What are the Essential Elements of Horror?

While are are as many opinions on what makes “good horror” as there are writers themselves, there really and truly are a few fundamentals few can argue with when it comes to the essentials of horror. What then makes it “good” is dependent upon skill (sheer writing talent), a solid story, and engaging characters.

For an excellent start, we recommend checking out an article written last year by author C.M. Humphries called 5 Elements of a Good Horror Story. In it, he outlines the elements of Fear, Surprise, Suspense, Mystery and the delicate but ever-present Spoiler. And while these are all potent factors when it comes to telling a horror story, is that all horror is – or can it be more? Can horror transcend these elements and inspire the reader? Can it both terrify and teach? Furthermore, when you bring a reader to a state of intense vulnerability, is that the time at which they’re most likely to learn something before returning to the real world?

For all the authors out there, what are your benchmarks and goals for writing a horror story? Is your aim to scare and leave people wanting, or give them something a little more substantive, a lesson they can apply to their lives, before they go?

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  • Jennifer M

    I know when I’m writing for myself, and it’s horror, it’s that scary ‘art of the tease’ thing that inspires me to do what I do. Suspense seems to be THE major factor when it comes to good horror. That edge of your seat feeling…

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