This goes without saying, but let’s say it anyway. In the horror fiction genre writing world, you have to gross out your readers. They’re looking to be shocked and appalled.
But there’s more than one way to do that, as touched on in the horror fiction Writing Rule below:
You’ve Got to Gross Them Out
Horror fiction is supposed to horrify readers. That’s what readers are seeking with this literary genre, so that’s what you’d better give them if you want to be the next big thing (or next anything) in this realm.
Whether with direct descriptions of disgusting fates or intensely emotional illusions to such things, horror fiction works intensely hard to make you feel as shocked and appalled as possible about the intentional or unintentional harm that people can commit.
We already discussed in yesterday’s Writing Challenge how easy it is to gross out your readers in the horror fiction genre writing world. That is in a purely physical sense, where their stomachs get nauseous, their insides cringe, their eyes tear up from terror and their whole body tenses.
But what about the psychological build-up? Or what if there’s never any actual horror manifested at all… only illusions to violence so disturbing it’ll keep you up at night for weeks on end?
That’s not an agenda-driven attempt to tamp down on your gross-out capabilities. It’s a reference to Tuesday’s writing Definition, which stated that the horror fiction genre writing world is a whole lot deeper than mere slashers.
Take Edgar Allen Poe. While I’ve hardly read his entire collection, to my English major recollection, he never actually got gory. Yet his works were intensely disturbing! – entirely focused on inciting the same nauseous stomachs, cringing insides, tense bodies and terror-induced tears just as much as the slashers he shares the horror fiction genre writing world with.
He did it through a continuous buildup of emotions, consistently promising pain and agony and dark deeds but never descriptively delivering them until readers are practically out of their minds with suspense.
Almost everything is left to the imagination.
And the imagination is a pretty scary place when guided down dark, dangerous alleyways, only to be deserted.
To me, the most horrifying of Edgar Allen Poe’s stories is The Cask of Amontillado, which delves so disturbingly deep into human perspective and the insane power of revenge.
There are only two characters in this story, with one thinking they’re good friends and the other knowing they’re bitter enemies based on some wrongdoing he just can’t and won’t forgive.
If you haven’t read it already, get to it. Particularly if you have any intention of joining the horror fiction genre writing world yourself. I’m not going to SparkNotes it here, analyzing the whos and whats and hows of the story, since that would rather defeat the purpose.
Instead, consider this…
As much as readers might cringe away from the death and dismemberment and gory scenes in a traditional slasher, it’s still a psychological relief when they’re completed. The buildup is gone. There’s no more to be said.
Edgar Allen Poe’s absolute genius in the horror fiction genre writing world, particularly with works like The Case of Amontillado, is that he never gives you that relief.
And what’s more horrifying then that?