Let’s talk about horror stories/movies and the like.
What makes a good horror story? Music you listen to when writing? Tell me everything!!
I love talking with other authors of this genre
Let’s talk about horror stories/movies and the like.
A good horror story for me has to at least be entertaining. It doesn’t necessarily have to be scary, but I just don’t want to be bored.
I actually have some playlists specifically for horror writing. One is this 1980s’ Stranger Things-esque synthwave playlist called It Came From the 80’s. And the other is a haunted choir and temple compilation.
Oooh wanna drop some links to the Stranger Things-esque music?
I hate slasher horror. Does nothing for me. I like my horror cerebral with a stealthy build up that piles horror upon horror until I can barely turn the page.
Thank you for the link! Will definitely check it out when I get a chance
I view slasher horror as not really horror. I mean the thought of someone coming along and just completely massacring a place is unsettling, albeit a bit scary, but actually watching it on the screen or reading it in a story doesn’t really do much.
But I still watch/read it because I very much enjoy the blood and gore lol.
Would you say that you prefer a more psychological horror?
I think what makes a good horror story good isn’t the horrifying aspect itself. Because, why yes this is the main basis for a horror story, it isn’t all that should go into it. I think that the build up to the horror itself makes the story SO much more compelling–and having an actual likable character, who isn’t a dumb bimbo.
I like horror stories with tension, terror, and then horror. Also emotion. A likable character that gets slaughtered, that shit gets me hard, and horrifies the crap out of me. A character that died because they’re a dumbass and I never really got to know them before? Eh, at least their death was gory… Right?
I love the slasher genre! I think it would be horror though, just not scary horror.
Agreed. Emotion definitely plays a huge part in horror that many times people forget about because they’re so intent on the blood and gore (which hey, is pretty great too)
Yes. I’m not adverse to horror scenarios but not if they are just gratuitous.
Hi @BasementWritings !
To paraphrase the legendary M.R. James, I think a good horror story is one that leaves the reader telling themselves “If I’m not careful, something like this could happen to me.” It’s horror that makes you see the real world in a more threat-sensitive light, horror that gives you unease when you’re out alone late at night or when you’re walking by an empty house. Could something dangerous, something pure evil, be lurking just beyond your perception? Something that could strike at any moment? James himself accomplished this by blurring the lines between fiction and reality: many of his ghost stories are set in the (to him) present day and in common, everyday settings that his target audience would be familiar with.
Aside from that, I think it helps if the characters are likable to the point that you’re rooting for them to succeed/survive. I once watched a Tim Conway movie that was billed as a comedy, but almost all of the jokes fell flat…HOWEVER, I still liked the movie anyway because the script made the underdog heroes really, really likable. Thus, even though I didn’t think it was a good comedy, I still thought it was a good movie
Likewise, if a story is labeled as horror and isn’t as scary as I’d hope it to be, I’ll probably still like it as long as I like the characters. True, it might not be great horror, but it might still be a great story.
As for writing music, it really does vary based on what kind of scene I’m working on. This recording of an old folk song, however, seems to work for almost any scary scene: https://thehareandthemoon.bandcamp.com/track/o-death
There’s quite a number of sub-genres; slasher (or the “B-movie style”) got mentioned already as an example. It all depends as to what one’s looking - most of the populace prefer what I call ‘cheap thrills’, the jumpscary slasher style, or even horror comedy in vein of Shaun of the Dead.
Then an opposite example would be horror that attemps being frightening on a deeper level (as opposite to the mammalian insticts of predator avoidal) - the psychological. Some popular examples would be, perhaps, japanese folkore-related horror that was quite popular in the early 21’th century. Ring, Ju-On, and so on. More recent western example of this would be “The Witch” of 2015.
The even deeper subgenre is the one that veers more into philosophical rather than psychological, and on this a good example would be H.P Lovecraft’s cosmic horror works, and the more contemporary Thomas Ligotti. You may notice that there’s no good movie examples of these - this is because the deeper into these more esoteric themes the genre gets, the more difficult it is to translate into a visual medium… especially one that would appeal to a broader audience.
Furthermore, it’s way too alien most often for the average person who’s gotten used to think of horror as this surface layer that one can see broadcasted in the everyday world, and might recoil in the face of coming into contact with & understanding the said subgenre - horror gets more ‘horrific’ the more personal it gets, and for many, it quickly gets “too close to heart”.
Most prefer their horror in the ‘cheap thrills’ category, as a means of escapism, as opposite to deeper understanding.
P.S I don’t listen to anything when writing, but otherwise like dark ambient from the youtube user “Iron Cthulhu Apocalypse”. His track titles and imagenary are great as well.
I clicked on your link yesterday. That Iron Cthulhu Apocalypse channel is awesome! Thanks for sharing it!
Have you checked out Junji Ito’s work? It’s how I was first introduced to cosmic horror.
Yes I have. I don’t usually like japanese comics - or comics in general - but Junji Ito is an exception… and for a good reason.
Junji Ito’s work is amazing! I really want to get some prints to hang on my walls
The “It Follows” soundtrack has some good horror-writing music!
That was a cracking movie. I’m sure it was based on Oh, Whistle and I’ll come to you, my Lad, by MR James.
The Thing was a horror movie that I still think is the BEST horror movie I’ve ever watched. I can’t do a lot of modern horror movies due to jumpscares with super loud sounds cause yehaw anxiety attacks, but older horror doesn’t hit you as hard with it and builds the tension much more (see Shape of Water, which I also consider horror).
Train to Busan falls more thriller to me, but that was a zombie horror movie that had my heart racing through the entire thing and didn’t hit me as hard with it.
I’m really looking forward to Little Monsters, cause I do like horror comedies, and nothing is funnier to me than schoolteacher trying to maintain pleasantness in the middle of zombie-invaded petting zoo.