literature

Why horror novels are not scary: A Discussion

“This sounds great, but I am too chicken to read it”

“I get scared of horror films, so I am not going to read a horror novel”

Does this sound familiar? Is this you?

When I restarted this blog last year I wanted to bring attention to one of my favourite dying genres: horror. It has been coming back gradually over the last year, with films like IT and tv shows like The Haunting of Hill House bringing people back to the genre, but when it comes to books, people still don’t want to read horror novels.

Horror in a literary form is very different from movies. It can scare you in other ways and generally relies on your own imagination to do the work when it comes to scares. So this is why you should pick up a horror novel even though you cant handle horror films:

1. You cant see it

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You know those gory scenes, monsters or ghosts in films that keep you up at night? Well you can’t actually see them in a book. Yes they are described to you but that is a lot tamer than having them standing right in front of you. It is up to your own imagination to make it terrifying and if you want to gloss over it and tone it down you can. It is left entirely up to your imagination. If you are frightened of seeing gore or something like clowns you don’t have to worry about them appearing in books. You can’t actually see them. It is all just words on a page.

2.No Jump Scares

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Jump scares are the cheapest form of scare in the horror film genre. I hate them. Luckily they don’t exist in books. Jump scares require visuals and audio to cause the scare and, unless you bought a magic book that can scream, that is impossible with literature.

So if you are a jumpy person, you are safe in the world of books.

3.There is something for everyone

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Look at what you are frightened of and then avoid it. That isn’t difficult to do. Do you hate gore? Fine, read a classic haunted house story. Hate ghosts and the supernatural? Fine, read a human based psychological horror novel. Not everything is about ghosts and ghouls. Do some research and you will find something you like.

The same goes for age ratings. I have read plenty of brilliant YA, teen and adult horror. There is something to keep everyone happy. There are even horror novels with comedy elements.

4.You have probably read more horror than you think

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You know that trick mums do when they sneak vegetables into a kid’s food and they don’t notice? Well, you have probably done that to yourself with horror content.

I have seen plenty of people talk about how they don’t like horror or dark things one minute and then gush over a mainstream YA with just as many dark elements the next. I have read so many very popular YA series that feature massacres, graphic murder, suicide and supernatural elements. I think if you can handle those you can handle some horror.

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Let’s have a discussion, if you are too scared to pick up a horror book tell me why. Is it because of the content? The scary label of horror? Or do you simply just not know where to start?

2 thoughts on “Why horror novels are not scary: A Discussion”

  1. I agree! Horror movies and novels are very different. The scariest novel I ever read was H. G. Wells’ “The Island of Dr. Moreau”, and that’s sci-fi. I totally had to skim some bits just to see how it ended. Whereas Stephen King’s “Carrie” didn’t bother me one bit.

    1. I couldn’t agree more! I think the only book that has really scared me is You by Caroline Kepnes, and that is a thriller. It just made me really uncomfortable. But I can read Stephen King and other horror novels like they are the morning paper. There is something for everyone.

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