What Makes Horror Novels Work

In my focus seminar, I had to research the genre of what type of writing I was going to work on over the semester. I decided to write a horror novel because that's always what had caught my eye when it came to books, movie, etc. As I was researching, I came across an article that told about the five elements of horror and I decided to take my own spin on it.

The first element is Foreshadowing. Foreshadowing is an essential part of horror. A few writers of the genre typically give away what will happen at the end, subtly, in the first 100 pages, but not many people catch it. For example, when I was readying The Shinning, I noticed that King put in a detail about something and in the end, that was what ended the book. He was foreshadowing from the very beginning. Doing foreshadowing can keep a reader hooked into the story because they want to know what happens next and if they were right on their predictions.

The second element is Fear. Fear is fundamental because without it, it’s not horror. Not everything scared everyone. For example: my sister is scared of spiders and they don’t scare me. I have a friend that is scared of ketchup and another that is afraid of large objects under the ocean (like a rock or a ship). If you can somehow make fear possible, then you have horror. A way that I have seen work, is by using great detail and having a good atmosphere.

The third element is Suspense. Suspense is like the icing on the cake; it’s what makes the reader turn the page rather than place it back on the shelf to gather dust. The build-up to the scare is the best parts of the story whether it be the first time the main character comes across the monster or when some random character that was added into the story just to die dies.

The fourth element is Mystery. The mystery is always what makes the story interesting. If the writer puts something in that and doesn’t explain the full of it (like where the monster came from, all of the character’s backstory), then it makes the reader want to know more. In most cases, the questions will be answered towards the end or later in the story, but even if they aren’t all answered, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad story it’s just that the author wants the reader to make their own assumptions about the situation or not know anything about it making the mystery better. 

The fifth and final element is Imagination. Every story needs it and relies on it heavily. Imagination is what makes the story stick together. If there isn’t anything imaginative about the author’s writing and story, then it’s no good. It’s like a steak that’s not juicy or a chocolate shake that’s not mixed properly; it’s gross. The imagination of the writer is what makes the story play out in the reader’s head and makes the book not close until it’s over.

Those are the five elements that make a horror story work for me.