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.
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?