This post was inspired by a comment from Beware of the Reader on my 5 Reasons Why I Blog post last week. She isn’t a fan of horror but was interested in why I found it, not only enjoyable, but enjoyable enough to spend my time reading and reviewing horror novels. Yes, I also review thriller and generally dark novels but horror seems to be the marmite of book genres and the one I get asked about the most. People either love it or hate it, but I don’t think it is possible to hate an entire genre, there is always something for everyone.
So let me try to convince you by explaining why I love the horror genre.
1. Human Monsters
In my experience the best horror novels do not have an entirely supernatural villain. A human villain or a villain with human motives makes the novel relateable. It makes it scary. Human villains are the worst because they could actually exist, or in the case of many “based on a true story” novels like The Girl Next Door, they did actually exist. Ghosts, ghouls and all things creepy are brilliant but there is nothing scarier than a human monster.
2. The Atmosphere
Have you ever spent a cold, dark night with a storm rattling around outside reading a creepy book? No? Then you are missing out. I think as a reader you haven’t truly lived until you have read Frankenstein, Dracula, Poe or some other classic horror novel during a thunderstorm. It is even better if you do it by candle light.
So next time the weather is awful gather your blankets, pick up a classic horror novel, get a cup of tea, curl up and get reading. Also open the window a little so you can hear the storm better. It is one of the best reading experiences.
3. Something For Everyone
People tend to think of horror as a one track pony but that isn’t true at all.
Don’t like ghosts and supernatural things? Ok, find a horror novel based around regular people. Not comfortable with gore? Fine! Research your novel a bit to see if you can handle it or read a psychological horror. Easily scared? Easy! Read a YA horror or find a book about something that doesn’t scare you.
There are so many different ways to frighten someone so naturally the horror genre has a large variety of fears to choose from. I think a perfect example of this is the short story collection Dark Water. The entire collection is based around the theme of water and covers every possible fear with just water being featured somewhere in the story.
I plan to write guide someday to help people find the right horror novel with recommendations of course.
4. The Backstories
My favourite part of anything horror related is the backstory. What made all of the events happen? What horrible thing is the driving source behind the characters and the story? The explanation is always my favourite. There is usually a brilliant flashback or a plot twist thrown in. I love it and it keeps me hooked.
Also what I don’t understand is that I have seen so many people write “why I love YA/Fantasy/dystopian” lists and have a point on their list about loving the dark moments, and then on another post saying they hate horror. Clearly you don’t hate horror. You are just turning down an entire genre of that thing you just said you love. Maybe you just haven’t found the right book.
5. Morbid Curiosity
Have you ever read a story in the news that is tragic and terrible but find yourself wondering what exactly happened? Sure you will get the jist of it in the news but you just want the gory details. This is what drew me to the world of horror in the first place.
My introduction to the horror genre was when I watched the 1931 Frankenstein film as a small child. My grandfather made horror film props so the only thing to watch in his house was Hammer and Universal horror films. I don’t know how many of you have seen it but there is a scene in Frankenstein were the monster meets a little girl and they spend time throwing flowers into water and watching them float. They run out of flowers and the monster picks up the little girl and throws her into the water to see if she would float like the flowers. She drowns. This scene filled 5 year old me with so much curiosity, so much so that it stuck in my head forever. I learned two things: A little girl like me can die (something which had never occurred to me before) and the monster that did it wouldn’t understand what it did. The monster was innocent. I loved it so much that the following Halloween I dressed up as the Bride of Frankenstein.
I think when it comes to scary stories, especially those with characters similar to ourselves, we can relate so much we end up hooked. It makes us address our own mortality or our own humanity if we relate to the villain.
So these are my reasons for loving the horror genre. Tell me your favourite genre below or, if you are a fan of horror, tell me why you love it. Or heck, tell why you don’t like horror novels. I would love to read your reasons.