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Writing Horror: Some Inevitable Misconceptions

Happy Saturday, Spookies!

As you may or may not have seen last month on the blog, YA Highway held its first official event and oh man, it was AWESOME! We were able to meet so many teens that were passionate about books and stories and sharing a love for them, and that was really incredible.

I was talking with a very nice woman during the signing, who told me that she was an aspiring writer. We talked a little bit about writing, and the process, and then she asked me what kind of stories I wrote.

"Horror," I said, to which her face became surprised and maybe even a little bit confused, and that's when I saw it coming, and only a few seconds too soon:

The question.

The question that so. many. people. will ask you when they find out you write horror.

"But how do horror writers think of such terrible, dark things? You know, like Stephen King? What exactly does that say about him, if you know what I mean? It must take some kind of person to imagine--"

I'll just stop there because I'm sure you get the drift. The question, for the record, is of course well-meaning. Sometimes it truly baffles people who don't write horror how or why we come up with our stories, and therefore, the fact that we do must mean that we're wrong in some deliciously dark, twisted way. That we're freaks, or weirdos, or (fill in the blank as you see fit.)

The truth of the matter is this: like any genre, horror is not for everybody. The misconceptions about people who love all things scary can run from eye-roll-worthy to flat out offensive, and more than once you may find yourself facing somebody who believes that you must be a sick individual.

*Vincent Price laugh*

(But seriously. I promise. We're fine.)

So in that vein, here is a short list of that I've come up with off the very top of my head, but please feel free to add your own points in the comments:

Misconceptions and Missteps about Horror/Horror Writers

1) When people scoff at gory horror and insist that the only truly scary type of horror is the one that isn't gratuitous with gore, but more deeply psychological, in order to mark themselves as a More Thoughtful horror fan. (This is simply a matter of taste, not fact: both styles are equally legit types of true blue horror.)

2) And, likewise to #1--when people say that a story isn't horror unless it includes brutal gore, elements of the supernatural, and then death, death, and more death, with a bloody cherry on top. (And again, the term 'horror' is SO widespread, and this is only a matter of taste...the amount of sub-categories within go on and on and on and trying to degrade or dismiss certain types according to your personal preferences is counter productive to the future of the genre. Ex: "I don't count that movie as a horror." Well, it still is, just not to you.)

3) When people insist that it's really messed up to name your characters after people you know in real life (oooh, and especially if that person gets killed off.) Instead of recognizing a fun shout-out for what it is, they may think you're being passive aggressive, or just flat out Really Weird. Asigh.

4) When people assume there is something seriously wrong with you because you are able to accurately and efficiently get into the heads of the most vile antagonists, with terrifying clarity. (I would say the example of this that I've observed the most in my own life would be comments relating to Thomas Harris, the man who created Hannibal Lecter. Lecter is grotesque and terrifying in many ways, and therefore, Harris is too on a literal level, right? WRONG.) It's so sad when a good, old-fashioned Job Well Done gets turned around into something unfair about the character of the author. I've seen this done with Clive Barker as well.

5) When people speculate that there's no such thing as literary horror, or that there is no such thing as a horror book that has a quality plot and interesting/thought provoking characters. Writing horror off as empty 'trash fiction' just because you don't personally like it can be harmful to the genre.


At the end of the day, we all have our own reasons for writing and loving horror fiction. Maybe some of us have seen things in the real world that were uglier than anything we could ever think up in a book, maybe some of us are just in it for the fun, or maybe it's just due to one of a zillion other reasons related to the attraction to all thinks dark and creepy. Either's fine. And so are you.

Have anything to add to the list??

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. Not something to add to the list, but to really hammer home why a lot of people I know write horror?

    Because we like being scared.

    That's it. Not because we love gore or terrible things, but because that gut-clenching tingle of GOOD fear is wonderful. I'm not talking the "SOMEONE IS HERE TO MURDER ME" scared, which is a totally different fear and not at all fun. I'm talking that feeling you got as a kid walking through a Halloween Haunted House for the first time with all those creepy faces jumping out at you. I'm talking that exhilaration the first time you watched The Exorcist with a bunch of friends as a teenager and freaked each other out playing Bloody Mary (lolol).

    THAT is why I write horror. I don't want to hurt anyone. I want to recreate that awesome, toe-curling tension from my childhood for myself and my readers. If that makes me a fucked-up cookie, I am completely comfortable with that.

  2. Amy, great post. As you pointed out, Horror isn't for everyone. Read what you like/ don't like. Personally, I think those who write Horror are really brave. I couldn't do it because I don't really like to be scared. But I do like a good story, and Horror is often part of that. The few Horror novels I've read are still stuck in my mind. That's compelling.

    Horror is an important part of the human experience, and what better way to explore and understand it than fiction? That's what stories are meant to do, if they have staying power. Sure some are just purely for entertainment, but there are plenty of other elements at work that garner my respect. Thanks!

  3. Sarah your second paragraph nailed in on the head! Thanks so much for stopping by.

  4. Love this post! People assume all sorts of things about me because I love/write horror. I'm learning to let it go and not worry so much. If people think less of me because of my personal taste, there's nothing I can do about that.


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Item Reviewed: Writing Horror: Some Inevitable Misconceptions Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Amy Lukavics