What’s wrong with scary?

I’ve always wanted to write something that would “move” people. Not move them out of my circle of friends, but move them to feel something. It’s a puzzle I’m still putting together.

I like literature, drama, and really sad stories. I’ve read Amy Tan, Alice Hoffman, Kate Chopin, and my favorite author is Jhumpa Lahiri. These writers deal with the subtleties of human emotion. They can describe brushing one’s teeth, and pull a tear from your eye. So when I finished writing “Wind River” my first though was – “Oh crap. I’ve just written a horror novel.”

I shouldn’t have been surprised, I guess. When I was a kid I felt sorry for the Wicked Witch of the West, Gene Simmons was my favorite member of KISS, I only liked Decepticon Transformers, Darth Vader was the coolest guy imaginable, and during my first book report in AP high school English, I spat blood while telling the truncated story of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

But I never wanted to scare people with my writing, I wanted to move people. I thought there was a difference.

I’m not sure if there is a place on the bookstore shelf (or Amazon recommendations) for a literary horror novel like mine. It starts off like one of those classic tales, with a young bride, her distant husband, a secret lover, a disturbing childhood, and a struggle against the elements. But then some really dark stuff starts to happen, and by the time it is through, it is a battle against unknowable evil, in an isolated town filled with sick, tormented, and murderous people. So much for a light, heartwarming read.

For a long time I thought the book was a failure. I thought I had written it well, but knew that it probably was too over-the-top. And I was disappointed that I had missed my chance to really say something about the world. But then, someone told me I was wrong.

One of my critique partners said that the book had “changed” her. “Haunted” her. That it was a stunning commentary on the claiming of things that don’t belong to you.

Who knew?

I would like to thank her for saying those things. No one had said that to me before. Now, I don’t feel like a failure. Because I have done what I set out to do, even if it was only with one person.

For any writer, that’s usually enough.

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11 thoughts on “What’s wrong with scary?

  1. As long as “sharpie” isn’t a nickname for a knife. I know how horror writers are… nicknames for everything….

    Seriously though, thanks so much. Don’t think you’d ever have to wait in a line, though. Contemporaries hang out, not wait in lines.

  2. That’s a wonderful thing to hear for any author!

    I believe Stephen King threw the first draft of his first successful novel, Carrie, in the trash, but luckily, his wife rescued the manuscript from the trash, read it and encouraged him to finish it. Sometimes we really need those outside voices, whether to help us improve or to save that good story from the trunk. As a writer, it’s so easy to get too close to the work, and no longer see it for what it really is.

    (And I think horror is a fabulous genre. It’s not all gore and monsters. There’s even a group on Goodreads called Literary Horror with lots of readers/members.)

  3. I didnt know Amazon has no place for horror,that is sad if it it so…
    a good book is a good book is a good book and no matter what the genre the content is always the hero..
    Have always believed in what Robert Frost put so eloquently
    “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”

    • There is a place for horror, but it is considered “genre” fiction. If you search for “literary” you most likely will not wind up with a horror story. But some of the best “horror” novels were also beautiful literary works, “Dracula” and “Frankenstein” being two of the most well-known and also two of the most well written. I’ve tried to write a novel with a more poetic voice, while still trying to keep the tension. Sometimes I fear I may get discarded, because it isn’t what is expected these days.

      • so agree with you both the books you mentioned are beautiful
        i have read them so many times..
        I would love to read what you have written…..hope you will give us a small tour in that world you have woven some day 🙂

      • You’re in luck, I’ve posted the first two sections on the page above labeled “Wind River.” I would love to know what you think.

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