Today, I want to discuss “Why horror?” Why do I write it? Why do I love reading it and watching it? Why would I want to write about things that are fucked up, weird and/or terrifying? I’m a nice girl. Got a nice family and a pretty good life. Why would I want to bother with all that ugly shit?
Well, why do you all want to read it?
I could just say, “I write horror, because I love it.” It’s more than that, though. No matter what genre I write in, the weird, dark edge of the horrific seems to find its way in. Why is that?
For me, it’s not always about scaring the reader. It’s about making them feel something. Anything. It’s also about making me feel something. It’s easy in this digital world of “The Quiet Observer” to look at ugly shit and be all “Meh, doesn’t affect me” and move onto something else. We’re bombarded with news that’s just horrible and people that are the worst of the worse when we go online. I turn away most of the time, to be honest. It gets to be too much so I just block all that stuff. Doing that, though, creates a sort of numbness inside. Horror brings back the sensations and forces me to deal with the reasons why I feel the need to block the negativity. It makes me ask myself why I don’t want to look at it. What am I so afraid of?
Horror often explores the worst; the worst in people, the worst day ever, the worst-case scenario. It takes those things we’re too afraid to examine, because who wants to invite trouble, and shines a spotlight on them. This lets us experience negative feelings and situations in a safe way. I’ve always been one of those “What would I do if?” kind of people. It’s a game I’ve played my whole life. If someone broke into my house, what would I do? If I was walking my dogs and was confronted with some kind of monster (human or otherwise) would it be better to run or fight? What about my poor dogs? (They’re not fighters, by the way. They’re totally lovers.) If the zombie apocalypse actually happened, what would I do? If aliens invaded, would they even care about Tweed? After much thought, I’ve decided my location ensures that I’ll probably be one of the last people affected by such an event.
Anyway, I think it’s just part of being human to want to explore these kinds of things, although we’d never want to actually be in those situations. Sort of a self-preservation thing. If we know what not to do, maybe we’d survive an axe murderer or a werewolf, because horror helped us look at it from all sides. It helps diminish some of the fear that comes with the unknown. At the very least, being a horror fan makes you less likely to freak the fuck out over an alien invasion. You’d be more like, “I’ve been preparing my whole life for this,” or “I knew it would happen,” than “OMG, we’re all gonna die!” (Even if you’re pretty sure we’re all gonna die.)
Most importantly, though, I love that horror can be used to force us to confront ourselves. Not the selves we think we are, but the real us we’re afraid we might be. By exploring topics and themes too taboo for everyday conversation, horror shows us who we are and what we’re truly afraid of. For me, I wonder if there’s really some all-powerful being out there. If there is a God, is it making decisions for us or are we just some kind of experiment in whatever designed to amuse it? Why does it let awful things happen to good people? Maybe God isn’t on our side. What if we’ve got it all wrong? We could be like rats stuck in a maze, with some all-powerful deity fucking around to determine when we’ll self-destruct.
What if there’s nothing out there? Is there life after this? Or is dead just dead?
I’m also afraid of being different, yet I don’t want to be the same. I want people to “get” me, but I don’t want to be just another cog, if you know what I mean. I want to be different enough to stand out, but not too much. I’m afraid I’m wasting my time, spinning my wheels, going in the wrong direction, moving too slow, too fast, and I’m afraid that it’s all pointless in the end anyway, because
I’m afraid of the dark, but I’m not real crazy about the light either. I fear that guy walking behind me, but I’m more worried about the one I don’t know is there. I’m afraid that this raging lunatic lurking inside of me isn’t just a side effect of hormones and/or environment. It’s just me. (yikes) I uncomfortable with people who get too close when they talk. I’m uncomfortable looking a stranger in the eyes for too long, and I’m afraid I know too little, but I’m also scared of knowing too much. I’m afraid of looking stupid, but I try not to be too smart. People don’t like smart. I’m afraid of failing, but success is also kind of daunting.
The real me is a pretty big mess.
When I was a kid, I feared almost everything. I was so shy that the idea of meeting just one new person or going into any new environment was enough to make me physically ill. It wasn’t until I started reading horror, beginning with Stephen King, that the fear became something I didn’t have to be ashamed of. I welcomed it, and it faded away. I guess it’s all part of that worst-case scenario stuff. Once I realized nothing will ever be as bad as what I’d imagined, it didn’t seem so intimidating. I’m still afraid of a lot of things, but writing horror has put them into perspective.
I know a few people who would say this means I’ve become desensitized, or that writing horror and reading/watching it has made me blind or indifferent to violence and other negative, awful things. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I’m extremely sensitive to the ugly shit out there. I’m too aware of it sometimes. I have to shut it off now and then or I’m pretty sure I’ll just give up on this messed up world.
And then there’s the “otherness” factor. Let’s be honest; we’re all kind of drawn to the “others” in society. The freaks. The psychos. The folks on the fringes who make our skin crawl a little. They make us feel normal, good even. And horror lets us look at that “otherness” and imagine maybe our “otherness” isn’t so bad. That reminds me of another reason horror is so great; writing horror has given me an appreciation for the good in life. Because I’m so aware of the dark stuff, when I see something good or experience something positive, I suck all the warm fuzzies from it that I can, because, sadly, we don’t get to do that as often as we should. I know how bad it could be, because I’m always thinking about all the things that can go wrong, so it’s actually easier to find the bright side of a shitty situation. Stay positive and all that.
Finally, I write horror because fear is one of the purest, most intense emotions we experience, and that is awesome. Without fear we can’t be courageous. Without fear, we’re not as motivated to change. When you’re comfortable with everything and everyone, you’re just there. Floating around, being all happy and shit, and what gets done? Nothing. That’s what.
Horror can spark feelings that linger long after you close the book. It tickles the recesses of your mind at the strangest times, without warning, without reason, and it never really goes away. I love that. Why would I want to write anything else?