Discussion: Finding the Perfect Scary Book

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I love a good horror story. It’s really no secret. Every single year when the Halloween season rolls around, I’m on the search for all things scary — books, movies. I want to be looking under the bed for monsters, I want to jump at noises, and I want to be wary of looking over my shoulder when reading something scary.

I know, I’m a little weird.

But what makes a good horror book? Is it the characters? The setting? The build-up? The suspense? In all of my searches, I have yet to find something that is truly scary and I tend to chalk that up to the fact that horror books don’t have soundtracks.

Right?

Pop in any good horror movie and I’m sure you will be scared by the eerie music in the background … BUT turn that music off and I bet it’s not so scary. I’m like that when I pop in The Shining. It TERRIFIES me to watch it, but if it’s on in the background on mute, I’m totally fine with it.

When it comes to books, there can be suspense, but real life is also going on all around you. Right at the build-up point where you can feel the hair on your arms start to stand on edge, someone might ask you about dinner, the phone might ring, or your stomach might let you know it needs a snack.

Real life can be a suspense killer when it comes to reading a scary book.

But just imagine — if there was a soundtrack, something to set the mood, MAYBE a book would be scarier.

Of course, maybe I don’t find certain books scary because of all the detail that is included in books. When you watch a scary movie, we see everything play out with our eyes (obviously). We don’t have to read all the detail of the setting or what the character is doing.

And maybe, it can be a case of wandering eyes, something I am SO guilty of when reading. You know how authors like to put those mini-cliffhangers at the end of chapters? Well, if I’m on the page on the left and the chapter ends on the right, at least 8 out of 10 times, I’ll glance over to the right-hand side to just see what’s happening next.

Again, instant suspense killer.

Maybe I’m just destined to never be scared by a book, or maybe there’s nothing out there that’s all that scary. Or maybe movies have ruined scary reading for me. Lately, though, I’ve been trying to just open my mind when I’m reading something scary, trying to not overthink the book, and really trying to just get into the story. For me, the scariest horror books (well, the scariest to me) are the ones with a spooky setting — like a mental asylum, or a tiny island — with characters who are apt to looking over their shoulder for creepy things. I don’t find gore all that scary, but if you put in ghosts and psychological thrillers, you may have me scared.

What makes a good horror book? Are there any books that surprised you with how scary they were?Ā 

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15 thoughts on “Discussion: Finding the Perfect Scary Book

  1. I love scary books, but I’m picky about which ones I read. I usually shy away from authors like King, who focus on gore and ‘shock’, and instead prefer books that mess with my mind šŸ™‚ I highly recommend Simone St. James (The Haunting of Maddy Clare is her first book), Susan Hill (The Woman in Black), and then I just read a great one-Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle šŸ™‚

    • I’ve been wanting to read We Have Always Lived in the Castle for such a long time! I thought The Woman in Black was okay, too. I definitely prefer books that mess with my mind over gore!

  2. I always hated horror movies because I don’t like being scared, so I was really surprised to discover that I do like reading horror. It’s to my advantage that books can’t scare the way that movies can.

  3. I’ve read two by FG Cottam and I think he does a pretty good job of building tension (Dark Echo and The House of Lost Souls). I’ve also read books that didn’t scare me at the time but when I was in a setting that reminded me of a scene in a certain book suddenly felt a bit creeped out (specifically, being in a underground cave after reading World War Z). However, I mostly agree with you – I think books can do an amazing job of setting up tension but by the end it never quite pays off as satisfyingly as I’d like and instead the scariness just fizzles.

    • I never thought about a book scaring me afterwards, if I’m somewhere reminiscent of the story … there are a few stories I’ve read which make me not want to visit certain places.

      I want to try out World War Z one of these days … thankfully my caving days are over, so I should be okay!

  4. Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane was one of those scary because you don’t know what the heck is going on type of books! I love a good scary read myself but especially in fall when the weather gets a chill in the air šŸ™‚

  5. Pingback: Weekly Recap| Jun 22-28, 2014 | Oh, the Books!

  6. Haha I totally do that too – glance over to the right hand side of the page of the book, no matter what type of book I’m reading. In fact, if I’m at a really important part of the book, I will cover the right page with my hand so I don’t ruin it for myself!

    As for horror, I can’t say I’ve read any as I get freaked out pretty quickly, but I do quite enjoy a good suspense novel. And you’re right – it’s the music in horror films that really put me on edge!

    • I’m glad I’m not the only one who cheats when reading! I should cover the page more often … I’m always ruining it for myself!

      I wish I got more freaked out when reading … I’d love to be scared by a book for once!

  7. Pingback: Weekly Recap| Jun 29 ā€“ Jul 5, 2014 | Oh, the Books!

My home is where my books are. - Ellen Thompson

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