I am a sucker for horror novels. I binge read Stephen King at least once a year, and I grew up reading R.L. Stine. Growing up, my favourites were stuff like Dracula and Frankenstein. Not necessarily scary by today’s standards, but when you’re a kid, monsters of all shapes are the stuff of nightmares! My favourite books are ones that have kept me up way past my
bedtime because I can’t sleep for fear of the Thing Under the Bed.
And yet, I shy away from a lot of horror novels, and especially horror movies, because I don’t like most of what passes for horror these days. I find that “horror” in most media has become synonymous with “shock value” and “gore” and while I shy away from that stuff because I find it profoundly disturbing, I feel like body horror and gore shouldn’t really be what horror is about.
I write zombie books. I write vampire books. I jokingly say that I write horror books for people who don’t like horror, and so far, it’s been pretty accurate. I’ve sold my zombie books to people who have said that they hate zombie books because it’s all the same old hack and slash, jump scare, gore-filled slop, but they’ve come back after reading my books and saying that yeah, that was a good read. I don’t write a lot of jump scare, gore-filled horror. I don’t like body horror. I write stories that are character-based. I write horror that is more a feeling in your gut, rather than pools of blood and entrails hanging from the lights. I write horror that comes from the idea that there is something out there, lurking in the shadows, and you know it’s there, but you can’t see it. I write hopelessness, and the idea that you’re never gonna get back to normality,
and that’s what becomes scary. When you’re writing horror without using gore, you need to set the tone and the atmosphere. Anything that the audience can imagine is worse than what you’re going to present them with, so use that as a tool in make the fear become almost tangible.
Describe a smell. Wet fur, and rotting wood.
A sound. Scraping along the floor, a low clicking that’s getting closer. A
ragged breath that isn’t coming from your character’s lungs.
A glimpse of something out of the corner of the eye. A huge shape. A
flutter of movement. Long legs, a flash of teeth.
You can’t see it. Not exactly, but you know its there. Watching. Waiting.
You can make everything scary. It’s all a matter of finding your voice and learning to get the tools you need to make it scary without relying on gore.
Kai Kiriyama is a an author of several books about zombies, vampires and a
steampunk detective. She lives in Alberta, Canada with her pet snake and a
You can find Kai on Twitter: @RaggedyAuthor
And on her website: http://www.theraggedyauthor.com/
You can buy her books on all digital retailers, but the amazon links are:
Pathogen Patient Zero: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00X01BH9E
Pathogen Outbreak: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B012Z1OTPI
My Life Beyond the Grave: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00OC2X93M