Today, I thought I'd branch out a bit and give some thoughts on a topic I don't know a whole lot about: horror-writing.
Since I started college, the topic of horror has been on my mind a lot. I'm a sensitive person, so I've never been able to stomach horror. But during college my first year, I made friends who watched horror stuff. It started with us going to see a completely innocuous movie that had a commercial for the movie Mama. I couldn't even watch the trailer, I was so freaked out, but they all got excited, and after that went on a horror movie marathon.
It got me thinking about why horror is so powerful. This continued as I began watching Doctor Who, which has some horror-inspired episodes throughout and then as I began to read some horror novels for the heck of it. Recently, I got into the TV show Supernatural, which is also a horror-type show. (I think my tolerance may be growing.)
In the midst of all this, I had one unifying thought: some of the most powerful horror stories touch on issues related to childhood. (Obviously, not all of them. Horror also commonly revolves around body weirdness, madness, and death.)
Think how many horror films have psychopathic or possessed children or the ghosts of children. Then expand on that. Think about how often things that are reminiscent of childhood appear in horror-related stories. Think about dolls, or clowns, or children's songs being twisted into something creepy or unearthly. I see this myself in the way Steven Moffat creates horror in many of his Doctor Who episodes. ("The Empty Child" is the episode that has freaked me the out most--it's also my favorite.) It happens a lot in this genre.
So even as someone very new to horror, it's clear to me that childhood is a key concept. But why does it appear so often?
The answer seems fairly clear: we're not afraid of children themselves (or most of us aren't, anyway). We're afraid of corrupted innocence. The loss of innocence is a common theme in all kinds of stories, made powerful by the fact that everyone goes through it at some point. Everyone grows up, and everyone loses the childish naivete they had at the beginning of their life. This is a natural and accepted part of life--but it's also often a tragic and sometimes a frightening thing. The loss of innocence, in its worst cases, comes violently and far too soon, as with children who experience abuse, disaster, or war.
So this idea speaks to us on many levels, and one of those levels is fear. Horror writers know this. They take that which is most innocent, children, and other artifacts related to childhood, and then they corrupt it. They play on this natural fear and use it to create something powerful and grotesque.
I think it's a good point to note, both psychologically and as a writer. It certainly helps you when you're trying to invoke fear with something you're creating.
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