Horror Basics?


I've talked on end about horror. What makes horror, how it has evolved, how it is defined, so on and so forth. Today I want to talk about what I feel is a rather base element when I consider something which is disturbing. The feeling of helplessness. A futile state of whatever I do, I cannot change the mess I am in. It is pretty universal. A single decision can render me helpless in the aftermath. A series of decisions culminating in an unforeseen chasm of despair and regret? Totally possible. This could be a decision someone else made on your behalf, does not matter, you can end up in the same chasm.

I personally cannot even imagine a mind so far from my own as to enjoy a feeling of true helplessness. Not even close. The intent of horror is to disturb, challenge or make someone unsettled. Make them feel helpless. Take away their hope. If we are trying to invoke fear here, I cannot at the moment think of a more universal one than this. It can be done in any number of ways, but boil it down, you need to remove as much hope as possible and invoke the feeling of no way out. Obviously if you are telling a story you may need to save a glimmer of hope back, maybe just enough to keep things moving, but you want real despair and futility. Remove hope. There is some real horror.

So now I have to go on and finish this thought. Hopeless, helpless, futile. What grain of humanity could pull someone back from the hell of hopelessness. What is that one thing which could have the power to pull you back into the fight you have already determined you cannot win. The knowledge that someone out there is counting on you? You love someone else enough to put up a fight? The memory of a kind word? Could end up being a tuna sandwich for all I know but there must be something as far as I am concerned.

I believe now is where I can start talking again about inspirational horror. I do not see the point of flat out removing hope, ha ha everyone is dead. No, I see the struggle for holding on as what may truly be the crux of the story. The point of the horror. I have read it described in many ways, as people explain how to manufacture a story. Today I am going to just boil it down to the big what. What would it take to carry on? What can you possibly find hope in when you feel hope is gone?

Helpless. Hopeless. Futility. That is truly horrific. Living with hope and helping others I find that inspirational.


robpowell1964 said...

Thanks Gordon for a really excellent article. The way you have simplified the principles of good horror writing I think is a great reminder for established writers and for those who are new to writing horror stories.

Keep them coming.
Rob Powell


Gordon A. Wilson said...

Rob I really appreciate you reading and providing feedback. I kind of had that moment when I was thinking about the essence of what I consider horror.

kirabutler said...

Interesting article, Gordon. I've always been of the mindset that horror boils down to the absence of hope at the very end of a story, but adding a hint of "maybe they'll work their way out of this before it's all over" then snatching that away at the last possibile opportunity.

I'll keep an eye out for your inspirational horror article. Looking forward to what you have to say. :)

Richard Letourneau said...

Hi Gordon, really enjoyed reading the article. My current project is a series of 6 stories and i quite enjoy taking away all hope from my characters or just giving them a little snip then rip it right back off them. I hope my stories leave my readers disturbed, uneasy and shocked by what i put my characters through. I think if you also find a way of putting people fears/ phobias into a story or just a small part it can really help mess with the readers head especially if that person has that fear. My first story is a short one called The Engagement which is brutal and disturbing from start to end. My problem is trying to think of new ways to kill and torture my characters everday

Gordon A. Wilson said...

Keep it coming. Hope, no hope. I am all for disturbing, I may do it differently but we are looking for the same thing. Make people think.

Random Musings said...

I love this! I love reading and writing horror and I think you perfectly nailed the genre here