Three Things I Learnt From This Month’s Horror Novel Marathon

Well, since I’ve spent the past month reviewing about 10-12 horror novels, I thought that I’d look at some of the things that this experience has taught me. Although I’ve probably mentioned some of these things in previous articles, I felt like writing something of an overview article too.

Anyway, here are some of the things that I learnt from the horror marathon:

1) Balancing spontaneity and planning: The horror marathon was something of a spontaneous “wouldn’t it be cool if I did this?” kind of idea. Sometimes, these kinds of ideas can work really well (I mean, how do you think this site started?) but they should probably be paired with some level of planning too.

For example, one of the largest problems with the horror marathon was probably finding enough reading matter for it without reading more than one book by any particular author. In the end, about half of the novels I ended up reading were ones that I’d already read 10-15 years ago. It wasn’t like I had a shortage of horror novels, it was just that most of the novels I had that would have been perfect for the series were ones I’d already reviewed within the past few months. If I’d have known about the series then, I could have saved them up for this month.

So, yes, whilst a spontaneous “wouldn’t it be cool?” moment is a great way to build motivation for a project, you also need to think about planning too. Although your initial burst of enthusiasm will carry you into a project, you also need to think about how you are going to keep going when this passes. In other words, some level of long-term planning and/or advance planning is usually a good thing.

2) Variety is the spice of life: During the marathon, I read two novels (P.N.Elrod’s “Lifeblood” and Tess Gerritsen’s “The Apprentice” ) that weren’t, strictly speaking, horror novels. Sure, both of them contained elements from the horror genre, but they were closer to the detective genre than the horror genre. This was due to more than just running out of traditional horror novels to review. I needed a break from horror fiction.

Reading nothing but horror fiction isn’t as awesome as it may initially seem. In short, if you just read horror fiction then it becomes a little bit more predictable and mundane after a while. This means that scenes of horror don’t really have quite the same dramatic impact that they might do if you read novels from other genres in between each horror novel.

This, by the way, is also important if you’re planning on writing any horror fiction. Many of the best horror novels I read during the marathon also took inspiration from other genres. Whether it is the dystopian sci-fi elements in S.L.Grey’s “The Mall“, the disaster movie-style elements in James Herbert’s “The Rats“, the thriller novel elements in S.D.Perry’s “Resident Evil: City Of The Dead” etc… the best horror fiction often takes inspiration from outside of the horror genre.

3) Modern vs. old horror fiction: Although I focused on 1970s-90s classics fairly heavily during the marathon, I also read about three modern horror novels too. Still, a focus on the classics also made me think more about the modern horror novels that I’d read in the months before the marathon. It reminded me of how the two types of horror fiction differ from each other.

And, yes, horror novels are still being written these days. They’re usually scarier too. This is mostly because, whilst 1970s-90s horror novels do include multiple types of horror, there often tends to be more of a focus on less scary things like monster horrror and gory horror. On the other hand, modern horror novels will often place more emphasis on scarier things like atmosphere, psychological horror, suspense etc…

A good example from the marathon is probably Adam Nevill’s 2011 novel “The Ritual“. This is a novel about four hikers who are trapped in an abandoned forest and hunted by something. Yet, the novel is much scarier than a 1980s monster novel for the simple reason that there is a lot of focus on things like suspense, the fraying sanity of the hikers and atmospheric descriptions of the scary forest.

So, yes, although the classics are still awesome, don’t overlook modern horror fiction. It’s usually a lot more scary than you might think.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

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