The Horrible in HORROR!

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!

A leftover from my recent "Working Werewolf" Contest.

A leftover from my recent “Working Werewolf” Contest.


  1. I agree wholeheartedly. Being a suspense lover, it seems more writers these days go into the details of the killing rather than the pursuit of the victim. To me, suspense is about the build up, not the act. If you spend too much time describing the way the person is being tortured or killed, you’ve changed from suspense to shock. And you’ve lost my interest as a reader.

    • Candy Korman

      That’s exactly it. In mystery fiction it’s too much in the way of bloody details and in horror it’s often too much of the gruesome bloodiness. I like the cat & mouse game of not knowing and then… the trap is sprung. OR is it?

  2. Meh…to be honest I don’t like modern horror at all, but then I don’t like rollercoaster rides either. I don’t really like being scared. I was scared out of my wits when I saw ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ at age 8 or 9 [the original]. Then I was terrified again when I saw the original Alien movie at the cinema. But while I remember the artistry that /made/ me scared, I did not enjoy actually being scared.

    I like stories that make me think and feel. If a little bit of ‘horror’ gets mixed in I can cope, but if that’s all it is, from start to finish? Sorry, no. 🙁

    • Candy Korman

      I think there’s a long and gradual continuum—with you on one end with no interest in horror and at the other end of the spectrum the horror fanatics flocking to horror movies and snapping up horror books. I’m closer to you than to the horror fanatics, but… I’m not in their camp. The books and movies that have led me to enjoy being afraid always mixed the scare with a laugh OR allowed me to fill in the blanks in the fearsome stories. The gore? My eyes were usually closed in the theaters and, yes, I’ve even skipped a few pages in books with too much blood. A couple of years ago I read a brilliant—absolutely brilliant—updating of Dracula (complete with the Count’s twitter feed) but there were a couple of gruesome, bloody scenes that kept me awake and, ultimately, inspired me to flip quickly through a few pages when I simply couldn’t take anymore. It was either check out OR give up on the book and the lead up to the blood had been too good to drop the rest.

      To be honest, that dilemma is unusual.