I've recently started getting into horror lately and trying to learn how all of the genre works so that maybe I myself can write good horror. But there's been one thing on my mind that's been bothering me a lot about horror. I don't know that while writing horror, what's going way too far and what's crossing the line.

What I'm mainly saying is that horror to me personally doesn't seem like a very easy genre to write. It really does seem like a very difficult and delicate genre of speculative fiction that all authors need to be careful with. Like horror authors need to make sure that the horror stories they're writing (whether it be for movies, TV shows, video games, etc.) are actually good and actually not too disturbing to the point where it's actually hard to watch.

I know I may be sounding all concerned about this but can you really blame me? If I ever do decide to become a writer, I really don't wanna create something that's hard to watch but when you make something hard to watch, that really does that sound like you ultimately failed in every way with your own writing piece. You ruined said piece forever. It really does sound like an objectively bad mistake that all writers (as well as all artists in general) should attempt to avoid at all costs. I know art itself is subjective and all but there really are some objective rules about all of it in order to make it actually good and teach aspiring artists about how certain types of art actually works.

So if any of you would politely ask me what are some of the things that do in fact make any type of horror story hard to watch and how I can try my very best to tame them all, that would be extremely awesome. I would highly thank you for your great advice because I know that a horror story is trying to be scary, but I think the only tone it's supposed to avoid is being hard to watch. I really do think there's a difference between both tones.

Please keep in mind that I'm not saying no horror stories should have any unhappy endings, any innocents getting killed or any blood or gore or anything. I'm not saying that at all. I'm just saying that I really wanna know how I can make those things scary but not too scary to the point where it's hard to watch. Like I said, that really does seem like the kind of tone you're trying to avoid when writing good horror. If any horror experts out there can give some good advice on writing horror itself then that would be awesome!

  • it would be truly an impressive feat. people are so jaded and so desensitized that I honestly do not even know how that could be accomplished. – dolphin_of_france Sep 5 at 21:45
  • @Chaotic Thanks for finding that link. To officially mark it as a duplicate, when you don't have enough rep to simply click on "close," hit the "flag" link at the bottom of the question. – Cyn says make Monica whole Sep 5 at 22:41
  • @Cyn-This is really just an entirely different question of mine when it comes to writing horror. I don't get scared by my own horror stories, but I just need to know if there are moments where I'm going too far or crossing the line for that matter. – Mike Anderson. Sep 6 at 0:27

I think you need to make a distinction between horror, which runs largely on anticipation (like every other genre) and splatter porn (which relies on the perverse titillation that some people feel when regarding scenes of gore, torture, etc.).

If you are writing splatter porn, you probably can't go too far, but the audience is (I hope to God) small.

If you are writing conventional horror, you don't have to go all that far at all. What you have to do is to build and sustain an ever heightening anticipation of an event. In other words, the core of horror is watching the cheerleader going down the steps of the basement where you know the killer is hiding. It is not in watching said cheerleader getting dismembered in grisy detail.

The better you get at building anticipation, the less gory you have to be to move the reader. Sometimes just jumping out from behind a tree a shouting boo is enough if you set things up correctly.

  • -When you bring up "splatter porn", are you mainly talking about works that contain colossal amounts of extreme blood, gore and sexual content? Something like that that's usually seen on a lot of extreme metal album covers from genres like death metal, deathgrind and goregrind? – Mike Anderson. Sep 6 at 0:09
  • @MikeAnderson. It doesn't have to involve actual porn, just lots of gratuitous violence. E.g. On Wikipedia, I found the line 'the use of graphic violence in cinema has been labeled "torture porn".' (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Splatter_film). I guess the term is used to express negative judgement. – Llewellyn Sep 6 at 8:47
  • @Llewellyn. I know. I just figured maybe gore stories could possibly work if said victims in them fitted the trope of "Asshole victim". – Mike Anderson. Sep 6 at 14:36
  • @MikeAnderson. I mean any work where the main attraction is not story but titillation. Mainstream works -- works that mainly appeal on the strength of story -- also sometimes engage in titillation. But in porn, the emphasis is reversed, it is mainly titillation, with story secondary at best. Unfortunately, some people are titillated by violence, mutilation, degradation etc. My point is simply that the definition of "too far" varies widely depending on which audience you are appealing to. And if you are one of those people, it is probably pointless to ask those who are not what "too far" means. – user16226 Sep 6 at 15:03

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