Inside the Macabre Mind of the Horror Writer

Within each and every one of us are those dark thoughts that causes our skin to prickle and muscles to shiver in terror, thoughts that horrifically shame us. Deep in the recesses of each human mind is darkness. That darkness is what fuels our terror and nightmares. It is what gives us our conscience, our morality. However, there is a breed of humans that feed off the darkness and wallow in pits of of human fear. Those special, select humans are the ones that dabble in the writing of horror. The key difference between horror writers and others is that those who script the macabre shine a big spotlight on the darkness within their minds, drawing attention to it, where the majority of other writers prefer to not acknowledge that aspect of their being.

Now please, do not begin thinking that horror writers have dead bodies hiding in our basements or goat heads stung up on a shrine within our closets or that we are only driven by the macabre every second of our lives. We are not our characters. We do not live out the scenarios written about in our stories. Our fascination with horror resides only in our heads and when we put pen to paper. For most of us, we get a high off writing dark fiction. These horrible things that run through our minds, we want to share it. To give everyone else the thrill that we experience when we bring the darkness out from our minds and into the light. We love evoking the fight or flight response. And admit it, as a reader, you get a kick off of sitting at the edge of your seat. When you are at that peak during reading one of our ghastly tales, we have done our jobs. When you put our book down and walk away with a trembling feeling that you just survived a near-death experience, we have become the masters of sharing the true terror of our minds.

(c) 2014, Amanda Headlee

(c) 2014, Amanda Headlee

Horror is that shift in perspective away from the ordinary, everyday life. The genre is a path into a new parallel universe that rips the ground out from beneath your feet, casting you a hundred miles per hour to the core of the story while your mind prays you make it out alive. When you do surface from the grave, you feel more alive than ever. You have just survived Hell. That is why we do it. That is why we are so obsessed with the darkness within our minds, and yearn for the satisfaction of sharing it with the world through the written word. We want to bring you that shift in your reality, to knock you off your feet, to make you feel death, to make you fear the darkness, and to make you run like mad back to the pure light of all that is good.   Because what is darkness without light, and light without darkness?

12 thoughts on “Inside the Macabre Mind of the Horror Writer

  1. Pingback: Inside the Macabre Mind of the Horror Writer | The Sarcastic Muse

  2. You’re delightful and wonderful, Amanda, but I must admit that I wonder what torture horror writers endured as children to make them so twisted. My novels have dark elements, but start to finish – dark, dark, dark. Please explain…

    • Thanks, Marcy! Your comments always put a smile on my face.

      I really wasn’t tortured as a kid, but I was completely obsessed with scary stories and movies. Ever since I was a small child, I have had an excessively vivid imagination, which sticks with me to this day. So that is where a lot of my inspiration comes from. It’s all darkness inside my noggin – but don’t worry, I would never act upon it 😉

      With that being said, I started reading these when I was about 6 or 7: http://www.scaryforkids.com/stories-to-tell/
      (The things my mother never knew!)

      Those illustrations just make my day! Love them!!

  3. This is a wonderful article, and it couldn’t have come at a more timely moment for me. I just shared my first horror story with a few of my writer friends, and their first comments were for my mental health. I’m so glad to get an insider’s perspective into a genre I was a little afraid to like!

      • Thanks so much! I would love to share it with you 🙂 On a side-note, it’s so exciting to see the debates that the horror genre can spark.

      • Oh, awesome. If you want, you can visit my contact form and send me your email. I can then email you my personal one, and we can swap stories! Really interested in reading what you wrote.

        And I adore a good horror genre debate. It allows people to share their perceptions and gives everyone a chance to learn something new!

  4. Hi Amanda. One of your posts was reblogged by Chris Murgrave, with whom I am in the same community. It is how I got here. I write horror and fantasy at Demogorgon’s Fiction. And I find your view of a horror writer’s mind quite curious. When you say that “those who script the macabre shine a big spotlight on the darkness within their minds, drawing attention to it”, I do not know whether to believe you or not. I think you are saying that we’re rather irrational and unbalanced. It is not entirely the case. There can be love and romance and friendship in a horror story, such as in King’s The Stand. There can be good things. Only they have a tendency go upside down, which, I think, is normal. I think life is a horror story, and I do not know how it can be seen otherwise. First we arrive here by one-way route–we cannot return–then we are trapped here by gravity and the atmosphere. The higher we go, the colder it gets and the less the oxygen, and if we can endure that then there are the ionosphere, solar radiations, the magnetosphere, etc, more dangerous-sounding things. If we can pass all that then maybe we will end up trapped in an orbit or just drifting in an expanse of bleakness. Meanwhile, we’re also imprisoned down here by a terrible system where the next leader is likely to be worse than the last, and bad news is good news, and there are gazillions of bad news. The only way to exit earth is through death, yet death we dread. This is not a lie and there is no better way of saying it. Hence, there is horror all around us. We do not really make it up. We see it. We interpret it. We are not crazy. Those who do not see it are the ones that are warped. Or outright scared.
    Actually, I think that romance writers, for instance, are rather worse than us. Imagine the possibility of young love growing to maturity and people ending up happier and happier for the rest of their lives. Love is possible, even a great love. And it can last if well nurtured. With patience and tolerance, without condemnation and judgment, love can last. But it doesn’t. So many heartbreaks. So much sorrow and bitterness. So much desolation. Until the concept of love begins to be frightening. It gives birth to disaster. It is a precursor of horror.
    Now I do not know which is worse: writing of something possible that has been rendered impossible by human weakness, or boldly going gross out and exposing the eternal incarceration of humankind on earth and the delusions that surround it. In essence, romance is fantasy while horror is real. Not the other way round.

  5. Hello Peter!

    Thank you for your follow to my blog. I thoroughly enjoyed our story, The Tree Hugger, and looking forward to going through your archives.

    With what you referenced about horror writer being ‘irrational and unbalanced’, that is not necessarily what I was meaning. Horror writers (and horror enthusiasts) have a way to tap into a special perception to look at things and situations in a way that not a lot of people will allow themselves to do so. Every human in the world has the ability to see things “our way”, but most prefer to keep the rose tinted glasses on or allow us to do the interpretation for their later consumption. It is a fear of reality that usually make people blind to the truth, but that is the driving factor of a good horror story, is it not? Someone within the story has to be blind to the truth, blind to the horror, to be caught unawares. That someone has to be the victim so that humanity can sympathize with the character’s plot and circumstance. That is what creates the draw to horror. For people to don’t see the “horrors” of everyday life, they sympathize with a character that is experiencing a terrifying situation.

    I’d like to go back to your thoughts on ‘irrational and unbalanced’. Horror writers are human – yes, even the writer who may be possessed by a demon, part of that person’s humanity is intact somewhere in their body. Every human in this world is irrational and unbalanced. But then, if everybody is that way – are we then not all balanced? The irrationality is the fluctuation between seeing the truth to only wanting to see what we are told is “good”. Our minds, while we tend to see the reality of the world, need to take a break from the veracity of reality. Seeing the truth all the time can be very taxing. That is personally what I believe creates the best turmoil in our writing: We can see both sides.

    Your metaphor on life is phenomenal and mind-blowing. You really have me thinking about what then is the meaning of life. Why are we here to live out the greatest horror story in existence? That is a question that I have no answer for.

    Nor do I have an answer for the question that you pose at the end of your post. One way is finite and bound by the limits of human capacity to be twisted asunder, while the other is an unrestricted falsification of reality that continues for eternity. Both in my mind are equally terrifying.

    As a side note, I cannot agree with you more on your view of the romance genre. Romance is a complete precursor to horror. Happy endings are a figment of the human imagination. In the end, everyone dies. I try so hard to tell this to my romance writer friends, especially the ones who never kill off characters, but they end up throwing things at me…

    • Hey, thanks for visiting my blog. And I must say I like how you have explained our irrational and unbalanced states. I realize, well, that myself am actually irrational and unbalanced. Seeing the truth can be very taxing, just as you say. Thanks, Amanda, and have a great weekend!

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