Scary Stories

Scary stories are an important part of growing up. Monsters are pieced together out of our real fears — but unlike the monsters of real life, story Monsters are often vanquished by the hero.

Little kids — like the rest of us — are afraid of being left behind, afraid of getting lost and afraid of the unknown. We may get adventurous as we grow up and court the unknown, travel where we’re likely to get lost and strike out on our own, finding that being alone is not the same as being lonely and that it can be fun. When we conquer that kind of ordinary fear, we’re vanquishing some of those childhood monsters.

Even after we’ve grown up, monster stories still get the heart pumping and teach us both to be wary and to be brave. Of course, all scary stories aren’t the same.

Most classic Monster stories have clear lines drawn between good and evil. The larger-than-life monsters of fairy tales, folk legends and mythology fit nicely into traditional horror stories and many classic horror storylines have roots in these traditional tales. Werewolves, vampires, powerful wizards, vengeful witches, ghosts with unfinished business with the living and demons visiting from hell, “people” classic stories as well as contemporary fiction.

Some of those monsters are exactly like our childhood monsters, but the newer Monster incarnations are more likely to have mixed emotions, mixed motivations and be a mixture of good and evil. They are more human in their monstrous actions. This doesn’t mean they are less scary. In fact, they are scarier because they are less predictable and less like animals.

A scary wolf-man creature, devouring peasants unlucky enough to be found wandering in the woods on the night of the full moon is a scary story, but there’s no doubt about the wolf’s motivations. He’s driven by hunger — a desperate, overwhelming hunger that cannot be satisfied any other way. The wolf-man kills because it is his nature. You can’t reason with that kind of Monster any more than you can convince a cat to live on carrots and corn. Cats are carnivores. An old-fashioned Monster is going to bite, kill, suck blood….

A new Monster might head a corporate empire employing thousands, dump toxic waste into the ground water, support a worthy children’s charity and threaten his employees who dare to vote for the “wrong” candidate. A new monster can be very confusing — especially if he also happens to transform into a wolf on the night of full moon, live on human blood, lack a solid corporeal form, or control the world around him with magic. New monsters can be super-deluxe scary!


  1. I write spoeculaive, extrapolative and sceince fiction with adult themes throughout and thoguh I do not write directly in the horror genre, my books contain a good amount of that element. In the Diginoir Quadrilogy, the first novel concerns an average human (with the exception of his profound blindless)receiving a set of artificial optic modules which allow him to be able to see for the first time in his life. While wenty four of the thirty two micro filaments are correctly emplaced, eight of them lodge in the forebrain where an aberrant proes resides. When all is said and doine, the person involve can see, but the forebrain now also has vision capaciity…something that never should have happened. Left on its own, it was more of a peculiarity thant anything horrific, bui those involved with the experiment consider the protagonist to be their property and their true nature comes to be when the protagonist resists. It is under the crucible this mistreatment represents that a darker side of the protagonist emerges. The capacity to see objects solely as numerical representations is amusing but when what is perceived has its base values reduced to zero, whatever that is so affected ceases to be and if only part of a human is erased, what is left is a bloody mess.
    The themes covered in the second and third part of the book start out as being relatively altruistic but the protagonist is only as nonthreatening as the situations that he faces and when the main antagonist is a zealot of extreme mentality (another reality based object of horror), the resulting backlash is even more horrific than before. Religious fundamentalism and science based aberrations do not get along very well).

    In ‘The Twisted Earth’ series, the Earth so depicted is an apocalyptic wasteland filled with eveything from smnall settlements to established urban areas but the safety of what lives in thsi present day is all relative. Homo Sapiens Sapiens has knocked himself off of his perch regarding the highest evolved life form and mutations are commonplace now versus rare. The existence of humankind in its pure form might be at risk (extinction is a fear is it not?) because most of mutant kind are anything but friendly towards humans; several mutant species consider humans to be a prime food source and hunt them when possible. The human adaptaions range from those staying within the confines of a settlement to others willing to wander the wastelands seeking Oltec to sell. As stated, the peace in this future world i very relative. The antagonist is heavily armed and violence to him can be as cold as a means to an end or a way to guarantee his safety. He is far from being altruistic; he has hunted mutants for a bounty and he has killed over being cheated out of jack but he is usually willing to live and let live minus how his violent past reflects into the modern time. While there is plenty of supernatural based horror in legend, I think that when the horror is more based on the potentiality of humankind’s darker side, it hits much closer to home.

    • Candy

      It’s interesting, as much of what I write would not be considered in the horror genre either.

      Still that which scares us, also drives us — and therefore scary scenarios (in science fiction, fantasy, paranormal romance, etc.) drive narratives. Even comedy can rely heavily on frightening elements.

      When horror, of any stripe — classic, science-inspired, contemporary — harkens to the dark side of humanity, it rings true and makes for great fiction.

      That’s why I love scary stories.

  2. I love sci-fi rather than horror because, to be honest, I don’t really enjoy feeling scared. That said, however, some of the scariest stories I’ve ever read were in the sci-fi genre – e.g. The Earth Abides. This is a post apocalyptic novel and… I can see it happening. And /that/ is scary. I suspect that the closer to reality a scary story is, the scarier it becomes.

    • Candy

      I think some of the scariest stories ever are in the science fiction genre. Scary science fiction often extrapolates from the real and slightly scary. It could be a medical procedure or phenomenon, i.e. a virus. It could also be a political or social trend, i.e. the rise of a cult or a “strong man” political leader.

      Sometimes these stories incorporate the science/technology of space travel, time travel, etc. and appear to be “just” science fiction, but they can be so much more. Dystopian novels “Hunger Games” “The Children of Men” (P.D.James) “The Handmaid’s Tale” (Margaret Atwood) mix the futurism of science fiction with the scariest of traditional legends. It’s a potent mix.

      I’m looking forward to a certain writer’s new fantasy/science fiction/created world novel. Those books often tell use about ourselves, taking the scary elements of humans and examining them in an invented creature’s shell.

      All the genres tend to meld — don’t you think? I just read a “romance” novella that was really a mad scientist mystery in romance clothing.

  3. Metan

    I agree, it seems as though the real monster stories are fewer these days. The classic monsters were just plain old monsters chasing their hunger whatever it may have been. Current day monsters always seem to have some sort of secret agenda that makes them extra scary.

    • Candy

      Some get the super scary secret agenda treatment and others get humanized or “humorized” until they aren’t monstrous at all. Still, I’m always on the hunt to read about compelling monsters and ALWAYS endeavor to write about them!

      Classic or otherwise, I think the start of the 21st Century is a good time for monsters.