Writing Horror Stories

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I’ve written a handful of short stories over the years, and apart from my work-for-hire pieces, I’ve noticed that the vast majority of them fall into the same category. Two things about these stories strike me as odd. First, all but one of them are written in first person perspective, which I rarely use; second, all of them hail from the horror genre, which isn’t my go-to genre. Most of my other work is almost exclusively either fantasy or science fiction written in what I call “third person limited” (contrast this to “third person omniscient”).

I think the reason most of my short stories are horror-themed is because, for me, horror is a very quick and simple ordeal compared to a plot-and-character-driven fantasy or sci-fi story. I doubt I could stretch a horror tale out beyond short-story length, but not for lack of trying. I did write a supernatural novel long ago (although I’m hesitant to classify it as outright horror, per se), and it ended up being the shortest novel I’ve ever written. Go figure. I think the reason these stories came out in first person is because horror is all that much more terrifying when it’s personal, and first person puts the reader at only one point of remove from the protagonist.

Of course for me, horror is a little bit different. I much prefer a horror movie dripping in creepy ambiance than a slasher flick with cheap, heart-attack-inducing moments where something jumps out with a loud noise (and I REALLY hate when that cheap thing that jumps out isn’t even a threat, like it’s one of the stupid friends grabbing the protagonist on the shoulder). If you want to know the kind of horror I appreciate, watch The Ring. Or Event Horizon. Alien, anyone? Sure, there are some jump-out moments in these movies, but just try to stand there and tell me those movies don’t have an atmosphere that makes you feel really uncomfortable in between all the jumpy bits. Some more creepy references: The Game or any of the first few Resident Evil video games. Odd dolls? Empty mansions (never mind the zombies, of course) with creepy art and sculptures and riddles hanging about? That’s what I’m talking about. And that is the kind of short story I like to write.