Supernatural Horror in Literature

I find it fascinating that the same goals we should work towards as writers today were relevant quite a few years ago.  That idea really gives credence to the idea that there really is nothing new under the sun.  The attribute Lovecraft gives Poe of being an author who is the distanced narrator as opposed to the preaching fishwife is particularly interesting.  Even if there is a moral to the story, we don’t have to beat the reader over the head with it.  I agree that making a message heard and appreciated lies in the delivery:  if it seems that the story is being told just as it happened, and doesn’t reek of an underlying motive, the author becomes a trustworthy messenger.


I particularly struggle with writing the events just as they come to me, because every now and then I get this voice in my head that tells me I shouldn’t write that.  But I’m learning that I have to ignore that voice sometimes.  Well, maybe most of the time.  Because that rawness is exactly what needs to be documented, and if the ideas evoke that kind of reaction in me, then they will probably resonate with readers as well.


Something else that jumped out from this reading was the three rules for horror composition that Lovecraft credits to Dr. Montague Rhodes James.  I know I see these attributes in the horror stories I read, but I never itemized them in that way.


About rjjoseph

I am a Texas based writer who must produce words to exorcise the voices that will never quiet until I give them their due.
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2 Responses to Supernatural Horror in Literature

  1. Mike Arnzen says:

    You might enjoy the ghost stories of MR James, perhaps, as a follow-up to these ideas.

    Your point about the “voice in the head” is intriguing: is it a censor? Horror is all about overcoming that inner censor, I think…or, at least, during the composition process. One can always edit (carefully!) and rework things later. Mastering the art of letting your demons out is dangerous and fun business — and at the heart of success in this genre.

    • rjjoseph says:

      I guess I would call it a censor. I’ve not yet learned to completely turn it off when writing other things, and the balance between the creative and the critical in the invention and composition processes seems to work out for me (can you tell your Writer’s Block class really helped? I was very excited to learn that the writing process could be broken into four parts for better determining where the blocks occur!).

      Now with my terror babies, I can’t seem to get past that internal editor who really doesn’t seem to know very much but won’t be quiet anyway. I agree with you that letting the imagination run free is key, especially in horror writing, and I think that’s why I struggle so.

      I think I’ll just get some duct tape and bind that sane lady to a closet rod and let the crazy loose.

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