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What do you look for when you want to introduce an element of horror into your writing-not a whole novel, necessarily, but even in a part in your book which may not be strictly horror?

Approach it from both an author's perspective and a reader's perspective.
 

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Your question sounds like something from an essay test!

My answer is one word: mood.

Stephen King once wrote about this in "Danse Macabre." His basic point was go for the creepiness first. Readers tend to imagine things much worse than anything you can put down on paper or on film. His goal is to raise hairs on arms and necks.

If that fails, he'll go for the gross out. He knows it's a cheap shot, but it usually works. Let's face it, rivers of blood upset people.

I agree with King in that I try to slowly build the suspense, pile on danger, and have rescue coming, but always far away, and not quite fast enough.
 

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I agree with both of you... mood and not seeing IT coming.  I like to put in a little 'horror' in my novels, here and there, a little goes a long way.  I know that it's good when it even scares me.  I like creepy, dark, stormy nights, of course, spiderwebs, eerie lighting, strange little noises, not knowing exactly what's around the next corner and only one or two characters alone in the dark, scared and scaring each other to death.  Sometimes it turns out to be something really scary and sometimes it can be something really funny.  Love Stephen King.  He's the Master.  Ah-oooom.  Ah-oooom.  We must adore the Master! ;)
 

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As a reader, I'd say that the most important aspect of good horror is to have believable characters.  That's why I think Stephen King is so good - his characters are generally people that we can identify with, at least a little, with strength and nobility, but also with flaws.  Then you put this person that you like, who could be your friend or neighbor, or even yourself, and you put him or her into a horrible situation.  At that point, it doesn't matter much to me if it's a realistic situation or not, what makes it horrifying is seeing a little of myself in it and wondering if I would make the same choices, or do better or worse.  Also, with a good, well-rounded character, there should be some suspense involved in seeing if the character will end up making a noble choice, even if it costs him his life, or if she will succumb to the horror.
 

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A lot of horror these days goes right for the gore, but I still like a slow build. The unknown is more scary than the full grossout. When the characters don't know what is happening and it is something they can't understand, then the reader should start feeling as uncertain and scared as the characters do.
 

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To me, good horror is when I care enough about the characters to be concerned for their safety (or rooting for their death.)
 

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One thing is to keep in mind is the difference between horror and terror.  Horror is the fear of the unknown.  Terror is the fear of the known.  Think of "Alien" vs. "Aliens."  

Also, scary clowns.  You can't go wrong with scary clowns.
 

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Definitely the small brushstrokes that hint at things and let my mind fill in the rest.

No horror writer can scare me more than I can scare myself - so they need to set the scene and push me but then get out of the way.

 

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Turning the ordinary and mundane into something threatening. A ghost story in a brooding gothic castle can be scary...a ghost story in a normal suburban house can be terrifying. The more the reader can identify with the characters and setting, the scarier it is when things start to go...wrong.
 

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Characters is the key. If I don't care about John Doe, then when he or she gets raped, tortured, disembowled, what-have-you, it won't affect me. Horror is the basic principle of bad things happening to people one holds dear.
 

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Good characters, I think, and unexpected use of a situation.  I agree with above posters that 'suburban daylight' horror can be much more effective than 'ancient haunted castle' horror.
 

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I know it's been said but, the build up. I love reading King because he takes something every day (normal) and then twists it to make it horror. Who'dathunk a car could be evil or fall in love with a boy? (I love using that example) Or a cell phone tower
turning people into zombies
. And yes, his characters are very believable. You definitely root for them to live (or die)!
 

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I know this topic was/is dead- but let me try and recitative it. I feel that horror is truly a subjective thing. Everyone is afraid of something right? I am not a huge fan of gore simply for gores sake- but I have been known to use it. I think the best horror stories are the ones with a lingering presence.....That haunt your dreams for days and sometimes weeks. The Lottery is perhaps one of the finest examples.

I tend to prefer the Victorianism style of plotting horror- using more ambiance and character build up then actual shock tactics. i also like to weave some humor into my tales- albeit black humor.

Paul

www.psgifford.com
 

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What better to rise from the dead than a horror thread?
The best horror has a build, when you don't know what is happening and your imagination runs wild trying to figure it out. Books and movies that go straight for the gore aren't very good if you ask me.
 

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Before I ever think what the story is about, I begin with the characters. Who they are. I usually have an idea who they are just as I'm starting to write the story. I like supernatural suspense, which is more of a slow build on everyday people in everyday situations, as they see it, then the strange happens.

So, good characterization, slow build of suspense, revealing the fear slowly, and then the fear (monster, killer, what have you) taking on the characters themselves.  ;)
 

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From my perspective, horror is placing believable characters into unpredictable situations. make reality an evolving construct and force those believable characters to survive.
 

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I like Jack's take on it. I try to keep my storylines within the realm of the believable. Normal people doing abnormal things- and why.
 
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