Horror Writers, Halloween, & Why We Do It
Happy Halloween, folks! This is our time of year, right?
Well, unless we live Halloween all year round. I guess many of us do, and just welcome people to the party when the festive period rolls around. It’s a thing. We’re the weirdos, right?
Halloween is the period when blogs everywhere want to talk to the horror writers, whether they generally cover horror or not. I guess they have to wheel out the macabre ones when the nights get dark and the ghosts come out to play. Most of them ask similar questions, and there are two that are asked most often.
Why do you write horror?
Where do the ideas come from?
So, I thought I’d address them in somewhat longer form here. Why not?
I suppose the reasons for writing horror are similar ones to why we read horror. It excites us, awakens some primal part of ourselves. There’s a frisson of delight we get from being made uneasy in books, and the great thing is that we can always close the book if we want some relief. It’s like a rollercoaster; we’re exhilarated for the duration of the ride, but we know we’re getting off in a minute. It’s tapping into something that gets the pulse racing, the endorphins pumping and the adrenaline flowing. Oh, and the stories are entertaining too.
Writers are no different, and we seek that same exhilaration when we create our stories. You know that pulse racing? Yeah, we get that when we write too.
There are some scenes in stories that take us unawares; they just seem to creep out of the pen unbidden. We sit back when we’re done writing them and think “what the hell is wrong with me,” closely followed by: “Its damned cool though.”
Those are the moments we’re looking for, and they’re not always planned.
That’s one reason we write horror; to fulfill something in our primal selves and pour it out into the world.
Of course, there’s an element of catharsis there too. If we’ve had a bad day, then we know we can sit down and write a brutal death scene. Releasing that negative emotion is a good, healthy thing.
I don’t think there’s a psychological marker for horror writers. I know, when I was young, I pictured horror writers to be a certain way. I kind of imagined them all to be somewhat gothic, long hair and black clothes.
Then, I saw Stephen King for the first time.
We can be anyone, and that’s a cool thing. Horror speaks to all people, if they feel the need to embrace it. Horror writers aren’t all devil-worshipping, vestal virgin sacrificing freaks, or I just didn’t get invited to those parties yet. Pretty much all the horror writers I know are the funniest, kindest and most sensitive people I know, and I think that’s why they’re able to write horror. Most of us feel very keenly, and are very in touch with our emotions. If we understand how we feel, then we know how to convey emotions … and fears. That’s also a very cool thing.
So, where do the ideas come from?
Something funny happened when I released my first novel; my mum read it … and asked if it was her fault. Was it something she’d done? She was utterly serious, and I found the question completely hilarious. Actually, the idea behind that first novel was born out of a joke between me, my editor and a beta reader. But, I digress.
I don’t think this is a question limited just to horror. Every writer is asked where the ideas come from, and if they dry up. I think the answer is pretty simple; we always ask, “what if?”
We can be walking by a piece of architecture, an interesting quirk in the landscape, or pretty much anything and ask, “what if?” To me, it’s one of the most important questions in the world, and one we seek to answer. I think the most pertinent question is this though: “why do the answers have a spooky outcome with horror writers?”
Well, because that’s what we like. We see the spooky because spooky is cool. My wife will look at a beautiful view in the countryside and comment on its beauty, whereas I will look at it and say, “what if there’s a monster in those hills? What if that village is home to a demon-worshipping cult? What if?”
And the reaction is always satisfying. And that’s it, in a nutshell.
Yes, people of the page; we’re looking for a reaction. Whether that’s delight, disgust, fear, dismay, or the plethora of other reactions we can expect from a horror story, we’re just looking for that reaction.
Silence is fucking scary, after all.
Paul Flewitt was born and raised in Sheffield, Yorkshire where he still lives with his family. He is the father of two children and keeper of several beta reading demons
Paul is a writer of horror and dark fantasy, and a former steel worker. His debut novel, Poor Jeffrey, was launched in April 2016. His latest short story, Defeating the Black Worm, is part of the Short Sharp Shocks series from Demain Publishing.
Paul spends his time caring for his children and devotes much of his free time to writing his next works. He writes only for the thrill of scaring his readers in new and inventive ways.
Short Sharp Shocks 62:
Defeating the Black Worm
Matthew had fallen so far, so quickly. The anxiety and panic had overcome him suddenly, and he couldn’t find a way back. In desperation, he sought solace in doctors and psychiatrists, but no-one could (or would!) help him. He loses everything to the hunger and appetites of the Black Worm.
But then, at his lowest point, and with nothing left, Matthew finds aid in the most unexpected of places…
But can the Black Worm be defeated?