Writing Horror: Elements of Terror

I have a question I’ve been asking people for a couple years, keeping the results stored away for a story that hasn’t formed its premise just yet. The question is this: What is the scariest thing ever?

Yes, this question lacks eloquence, but I’m just in the research phase right now. It’s direct, to the point and everyone has an answer.

Horror was my first love in literature. I adore fantasy and a great sci fi can leave me charged for weeks, but I’ve sought out horror since I was a very young child. I devoured books of “real life” ghost stories. I nagged my parents non-stop to let me watch scary movies (not slasher films that rely on gruesome kills and making you jump. I wanted supernatural). I read R.L. Stein and Christopher Pike and then I graduated to Stephen King when I was eleven. I read the Exorcist the summer between 7th and 8th grade. I always wanted more. I always wanted a better scare.

The desire hasn’t faded over the years. I hold, what I consider, an impossibly high standard for horror. It needs to profoundly disturb. It needs to avoid cheap scare ploys. It needs to end with some kind of hope, if not happily. I prefer a supernatural element as well, but there needs to be an explanation attached to.

So why do I seek out horror? Why do I want to be scared?

Because fictional horror is fear that is confined to a book or a movie. It can be closed. It can be turned off.

As a little girl I waited, terrified in the dark, bracing myself for attacks from the monsters under my bed. I never let my feet poke out from the bottoms of the blankets. I was sure that there was something waiting to get me. I was sure my parents were wrong when they told me that monsters were not real.

As an adult, I’m still not sure I believe that.

So what is your favorite horror story? and what is the scariest thing ever?


4 thoughts on “Writing Horror: Elements of Terror

  1. I don’t have a favorite horror story, really, but I’ve read quite a few. Was also a fan of Stephen King, R L Stine, (and Anne Rice) growing up. I’ve since moved away from horror, but actually just recently picked up an anthology that promises good, creepy things to come. It’s called Poe’s Children , if you’re interested.

    I disagree about a good horror ending with hope, however. Hope lets you shrug off the experience, lets you forget. Real fear should stick with you. Follow you around. Especially to bed.

    Anyway, the scariest thing ever is losing your mind, in my opinion. Oh, and spiders. Ugh.


    • the ending on hope is completely a preference of mine and I know it’s not a popular one. For me, if there’s no chance for any kind of resolution, ever, it’s leaves me wondering what the point of reading it was. For me, in pretty much every story, there has to be a chance that someone can triumph, maybe not at the end of the story, but someday.

      Insanity is definitely a good one.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I toyed with the idea of writing a horror novel once. I may someday go back to it. (It may even end with hope haha.) Good luck with your research, it will be interesting to find out where it ends up. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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