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Oh, the Horror (Fiction)!

Since I’m not a horror fiction writer, I wanted to practice my editorial preaching before I put this together. That meant doing some pre-writing research, which turned up fascinating insights and angles, as it usually does.

If you want some awesome writing insights outside of Innovative Editing’s editorial expertise, consider what the University of Florida has to say on the subject:

Horror has perhaps the most interesting relationship with literature of all the forms of genre fiction.

On one hand, horror consistently has the most dispersion heaped upon it of any form of genre fiction. Some of it is deserved, as horror authors have had a long history of indulging in pulp fiction – anathema to the literary elite – since the days of Varney the Vampire and the “penny dreadfuls,” which were cheap, pulp novels that cost only a penny.

On the other hand, many of the most oft-studied works of literature fall into the horror genre. In fact, you cannot study Romance-era literature without the horror novel – Dracula, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Frankenstein, etc. Other eras tend to tell similar stories, as tales of terror tend to live on regardless of period.

In the prevailing view, however, horror fiction never has made it out of the murky depths of its pulp roots, despite the unquestionably-literary works that bear its name. Whether it is because of its base subject matter or often “gross-out” style of description, many find it hard to take horror seriously.

While the rest of the piece is equally interesting, that opened up my little English major eyes quite well enough to tackle the following literary genre definition like this:

Horror Fiction

Believe it or not, Stephen King isn’t the end-all and be-all of horror fiction. This literary genre has a rich and even influential history that’s well worth delving into.

At its very basic definition, horror fiction is designed to evoke the most negative emotions through its plots, characters and settings. That includes horror, obviously, terror, nauseating levels of disgust and utter shock. As such, it’s often dominated by slashers and pulp fiction. Yet it can just as easily be used to warn people against future horrors they may be bringing down on their heads.

That’s not to say you can’t write slashers and pulp fiction if you want. Feel free to throw in as many decapitations, dismemberments and death-by-power-drill-in-a-hot-tubs (which I distinctly remember from the horror movie Valentine) that you’d like.

This is your novel in the making. You’re its author. So you have full editorial rights here.

Go flesh-eating hog wild if you’d like.

Just understand that you don’t automatically have to write about such things if you enjoy this particular literary genre. You can take pride and inspiration from your absolute genius forerunners like Edgar Allen Poe instead, who did an awe-inspiring, terror-inducing job of capturing human emotions, human reasoning and the horrific human potential each and every one of us is capable of.

Writers like Edgar Allen Poe, Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker show us rich possibilities too often ignored … angles and art we’re going to explore further on Thursday and Friday as we delve further into horror fiction and all it can offer.


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