Halloween is coming up this month so I thought I’d start my scaring posts now (you can tell I love this holiday). Today, I’ll be talking about a few types of horror elements in books/media.
We all know that there’s plenty of genres of horror out there. However, people often forget that scary elements can be incorporated into genres that aren’t just horror. My own book is an example – its urban fantasy with some dark overtones. I would say there’s definitely a horror element to quite a few scenes given urban fantasy’s nature of involving the supernatural. So let’s have a chat about three of the main scary elements in non-horror books.
1. Physical Horror
This is the most straightforward, to me, and the one I make use of in CALIGATION. It involves something that is physically greusome or horrifying (eg: monsters and beasts) whose threat to the characters is purely physical. This is incorporated into a lot of fantasy (as, oftentimes, characters in most genres are chased by some sort of nasty creature) and probably one of the more family-friendly types of scare.
However, it can easily become dark and gruesome, depending on the levels of violence and gore, or just make for very suspenseful scenes.
Sub-genres include body horror (eg: disfiguration) and splatter-house (eg: gore). Both of which are much less family friendly but can also be added into other genres to turn up the tension or add a bit of unpleasantness for the characters.
2. Fear of the Unknown
Used in a lot of mysteries and thrillers, this is a fear of what you don’t understand. Perhaps it’s a villain leaving hideous clues, or greusome murders with a motivation that is unknown.
It could even be something as simple as the character feeling as though they’re being watched.
With a lot of depth, this type of fear is very widely used and can be incorporated into just about any genre and can range from the mundane to supernatural. It’s a fear we all feel on a common basis. That niggling sensation you get when you walk down a dark street.
Best of all, it doesn’t have to be real. It doesn’t have to amount to anything. It just as to be there. In your mind. Waiting for you…
3. Psychological Horror
The valiant detective vs the psycho killer. This is a battle of minds and wits. Often a race against the clock to outwit and outsmart a devious person (or other sentient creature). Alternately, the slow degradation of a character into insanity as they try to come to terms with their own self-loathing or fear or hatred. This is a type of horror which generally explores the human condition.
While this can require some sort of real threat to be happening alongside the psychological horror, this is the type that will have you second-guessing the motivations of everyone around you once you’re done reading or writing the scene.
This type of scare normally takes a pretty clever interweaving of plot, if the book isn’t in the thriller genre, and should be tackled with caution.
You’ll be up all night thinking about these sorts of scares.
This is just scratching the surface, and I know there’s plenty more. However, it’s good start to get the brain ticking.
So next time you’re writing and you’re needing some conflict, have a think about what horror elements you might incorporate into your work. Readers, perhaps you can think of a time where a horror scene was found in a book of a completely different genre.
tl;dr – Scary scenes are great.