Re-Examining a Genre: Horror

Posted February 20, 2014 by Stormy in Books / 35 Comments

When anyone asked what my favorite genre is, I find it easier to say what I don’t like: Romance, heavy historical fiction, westerns, and horror. That’s been my go-to response for years. I like romance IN my books, but as someone who is heavily unromanced and has a low(very low) tolerance for sappiness and general. . . displays of affection, I suppose, I’ve never had any desire to pick up a romance book. I do like historical fiction at times but I have to be in the mood, and I don’t like things that are weighed down too heavily with historical details. Westerns are. . . I’m not even gonna touch that one. And horror books are scary and gory and creepy and why would I want to read them?

Here’s the thing though: It has come to my attention that I may be wrong about some of the genres I don’t like. A specific one. The horror one, to be precise.I know, I know! I was so confident about my dislike of horror. But somehow. . . my mind has changed.

Dalek EXPLAIN

Well, I realized while revising the draft of my NaNoWriMo project that it could be considered historical horror(I was thinking of it more as historical paranormal). It has wraiths in it(even though they’re called something else!). Children are dying. At the very least, it has horror elements. So why would I write a genre I didn’t like to read? You could say the horror elements took me by surprise(which is true). But more than that, I had just been waving everything off with an “I don’t like horror”, when in fact, I’ve come to realize that I do.

I really enjoyed books like The Waking Dark, Another Little Piece, and (Don’t You) Forget About Me. Horror. My favorite currently airing TV shows are Supernatural & Sleepy Hollow. Horror. And all along, in my head, I kept telling myself that this book was the exception, not the rule, but I think I’ve had so many exceptions recently I need to admit it to myself.

Here’s the thing: For so long, I decided I didn’t like horror because I don’t like GORE. I don’t like seeing or reading about torture, or dismemberment, or body parts in jars. I don’t like serial killer horror(most of the time)–or anything with just lots of killing and killing. I like psychological horror, and supernatural horror. That’s the kind of horror I can stand, and the kind of horror that intrigues me. And I’ve found there’s plenty of horror without loads of gore(or at least, a gore level I can tolerate. I had to skip some scenes in Another Little Piece).

I’ve enjoyed the horror books that explore humanity. . . while sometimes not appearing to explore humanity at all, but the supernatural. I remember in high school I had to read an essay Stephen King wrote on why we read horror. At the time, I was firmly in my horror-disagreement stance, and didn’t like it at all. Now, though? I have to say I’d probably agree.

Let’s talk: Have you ever re-examined your views of a genre? How do you feel about horror? Have you ever felt, as I used to, that horror really meant gore?

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35 responses to “Re-Examining a Genre: Horror

  1. prettylreader

    I am a huge lover of horror – gore included 😀

    I used to think I didn’t like contemporary. I never would have said that I hated it, but I was a firm believer that I didn’t often enjoy those kinds of stories. Fast forward a few years, and while I don’t read contemporary often, I almost always find a new favourite when I do!

    • Stormy

      I used to think I didn’t like contemporary either!(clearly, I’ve expanded my reading taste a lot in the past few years). I would tolerate it, but it wasn’t something I usually enjoyed. And while contemporary still isn’t my favorite genre, some of my favorite books are in that genre.

  2. I would actually label my preferences as very similar to yours, and I have always been one to say no to horror. After reading this, I guess I would have to say I would need to know one’s definition of horror for sure before I said I didn’t like it. I do like psychological thrillers and suspense, but I don’t like gore or unnecessary killing sprees or scariness and the like… I’m not huge on supernatural stuff either. I’m not sure if I’ve read anything or even watched anything labeled as horror though… I think the closest is watching Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, which I personally feel is more suspense despite the ONE SCENE.

    • Stormy

      I think those definitions are important! I’m okay with scary things and violence, but not anything terribly graphic. And gore. . . yuck! I read The Waking Dark last year, and I think that was the first horror book I’ve read.

  3. It’s funny: I’m a total chicken when it comes to any type of horror/suspense movies. Seriously they give me nightmares for days and I become terrified of my own shadow. But give me a horror book any day of the week and I will RELISH it! There’s something a little less scary, but still intense, when it comes to reading about horror rather than seeing it. Don’t know what it is! Glad you’ve realized you like horror!

    • Stormy

      It’s WAY easier to read horror than it is to watch for me! I think it’s because it’s less visual. Even as a visual reader, it’s not quite the same as having it all laid out in front of you.

  4. I couldn’t agree with you more! Last September, I had ruled out Horror or anything remotely creepy from my reading list, yet I read Anna Dressed in Blood, Unbreakable, and own another horror themed book, which all seem to be about ghosts. I won’t touch zombies, but I’ve been swayed to ghosts lately, and it’s made me consider what themes I actually like and don’t like.
    This is a great post! 😀

    • Stormy

      Yeah, zombies aren’t really for me either. I tried to read The End Games and only got about a quarter through it. I really want to read Anna Dressed in Blood soon!

  5. Horror is definitely not for me. I have avoided the genre for ages, because I’m so easily scared. I don’t read horror, I almost never watch a horror movie and I once watched a random Supernatural episode (no idea what season or what episode) and it kind of freaked me out. I don’t handle horror well at all haha. I’m not sure if I would like horror in books, because I’ve never tried one. But I think books can be different than movies, so I might try one. I mean, I like suspense, but not gory details.

    • Stormy

      I don’t get scared as easily as much as I get. . . uneasy? It’s not often scary for me. Gore is just gross–it’s not even that I can’t handle it, but more I don’t want to. Ha, the first season Supernatural episodes can be quite terrifying. . it became more of an emotional story after that. I definitely think books are easier to handle than movies or TV!

  6. I was the same until last year. I just kept thinking, “But why would you want to read horror when there are so many other lovely books out there?” But then I got it into my head that I should really give some proper Stephen King a go and, you know, there are a few gross bits and a hell of a lot of creepy bits, but I discovered that I was a huge fan! I haven’t ventured away from Mr King yet though.

    • Stormy

      I still haven’t read Stephen King, but I have some of his books on my shelves!(though actually, I think I only have some of the Dark Tower books & the books under his pen name, so not his most well known books). I still can’t do gore but I’m definitely enjoying my venture into the horror genre more.

  7. As I have grown up, I have noticed that my interest in certain genres has changed. I used to read a lot of horror (with limited gore) but my interest in that has decreased. I am actually thinking of trying some horror again this year. 🙂

    • Stormy

      I haven’t ventured outside of YA horror yet–it’s been the safest–but I think I probably will later this year!

  8. I’m a huge chicken when it comes to horror anything. Horror movies or books give me the willies. But I get what you mean by the points about gore vs psychological horror. I don’t like horror stories that feature heavily on gore (which is ironic because I’m a big fan of Attack on Titan). I’m a big fan of mystery stories and those can step into the horror genre at certain points, but the horror is more creeping in people’s minds and psychological horror that someone so close to the MC is the one hurting them, etc.

    • Stormy

      Yup, I just can’t do gore. I just have no desire to see or read that. I think at this point I mostly prefer supernatural/paranormal horror, but I’m growing increasingly fond of the psychological types too!

  9. I like horror, but not necessarily heavy gore. That said, I don’t classify Stephen King in the “heavy gore” category, which probably makes me weird. lol. But I feel like a lot of his gore is soft compared to the disgusting slasher-type stuff you can find out there…THAT’S the stuff I don’t like, gore that is for gore’s sake, rather than gore that blends more into the story line. Does that make any sense?

    Genres I should reevaluate at some point (ie genres that I ALWAYS say I don’t like): paranormal, westerns, Christian fiction (that’s one that I have a few too many exceptions for these days, and should definitely take another look), erotica and romance.

    • Stormy

      Ha, I’ve never read a Stephen King novel, so I’m not sure of the level of gore in his works. . . even though he’s the author that always comes to mind for horror. I do have own a few books of his that I’m going to read soon, so we’ll see if I can tolerate it. Though one is under his pen name(which I can’t remember at the moment), and then the first book in the Dark Tower series, so probably not the works that come to mind when talking about Stephen King.

      I know what you mean though! If gore is blended into the storyline, I think I’m MORE okay with it. I might skim parts, but I’ll keep reading. I don’t like reading gory things that are just there to shock the audience.

      I’ve had to reevaluate my stance on paranormal too, and I’m kinda warming up to it. Not a fan of the vampires or werewolves, but other paranormal? Maybe. . . I’m okay with it sometimes.

  10. Yes. Just yes. I usually say I like thrillers rather than horror, because thrillers generally have some similarities, but aren’t seen as gory horror. I like things that are psychological. Sometimes I like supernatural horror too. Depends really. But what people generally think of when they say horror? Ew, no. Not for me. I like a book that leaves me tense and clueless. I don’t want to be grossed out. Excellent point!

    (and I agree with the romance, western, and heavy historical. I cannot do those. Just no.)

    • Stormy

      Yup, thriller is a good term! I just. . . can’t really do gore. If it’s not a HUGE part of the story, I’m okay with skimming some scenes, but if it’s literally every page(or every scene in a movie or TV show), I can’t. I just don’t care to read about torturous or gross things.

  11. I love horror and I hate slasher, and I think the biggest argument I have to make in defense of horror is that it is not synonymous with slasher. Sure, slasher is a possible element — or sub-genre — but it’s not all-encompassing of horror. Still, it’s a discussion that’s increasingly important (if not a little frustrating) after all the SAW films. Like any genre, there is so much to explore in horror, and I have always been more partial to psychological and mythical (paranormal, I guess) horrors.

    As for a genre I reexamine on a frequent basis, contemporary romance. It’s not my usual cup of tea, but there are books in that genre that just really get to me and are remarkable in their storytelling.

    • Stormy

      Yup! For so long I was seeing all those slasher movies(well, not seeing them, but seeing them ADVERTISED), and I wrote a whole genre off because of it. I’ve definitely been more interested in the paranormal/supernatural/mythical horror stuff lately. I love mythical creatures!

  12. I don’t mind horror books, but I can’t say they’re my favorite. Although I have a huge fondness for ghost stories – which of course aren’t necessarily horroor.

    But it’s fun, isn’t it, discovering that maybe a genre you thought you didn’t like might have some books that are just for you?

    I’ve discovered that for myself regarding science fiction. I do LOVE romance, though. I don’t like sappiness (Nicholas Sparks is sooo not for me) but I love the romance and the swoons.

    • Stormy

      I don’t think any genre besides science fiction & fantasy will ever be my favorite, but I’ve said similar things before, so we’ll see!

      I do like swoons, but I cannot do sap. Like, I CANNOT do it. I would rather read gore than sap. I am just a not sappy person in life or in books, but since I do like swoons, I have a few friends who also like romance and I might make them give me some suggestions soon. .. just so I can see. After all, if I’m re-examining my stance on the horror genre, it seems only right to give other genres that chance as well.

  13. I recently rexamined my genre-hate for horror, too! I have to say I agree with you, I’m way more into psychological & supernatural horror. Gore is really not my thing, and it’s only been recently (like you) that I’ve realized that horror and gore aren’t synonymous.

    I’m working on sci-fi now…Dune was the first series that kind of shattered my genre perceptions on that one.

    • Stormy

      Psychological & supernatural horror just interest me so much! I’m especially getting into more supernatural/paranormal horror because some creatures just have such a fascinating mythology behind them. It’s been mostly a case of breaking out of the mold of werewolves & vampires to find them.

      I think I re-examined science fiction a few years ago. . . I always said I loved fantasy, but NOT science fiction. I was very clear on that point. Well, turns out, I like science fiction a lot too. Potentially even more than fantasy. I just have to realize my reading taste now are not the same as they were 8 years ago, so I shouldn’t be basing my current reading off the reader I was in high school(which is what I’ve been doing for YEARS).

      • Some of Neil Gaiman’s books I think should be classified as supernatural horror, in my opinion. Books like The Ocean At The End of The Lane have lots of creepy beasties. That’s definitely more my style.

        High School Reader!Amanda was not a very open-minded reader…so I totally get what you mean. I mostly just read chick lit and some classic lit. Only recently have I started branching out!

        • Stormy

          Yes, I totally thought of The Ocean at the End of the Lane! Neil Gaiman’s work sort of defy genre(from what I’ve read–I know he has some pretty ‘straight’ science fiction books) other than all being speculative fiction, but The Ocean at the End of the Lane in particular had that sort of quality.

  14. I can’t stand gore but I love reading about horror. I can’t watch a single horror movie because it gets too real for me but reading about it is still tolerable and I especially love thrillers because the thrill it gives you is such a rush. I’m glad I can read horror books because I think inside I do like it more than I let myself think and books are a perfect way of letting me enjoy the genre.

    • Stormy

      Yeah, I’ve never watched a horror movie all the way through. At least not that I can remember. Movies make it too visual–I can get away with TV shows, because . . . well, I’m not sure why, actually, but horror in a TV show doesn’t bother me much as in a movie. Maybe because movies are longer, and I can only spend so long watching something that is horror? Books are great because even though I’m a pretty visual reader, it’s just visual enough for me to enjoy the book instead of having to crawl under my covers.

  15. I like horror – and I like gore 🙂 For me, it’s not so much I change my mind about genres, but I will switch up how much of any genre I read in a given year. Like 2 years ago, I was all about dystopia, last year, I read more mysteries. But every year, the genre I read the most of is fantasy.

    • Stormy

      I switch up genres I focus on a lot too! I did the Dystopia craze, and last year was really science fiction heavy. I’m still reading a lot of science fiction, but so far this year, I’ve read more contemporary than anything! That’s partially because I’ve been getting more into stand a lone books, which are just more frequent in contemporary, but I was just craving a mix-up. I’ve also found myself reading more historical, which surprises me.

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