Horror fiction should make you think rather than purely entertain.
Not to say that horror fiction can’t be action-packed, but to me horror fiction’s strength comes from its exploration of psychology. I love to create flawed characters and take readers inside their heads. I also love taking moral questions and twisting them until they bleed. Isn’t that what horror fiction should be?
But recently I’ve come to realise that the majority of readers don’t necessarily want this kind of fiction. They prefer explosions with titbits of humour rather than quiet horror, or dark mysteries. Or am I wrong? I don’t know.
Another thing I’ve noticed is that people’s personal prejudices, or concerns that others’ sensibilities might be offended, will turn them off stories. One reviewer I’d sent my novella The Eschatologist to turned it down because they perceived a religious bent. If anything the book is anti-religious! Why not judge the story by the story?
As a writer – and a reader – I’m more drawn to tales that leave you asking questions after you’ve reached the final page. Being indoctrinated towards authors like Barker and Poe naturally I’m going to lean that way, but still, I feel I might be in the minority here. Having said all that, I don’t want to come up with a happy blend of entertaining, but still horrific fiction, just to garner a few more readers. I’d be compromising my own integrity, wouldn’t I?
I recently discussed all this with an author friend who said that after reading my work it left them feeling ‘heavy’ and that maybe there was too much darkness in there. I’ll take that as a compliment 🙂 Another author recently posted on Facebook their concern that they’d killed off all their characters in one story, but their concern was more about becoming predictable. Still it’s a horror story – and it’s their story. Should they really be concerned about reader expectations, or just telling the best story they can?
Maybe I’m just thinking out loud, or whinging? Or maybe people just don’t care about reading anymore. Horror tastes are different for everyone, whether it be films, fiction or merchandise, but should creators and writers try and fit a particular mold? Maybe I’m overthinking it?
I think I’ll just stick to writing fiction 🙂 but I’d love to hear your thoughts.