I’m not a horror fan, but I find myself constantly running to Edgar Allan Poe as a reference in my writing. There are scenes in mystery writing that require elements of horror. Just as romance is a common element in mystery supporting a subplot, horror, I think, is the second most common genre that is blended with mystery. Not until I took a course in which I submitted my synopsis and the instructor commented on its horror elements, did I realize what I was writing. Consider writing the following scenes without an element of horror.
· Your protagonist is being chased by the villain
· Your unsuspecting protagonist finds a body in an unlikely place, charging the atmosphere
· Your script includes the death scene from the POV of the victim
· You present the mental state of villain, who is an unlikely murderer
· Your protagonist realizes the identity of the unlikely murderer, someone who maybe near and dear.
When a writer blends romance or horror into a mystery script, he adds emotion. Mysteries are rather analytical by nature. The sleuth discovers facts, which leads him to supposition until he finds incriminating evidence or entraps the villain using a variety of methods. Action-adventure can be added, but aside from a rush of adrenaline, this ingredient adds little emotion. It may put a character in a dangerous situation, but when the danger is shown and experienced, horror techniques better demonstrate the character’s emotions.
Poe’s techniques are similar to what is now called “deep POV.” When writing a scene, the writer must get inside a character to show his visceral experience, real or imagined. Remember Poe’s “Tell-Tale Heart,” in which the protagonist can hear the victim’s beating heart, driving him crazy. Poe shows his protagonist’s deteriorating mental state, creating horror within his character and readers.
People love cheap thrills. Consider the concept of rollercoasters, which puts the rider in a position of helplessness and pushes the envelope of his physical safety. Near Halloween, thrill seekers watch horror films to experience poltergeists, ghosts, homicidal madman and demonic possession. Audiences are scared silly all the while being safely ensconced in a public theater or in their home. It is that anticipation, along with some hokie background music, that pushes people’s scare button and creates suspense.
As a victim of a dangerous ride at a fair in my youth in which my physical well-being was put into jeopardy, I do not share in the thrill. I have no fascination with horror. But rarely am I attracted to books that don’t blend genres. When I find myself writing horror scenes in every book I write, rather than reinvent the wheel I depend on the originator, Poe, to teach me how to write these scenes.
What writers do you rely upon?