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Brian J. W. Lee is a writer. When he's not writing, he's plotting to plunge the world in a deep chasm of terror, darkness and screams. Sorry, did I get carried away?

Monday, 14 November 2016

Let's Talk Writing: Why Write Horror?

Why write horror? Why write about scary stuff and horrible things when I can just talk about pink, fluffy poodles and idyllic neighbourhoods? That's a question that comes up quite often whenever I talked about my literary preoccupation.

I guess it started all the way back in my childhood. I'd seen a lot of horror flicks and read my fair share of horror books in my time. Starting with pretty tame fanfare like Mars Attack (a parody, but it has its moments) and Goosebumps (kid's stuff, but it wouldn't look like a horror book if it didn't aspire to be one) then moving on to some serious business, the likes of The Thing and Alien, then my first shot of Stephen King's bibliography, and it went downhill from there (which is a good thing).

I was a kid like any other in my younger days. I got scared easily. But what happened after the initial shock wasn't like any other path normal kids would take. I started liking it for some reason. Years later, I rationalised fear. I thought it'd toughen me up. That's in contrast to most people I've met so far, who'd chant 'why read or watch horror when real life is horrifying enough?' or the most basic response they could give- Avoiding anything resembling horror like a plague, not a word with a pale face.

Talk about masochistic pleasure. Heh. Keep the whip away please... just... not right now.

*Ahem* I guess horror with me is about as legitimate a method as any other literary genre to get to the human condition, to learn and understand yourself and the world. It's just as good a way to build character. Maybe even better in some ways. You don't toughen yourself up by reading Cinderella. The darker side of the human psyche is inaccessible in some of the more idealistic fantasies. Perhaps only shades of it could be glimpsed from other genres.

So that leads to the reasons why I write horror, other than the fact that I want to tell a good story. It's my way of doing soul-searching. Descending into the cave and Hades before emerging out. It's as much about me understanding myself as it is about trying to make people understand my position. It's a way of doing it when the topics I cover are dark and perhaps not exactly all rainbow and sunshine. Some things just can't be sugar-coated, or shouldn't be if you want to write it right.

Horror is also one of those genres that does certain things that I want right. Horror thrills like the best of them, next to its close cousin, the Thriller (surprise, surprise). It can be violent, it is allowed to screw you over, no-holds-bar style. It's often what I want and what I need in a story.

Other than that, horror is more prevalent than you think. Books of other genres can slip into the horror-mode from time to time, in some subtle ways. Adult horror - losing your loved ones or having your kid dodge death in a close shave (if even that). That's horror too. The terrible implications of a political system. That's also horror, especially when you see your civil rights slipping away a bit at a time. Going fully horror allows me to tap into all those things to the fullest. No pretensions, no beating around the bush unless it's good writing.

And if any of my explanations doesn't do it, then it's just because I love it. I like scaring the bejesus out of people. I get off on it. Way I see it, I'm handing wisdom over to them one heart attack at a time. And it's satisfying.

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