Today I hand over my blog to yet another guest. This time it's author Ashley Franz Holzmann, author of The Laws of Nature, who's here to shed a little light on horror... Wait, can I even say that? Ah well, without further ado... Welcome, Ashley!
Horror is always shifting to fit the times and the masses. Stephen King wrote about this in his book Dance Macabre, where he discussed how the scariest movies are often the most topical. Horror feeds into the current fears of the populace. Invasion of the Body Snatchers came out at a crucial time. Communism! Get it?!
Sorry, that's not really supposed to be sarcastic. I really love that movie.
My point is that horror evolves. There are always trends that shift this way or that. What makes horror good is risk. Taking risk and being honest. Night of The Living Dead had a black protagonist and used the ending of the film to really say something about race. That was a risk. Carrie was written by a man (our friend, Stephen) and has a scene where a girl gets her period in public. Now that is taboo; that was a risk!
These days, the genre is a little stuck in the cinema. Sequels are are big thing right now. There are some cool ideas, but the goal of a sequel is to build a franchise, so there's only so much risk involved when marketing is just as important as storytelling. The real risks are happening online.
Forums like /r/nosleep and creepypasta.com are leading the way in horror for the masses. Stories are told and voted against. If a story isn't scary enough, the comments section is open and the writer is told that the story was too generic, or has been told before, or just wasn't scary. The stories with the most votes and likes are the original ideas. Incentive is becoming a part of the game. The number of 5-star reviews on Amazon matters more than the sequel (though many writers love taking the road of forming their own book series these days), and upvotes are gold to the ego of the modern horror writer on the internet.
There's a shift in the genre that's happening underneath our noses. Sure, Hollywood is doing their thing and the big players of the horror community are still writing and filming and creating; but under the mainstream is the small horror communities that are growing and transforming the genre into a battle over originality. The more creative a story is, the more is gets praised. The more original it is, the more the internet loves the change of pace. Over-saturation has created a modern horror reader that doesn't have time for a story they've read 20 times before. They want new twists, or new ways to receive that twist. Readers want to be impressed.
Being a writer, I'm given the puzzle. It can be very fulfilling to feel like I've cracked the code on a story idea. Writing to make the reader feel a certain way, or to give them a moment in the story where I think I can really connect with them. That's the goal now. The goal is to create real emotions, real stories, to take risks and let the reader see something and think "wow." Horror can be beautiful. Horror can be depressing. Horror can be what we want it to be--because it's a raw genre, and in this era the successful writers are the writers who understand that risk and originality are the way to get people to care about what you have to say.
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