The final article in my series of the various common themes (aka “beauties”) found in science fiction, fantasy, and horror. What started as a discussion in class led to these three posts: The 7 Beauties of Science Fiction, The 7 Beauties of Fantasy, and now the 5 Beauties of Horror.
Now, as to why there are only five beauties in horror, I have an explanation for that: simply, horror often crosses genre. When it features supernatural creatures or monsters from another planet or realm, it’s horror crossing over into fantasy or science fiction. When the story features more human monsters and less of a supernatural aspect, it tends to cross over into the suspense and thriller genres. In that sense, it’s very difficult to get into pure horror, because that’s so difficult to define. So instead, I opted to go into some general themes you find in all forms of horror, no matter what genre they cross over into.
If you have any ideas on how these could be expanded, please let me know. I’d love your opinion on these beauties, since I came up with them on my own (not a lot of horror fans in my science-fiction lit class sadly, or at least not any fans who are as into it as I am).
1. The antagonist–the starting point of the story. Often you can define a horror story by its antagonist. because that’s often what comes first in planning a story and what you use to describe the story: “it’s a story about a murderous ghost”, “it’s a vampire novel”, “there’s a serial killer terrorizing this small farming town”, etc. And in this capacity, I’d like to mention that the antagonist can count as something else if there’s no real human antagonist. For example, in my short story “Addict”, there wasn’t a human or demon up against the narrator. Instead his own addictions were the antagonists of the story. So the antagonist would be more like the evil in the story that wants to do the characters harm or is already doing them harm, I guess.
2. Characters and setting. Usually after I’ve come up with the villain of a story, I start to create the other characters and the setting. The latter can also be a character, such as a haunted house or a forest (if you have trouble believing me on that watch the first season of American Horror Story to see what I’m talking about). I ask myself, who are the characters? Why are they opposite or beside the antagonist? Where is this all happening? What is each character like? All important questions that the author goes into in creating the story.
3. Conflict–there’s going to be one. If there’s a vampire in town, there’s either a vampire hunter or some townsfolk who are going to try and kill the vampire. If someone’s girlfriend has been kidnapped, expect someone’s going to try and get her back. If there’s an evil ghost trying to claim the lives of a family, there might be an exorcist or a paranormal investigator or a really angry mom trying to keep the kids safe from whatever is menacing her family. That conflict is the driving point of the story, and it sets up for the next beauty.
4. Fear. This one seems obvious, but it needs stating anyway. In a horror story, the point is to get the reader or viewer scared silly by telling a story and using the various elements within to terrify. Whether it’s a feeling of being watched, of something out fo the corner of our eyes, of something jumping out, or something just damn strange that we can’t put our fingers on, the whole point of the story is to scare, to create that fear, and it’s up to the storyteller to figure out how to do that and do it well. Otherwise the storyteller has to rely on silly gimmicks like sex or too much blood or watching teens get drunk, stoned, and naked.
5. Rules–there is an MO to what’s happening. Vampires can’t walk in the sun, the killer only goes after people who enter his father’s old prison, the ghost tries to take the souls of children from their parents. There are rules to how the antagonist operates and how it can be taken down. And for the most part, those rules are concrete, or else the story makes no sense and the reader/viewer will lose interest due to disorientation and confusion.
I hope you found these helpful. And once again, if you have any suggestions on how to improve this list, let me know. I do better on this sort of stuff in a group setting sometimes.