A little horror goes a long way! I don’t write full out horror, but I appreciate its power. I like being scared, mystified, lost in suspense and enchanted by dark and mysterious forces, but horror is like a spicy condiment—too much overwhelms the senses.
The image of yellowed teeth, bared and ready to bite sends a tickle of terrified excitement down my back. It’s anticipation mixed with dread with a drop of delicious fear, and it’s a potent cocktail—the double hot, hot sauce that creates a sizzle. Switch it out for armies of hungry zombies on the march and I lose interest. The drop of horror is, by contrast, more important than the endless march of horrible horror.
I want a dash of that tingle not a blood bath of gruesome gore. It seems like a solid wall of difference, but like most interesting aspects of storytelling (and life) the devil is in the details and the relationship with the reader. The drop of blood enables the reader to fill in the scene. The sea of blood drowns the reader’s role in the exchange with the storyteller.
I know this is a minority opinion. Many, many readers—friends included—seek out vivid gore and roller coasters of shock, while I’m concerned with peeling back the onion revealing its rotten core. In the end, it comes down to taste and style.
The build up to the kill, the darkened doorways and the shadows in the fog of classic horror are scary because of the context. And, for me, the mountains of horrible in many horror stories is just like too much hot sauce—so much burn there’s nothing else left. I like the contrast, the sweet that makes the heat jump out and say BOO!