Horror literature. What is the reader looking for in it? How to write a novel that will be read?

(Viral article)

Today, horror literature is becoming more and more popular. This trend may seem strange, because the literature of horror includes works that should cause anxiety and fear in readers. It would seem that who would want to experience such feelings voluntarily?

However, fear is not always a bad thing. Associate Professor of Integrative Biology Daniela Kaufer in the article “Researchers find out why some stress is good for you” said:

“You always think of stress as something bad, but it’s not. Some amounts of stress push well to the level of optimal alertness, behavioral and cognitive activity.”

So we see that fear can really be useful. The positive effect is especially noticeable when reading works of horror literature. After all, reading books, we feel a variety of emotions, but we remain safe, and therefore do not risk anything.

Scary books can even teach. Often such “learning” is perceived better than lessons from professional educators. I felt it in my own experience.

Of course, by the time, I was 14, I had heard many moralizing lectures by a school psychologist that drugs were evil. However, Stephen King’s book “Renaissance” really helped me understand what drug addiction is. The scene with the fragility of the protagonist looked very disgusting, but it felt real: only life without morals and falsehood. This scene did not last long. It seems even smaller than a page. But it shocked me a lot. It was then that I clearly understood that I would not use drugs under any circumstances.

So we found that horror literature could be useful. Apparently, this genre has gained its popularity. However, what exactly do modern readers want to see in horror literature?

Agree, no one will talk about the preferences of the audience better than the audience itself. So on my Twitter page, I asked subscribers to go through a small poll in which they had the opportunity not only to choose the answer, but I left a comment.

So what is it, a likely bestseller of the 21st century?

42% of readers choose works on social issues. Perhaps in this way the reader wants to rethink the events that happened to them in real life.

The topic of paranormal phenomena is almost as popular with readers as the previous one (39%). Mystical works help the reader to feel emotions that he will not be able to experience.

The well-known Stephen King usually combines these themes in his works: for example, Kerry has telekinesis from the work of the same name, but the main problem of the work is bullying, and in the work “It”, which tells about the supernatural nature that kills people, how it affects them in adulthood. Apparently, the secret of the popularity of the King of Horrors lies in the combination of mysticism with social issues.

The subject is clear. Now you need to choose a specific theme of the work. Judging by my research, for a work in the horror genre, it is better to choose topics that appeal to the most common phobias.

In my survey, I added two interrelated questions: one with a list of phobias, the other with short descriptions of the plots, each of which corresponded to certain phobias.

So, 65% of the recipients wanted to read works related to several of their phobias, and 10% wanted to get acquainted with all the presented topics related to their phobias.

When the author has decided on the theme and problems of his work, you should choose the time and place of events.

The majority of respondents are interested in works whose action takes place in the present (54%) and in the past (36%). But I do not advise novice authors to write about the future, because only 10% of recipients have chosen such works. Readers seem to enjoy reading about times they can easily imagine.

It is also better to choose a place close to reality: 82% of respondents chose a novel that takes place in the real world, of which 39% would like the action to take place in a real place.

Finally, when the author already knows the problems of the work and the time and space where the events will take place, you need to think about the main character.

The hero’s gender was not fundamental. For a long time, the voices between a woman and a man in this role were divided equally. But in the end the statistics changed a bit: 55% of recipients would like to see works with a woman in the role of the main character.

In most books and movies in the horror genre, the protagonist is the victim. However, according to the survey, for the modern reader , this is the least desirable role (10%). 44% would like to follow the hero (heroine), the root causing of events, and 35% are interested in novels with witnesses in the lead role.

However, I left it up to the recipients to write their own version. I received quite a few comments. They can be divided into 2 main groups, which have approximately the same number of comments.

The first group is interested in versatile characters who can combine all these roles. The second group would like to see several plot lines in the work, which will give an opportunity to look at the situation from different angles.

For example, Pan Pes left the following comment:

“In general, it is interesting to watch the main characters and heroines of the work, especially when horror literature exists not just for screamers, but to think, understand, ask yourself, maybe even sit down and hold your head, because it does not matter what I read. That’s why I’m a little bold to write about the parallelism of the plot, where you can observe both the root cause and the witness and the victim.”

There were also some comments about the importance of interaction between the characters.

So we see that the modern reader wants to see three-dimensional characters who may or may not fit the conventional horror framework.

I hope my research will help you write a successful horror novel. Do you know any other secrets for this? Share in the comments.

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