I’m either the best or the worst person to ask about this, because I don’t scare. Rather, I don’t have a scare reflex (I never jump), and I’m too pragmatic to be bothered by imaginary bad things happening to imaginary people. Or, for that matter, anything in a book….
Before going any further, I should mention now that I think Stephen King does his best work when he’s not trying to be scary, and my horror style has been described as having a fairly simple plot, though with the ‘dark’ piled on. If you don’t like this, you should totally disagree with me! I love debates. 😀
Anyway…much as I love writing gore, I sadly note that there’s no longer as much of a reason for visceral horror. If you look at movies from thirty or so years ago, you see these special effects that, unbelievably, were thought to be realistic at the time–well, the upshot is that modern society is very, very desensitized to images, and modern good horror really needs:
- Psychology. The best kind of bugs crawling under one’s skin are entirely in one’s own head.
- Suspense. Build it, and then build it some more! Obviously, too much buildup just bores people. I think this may be the hardest thing to control, because it is very individually determined–I read fast enough where I tend to miss when it’s happening. (The only thing to do is make sure the buildup is relatively long in comparison to the bursts of action.)
- Imagery. Just because you shouldn’t go all out with gore doesn’t mean you shouldn’t evoke the senses! Smell and taste seem to be particularly neglected, which is a shame because those memories are far stronger than visual (it’s one neuron per smell memory, but I’m not sure what exactly that’s supposed to mean).
I’m going to leave you with some real horror now.