe is scary is so much better and more authentic than writing directly for the audience, as much as you love them. And trust me, they will love you even more for showing them what they've been missing.

What say you?
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. This is seriously a brilliant post!!! As someone who's starting a horror type of a story right now, it's nice to have the encouragement to step outside the bounds :-D

  2. I did enjoy that film. Joss Whedon remains to be my writer hero. :)

    That's a downside to slasher films. I adore my slashers but there is so much repetition to how the events in the films work, the setting, and what kind of characters are involved. It'd be refreshing to see a few twists and rule changing in the genre. It'd actually be nice to see more killers like Ghostface too who can be killed off instead of magically becoming zombie-like or dream lurkers.

  3. I enjoyed your post so much I went and followed your other blog. Now I only hope it's true even though I'm afraid it's not.

    It made me think of a quote from the screenwriting book, "Save the Cat," basically that Hollywood studios are saying "give me the same thing...only different." I wonder whether a horror novel or anything else that is too different is welcome by agents/publishers or if it would go under the category of not knowing where to put it on the shelf or how to sell it.


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Item Reviewed: Horror Philosophy: It's Time to Be Brave Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Amy Lukavics