Sunday, October 2, 2011

What Makes a Horror Story Truly Horrific? By Jannine Gallant

Do severed limbs and spouting blood make you cringe in terror—or roll your eyes? If you’re like me, violence for the shock factor doesn’t keep you glued to the TV screen or turning those pages. Discerning viewers and readers want something a little more subtle when they’re in the mood to be scared.



I was trying to think of a suitably eerie topic for my October blog, when my younger daughter plopped down a work sheet for her 7th grade language arts class on the table in front of me. The Lottery by Shirley Jackson. A shiver ran through me. It has been at least 35 years since I read the story, but I remember every nuance of the setting. The building tension as the villagers’ nervous laughter turns to silence, then anxiety and dread when they open their slip of paper. The relief that follows for all but one family. The dawning horror as the first rock is thrown and my imagination takes over. All without a single drop of blood shed. Hollywood could take lessons from Ms. Jackson.




Hollywood has gotten it right a few times. Who can forget the look on Jack Nicholson’s face in The Shining? Yikes! Has anyone ever watched Jamie Lee Curtis walk down the dark street in the original Halloween without feeling their heart pound in their chest? It’s the anticipation of knowing what waits in the dark that gives us goose bumps and nightmares. We don’t need to see the violence. Our imaginations are our own worst enemies—or best friends if you like having the pee scared out of you! LOL

I don’t write horror, but I do write suspense. The same principles apply to both genres. My editor offered me a contract for my latest effort not long ago, but she wanted me to add scenes from the killer’s POV to build tension and add to the creepy factor. A Deadly Love is about a serial killer stalking women through the redwood forest of Northern California. I grew up there, so I knew the habitual fog and drizzle made a suitably chilling background. But did I want to witness murder and mayhem first hand? Shudder. Still, I had to write those scenes…


I drew inspiration from The Lottery. I wrote about what the killer was thinking, his frustration and anger because no one understood his motives. I showed the women waiting for their fate to play out, how the reactions of each reflected their different personalities. I’m please to say my editor loved the new scenes. A Deadly Love won’t be published until sometime next year, but you can tell me then if I managed to send a little chill down your spine…




For information and news on my current releases, please check out my website at http://www.janninegallant.com/, like my JannineGallant.Author page at Facebook, or follow me twitter.com/#!/JannineGallant on Twitter.

10 comments:

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Jannine,
Nice blog. I am not really into scary stuff. Too chicken. A Deadly Love, sounds quite sinister, I'll certainly be interested to hear more about it.

Regards

Margaret

Jerri Hines said...

Don't you think that Hunger Games used a similar theme as The Lottery?
Can't wait for a Deadly Love! Sounds great.

Brenda Whiteside said...

I so agree with you about The Lottery. Sticks with you forever. The same with The Shining. The tension in both is what made them so very scary. Your book sounds great. Keep us posted as to when it releases.

Barbara Edwards said...

I am fascinated by what scares people and why. I loved your take on what is really frightening about The Shining. Its ben years since I saw it and I still get chills.
Barbara

Jannine Gallant said...

Thanks for commenting, ladies. I'll keep you posted on A Deadly Love, but we're probably looking at next summer.

Jana Richards said...

Hi Jannine,
I'm not really into horror either, especially not the blood and guts of slasher films. But psychological tension and suspense is thrilling to read. Everybody remembers reading "The Lottery", for good reason.

Best of luck with "A Deadly Love".

Jana

Vonnie Davis said...

I don't like violence. Yet I write it. Go figure. Must be a control factor. If I'm writing it, I know the outcome so am not so frightened. I email my fight scenes to my son, a fourth degree blackbelt, who rips it to shreds and tells me what would really happen and why. Do I write about blood and guts--shudder--no slashers for me. Great post.

Fairday Morrow said...

As soon as I saw the picture of the book I got shivers. I still remember how haunting that movie was when I watched it over 25 years ago in middle school. It made quite an impression on me. In some ways- the Hunger Games is similar- (you aren't really winning when you win. I think what makes something scary is the believability of it happening. I was always freaked out by the movie- When a Stranger Calls because I babysat a lot and thought it could be possible for someome to sneak in...

Fascinating post!
~Jess
http://thesecretdmsfilesoffairdaymorrow.blogspot.com/

Jannine Gallant said...

My daughter loved The Hunger Games. Sounds like I need to read it. Thanks for visiting, Jess.

Alison H. said...

I never read horror, but I still shudder at the memory of The Lottery. It's amazing how that story sticks with you so many years later. I do love suspense, however, and I'm really looking forward to your new book. Congrats!