“Exactly. It’s the world we know. It’s dark, it’s scary, but there’s a lot of magic there.”
I never imagined myself writing in the horror genre. It isn’t that it is beyond my capabilities, it is just that I’ve always been much more attracted to the fantasy genre – I suppose it would be prudent to point out that it has been the darker elements of the genre I have found most alluring.
As I engaged in this painfully long journey into writing, author, artist, and dear friend Matthew Davis, reminded me of the importance of writing what you know. He reminded me of home, the town of our origins, and the dark frightful wonder of that world. It was then I found myself writing.
I had expected the project to toe the line of urban fantasy, but what I found instead was my writing falling down the mysterious and incredibly weird world of horror. As much as I enjoy the genre, I know I had much to research in order to remain true to the genre.
Months of playing games, watching movies, and reading novels in the various sub-genres of horror I discovered several common elements within them all.
Happy Endings are Never Guaranteed
Victory is never a sure thing for the protagonist of any horror story. He faces unbelievable and overwhelming odds. His path is fraught with danger around every corner; within every shadow.
There are Always Casualties
No one is safe. The protagonist is not the only one at risk, but everyone and everything he cares about is at risk. The people he is trying to protect are especially at risk causing him to go to extreme -and often reckless- ends to ensure their safety, but even then he is not always successful.
There is a painful dance between hope and despair; a brutal ballet struggling to maintain a tense balance.
Questions beget more questions than answers. Mystery seemingly reveals greater mysteries as the protagonist makes his journey towards discovery. Often the answers discovered by protagonist are little more than smoke and mirrors.
In horror anything and everything is possible. The outlandish, the obsurd, the primal, is real; existing under the noses of society. The protagonist’s encounter with the unbelievable limits his resources and aid leaving him at a disadvantage in his conflict.
One of the most important aspects of horror is the drive of the protagonist. Something must continually drive him into the darkness; into the depths of madness. Something must anchor him into the heart of the horrific – a fetter that prevents him from simply swimming back to the safety of the shore.
These are some of the elements I’ve discovered and work to incorporate into my writing. Authors, fellow writers, sages, have I missed anything? Are there elements I’ve missed? Are there other elements you find important when engaging the horror genre?