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What is the goal of horror?

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  #1  
Old 02-01-2013, 02:59 PM
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Default What is the goal of horror?


Here's another question I've been pondering as I write.

To be honest, I haven't read a whole lot of horror (or even watched many horror movies; I get creeped out easily). I realise that's a bit of a cardinal sin when it comes to writing, but I've never had much respect for the "write what you know" rule. I prefer "learn by doing."

In any case, I'm trying to write a psychological horror. The genre has always fascinated me (though I still haven't worked up the courage to watch Session 9, or any of that Japanese stuff). I get the basic ideas behind it: keep the reader guessing, use subtlety over excess, confront the audience with the darker parts of their own psyche, manipulate their imagination.

But what is the purpose of the genre, exactly? In a romance, it's about characters falling in love; in an adventure it's about characters overcoming the odds and completing an epic journey; in a crime thriller it's about characters solving or perpetrating a crime and whether or not they succeed; et cetera (I realise those are pretty reductive descriptions of genre, but I hope you see my point: there is a core theme). So what is horror about? Characters getting scared and/or being killed off?

In short, I have lots of plot elements and setpieces in mind which I think are scary or horrifying, but I'm wondering what actually makes something a horror? And not just a historical adventure with some disturbing scenes of human suffering and cruelty? Especially considering most of the stuff I have planned is actually historically accurate; I'm starting to wonder if I'm even writing a horror at all. Just an accurate representation of life as a 19th century Irish refugee.

What defines horror in your mind? And when you pick up a horror novel, what do you expect from it?

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Old 02-02-2013, 03:26 AM
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When I think horror, I think of the more primal side to human nature -- don't get eaten. It's basic survival instincts, fight or flight. If you study the genre a lot of common themes arise. Being trapped is a major one. Think Alien, The Descent, House on Haunted Hill, they all feature being locked in close proximity with a monster, and either trying to escape and fight back -- so if you are thinking psychological then where closer to be locked with a monster than in the same mind?
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Old 02-02-2013, 06:12 AM
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Originally Posted by Loz View Post
When I think horror, I think of the more primal side to human nature -- don't get eaten.

Another aspect of the 'primal side to human nature' -- be the eater.



Two cannibals having some leftover clown soup.
One of them says to the other "Hey, does this taste funny to you?"
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Old 02-02-2013, 06:33 AM
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What is the goal of horror?
To fuck your head up. What else?
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Old 02-02-2013, 06:41 AM
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Originally Posted by CandraH View Post
What else?
After having seen five seasons of Dexter (and having read the original book) I think the horror genre is a wonderful delivery vehicle for social mores commentaries.
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Old 02-02-2013, 07:26 AM
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Heh. Nitpicker.
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Old 02-02-2013, 08:00 AM
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And not to forget about "Glad it's not me."

Relief and joy for not being the victim. So basically it's a feel good genre.
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Old 02-06-2013, 06:49 AM
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The definition of Horror:

an overwhelming and painful feeling caused by something frightfully shocking, terrifying, or revolting; a shuddering fear: to shrink back from a mutilated corpse in horror.
2. anything that causes such a feeling: killing, looting, and other horrors of war.

3. such a feeling as a quality or condition: to have known the horror of slow starvation.

4. a strong aversion; abhorrence: to have a horror of emotional outbursts.


Horror is not so much a genre as an emotion. The goal of horror is to evoke those emotions and the good horror writers show us the true nature of humanity through the raw power of that emotion.

Here is my full dissertation on horror:
http://webgojiramblings.wordpress.co...hats-scary-now

There also I talk about the value of genres and horror as a genre.
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Last edited by Webgoji; 02-06-2013 at 06:59 AM.. Reason: Bad choice of words
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Old 02-15-2013, 12:53 PM
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Someone hit the nail on the head about primal instinct. However, I like a much older form of horror. I prefer to use horror as an anchor to discuss topics about society and to reflect the inner demons of the human race. It's my firm belief and theory, that bitterness is the one plague that will always ravage the human race. For if all the plagues the world, typhis, black plague, smallpox, were to have a meeting. Bitterness would be their cordial Victorian speaker. For bitterness is the one plague that requires no rats or fleas to spread, but the human psyche.
And that is a common theme in my horror. I'm not a big fan of monster horror or serial killer horror or gore horror. I am more into exploring the bridges of sanity and insanity. The bridges of fiction and reality.
To me that's the goal or horror.

"Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures" Ralph Waldo Emerson

And to me that is the goal of horror. Monsters play an important part of making our primal brains afraid of what can eat us. But we're also afraid of the truth.
For me I grew up watching and reading a lot of horror. Thus monsters and serial killers I am desensitized to them. So, what else to make people afraid then to expose their lies and to expose the human mind.
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Old 03-06-2013, 04:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Emerald View Post
Here's another question I've been pondering as I write.

To be honest, I haven't read a whole lot of horror (or even watched many horror movies; I get creeped out easily). I realise that's a bit of a cardinal sin when it comes to writing, but I've never had much respect for the "write what you know" rule. I prefer "learn by doing."

In any case, I'm trying to write a psychological horror. The genre has always fascinated me (though I still haven't worked up the courage to watch Session 9, or any of that Japanese stuff). I get the basic ideas behind it: keep the reader guessing, use subtlety over excess, confront the audience with the darker parts of their own psyche, manipulate their imagination.

But what is the purpose of the genre, exactly? In a romance, it's about characters falling in love; in an adventure it's about characters overcoming the odds and completing an epic journey; in a crime thriller it's about characters solving or perpetrating a crime and whether or not they succeed; et cetera (I realise those are pretty reductive descriptions of genre, but I hope you see my point: there is a core theme). So what is horror about? Characters getting scared and/or being killed off?

In short, I have lots of plot elements and setpieces in mind which I think are scary or horrifying, but I'm wondering what actually makes something a horror? And not just a historical adventure with some disturbing scenes of human suffering and cruelty? Especially considering most of the stuff I have planned is actually historically accurate; I'm starting to wonder if I'm even writing a horror at all. Just an accurate representation of life as a 19th century Irish refugee.

What defines horror in your mind? And when you pick up a horror novel, what do you expect from it?

I think the goal of horror stories is the same as any other story...to inflict emotion on the reader. To toy with the reader's emotions and then twist them into something that the reader didn't anticipate. To give them joy right before you have the creature leap out of the closet at them or drag them underneath the bed. I think making the readers feel something, anything, is the goal of all writing.
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Old 03-13-2013, 02:55 AM
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Originally Posted by Loz
When I think horror, I think of the more primal side to human nature -- don't get eaten.
when I think horror i think don't be there or don't be got.

The goal of horror?
I don't think there is one because football has it.
What horror does however is distort the unatural to a worse natural.
To write horror with ease is trying to say here is how it is natural and does gets to your head a bit by bit.
I find horror films plotless. The story gets lost in translations and characters just become slave routine to this vacuum of horizontal
mess of horrific acts.
The aim of an actor is to seduce a stage but in horror the act takes take over acting and literally demolishes the stage into a barricade of dust and heat.
What is left is a big empty whole at the end of it. Not very visually satisfying is what I am trying to say.
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Old 06-03-2013, 06:38 PM
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I was under the influence that the purpose of horror is to scare...
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Old 06-03-2013, 11:26 PM
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Hi,

Reading a few horror books might help.

There are several types of horror.

I personally believe horror stories that use the fear of the unknown, a primal fear, are the best. These usually deal an unknown danger and more than a couple characters that react in differing ways to the threat. (Haunting of Hill House, The Mist, The Amityville Horror--this one gave me a few sleepless nights.)

The known but hard to believe, then next to impossible to survive stories rank second (The Ring) (Misery)

Then there are the demonic and supernatural, these have been watered down over recent years by transforming horror to other genres with classic horror beasts becoming objects of fascination and even romance. (The Omen, Dracula, Frankenstein)

The least horrific in my opinion are the mindless killers that Hollywood loves live Jason, Pinhead, Freddy, Etc. (Sorry - I don't read these).

Then there are the stories by Edgar Allan Poe--many a sleepless night from these tales that transform the unreal into realty leaving so many questions unanswered-It's been years since I read these and I still remember being chilled to the bone by them.

Smiles
Bob
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Old 06-07-2013, 04:48 PM
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I think of horror when I think of something that I can't control or something unknown, that's the kind of horror that gets me.

When you are in a situation which you know you can't escape, you know that something/someone is after you and there is nothing you can do to change that... now that is scary to me (I’m also terrified of snakes and sharks but I guess that’s different :P )
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Old 06-07-2013, 04:59 PM
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horror is best read alone..my greatest fear.
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Old 06-08-2013, 09:51 PM
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In regards to writing, all genres have the same goal and that is to engage the reader and make them want to take the journey as or with the main protagonist/s from first page to the last.

It is the elements of the story itself that decide its genre. If it's horror, you just have to think what elements of a story will firmly place it in horror. Isolation? Being cut off from civilisation. Survival? Being hunted by some mad man or monster. Those are two basic themes in horror, quite frequently put together in the same story.

You just have to make the story engaging enough that the reader is going to want to as I said "take the journey" and see how it all turns out. In the case of the two examples I gave above, it would be to see if the protagonist survives in the end and to find out how he/she overcomes that which is trying to kill him/her.

If you're doing psychological horror, well, the idea there is to tell a story that is going to make the reader question things. It has to mess with their mind and throw unexpected things at them.
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