My son is on a serious zombie kick. In the name of mother and son bonding, I have suffered through an entire season of the Walking Dead. Never mind that I love Zombieland. Horror freaks me out. I may agree to watch it with you but someone will have to hold my hand and it will not be a pain free experience. Did I want to read her story at home by myself on a perfectly sunny day? Wait? Isn’t that when the walkers come?
I hemmed and hawed my way into an embarrassing pause.
“Really, it isn’t Stephen King horror. It’s more like what I used to write.”
This friend doesn’t particularly enjoy tormenting so I recovered enough to agree and soon found myself immersed in a non-gross horror story. It was amazing. Afterwards, we discussed the difference between old-style atmospheric horror and new-style gooey, pustulent horror.
In the old type of horror it is all about atmosphere. How can you set your story up so that the reader is more than a little uncomfortable and expecting something that goes bump, glop or yuck in the night? They expect it, but the details you provide aren’t necessarily graphic. This is the gross and disgusting viewed through slightly parted fingers. Think Poe. His stories are wharped and weird and offputting, but they aren’t particularly repulsive.
You build the horror by choosing creepy details ranging from the fall of light to the creak of a floor board or the closing of the door. You include details that can be described in a creepy way. Lace might be web-like, wind groans, and a cellar smells like the freshly turned earth of the grave. Okay, that’s most likely heavy handed but I hope you get the point. You can write horror without the ick.
Who is your favorite writer of bump in the night, creepy horror?