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On Writing Horror…do characters matter?

I grew up on reading horror novels by authors like Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and a few others that wrote one scary as hell novel and then disappeared forever. I remember feeling scared and shaken enough to make sure the windows were locked and the area under my bed was clear. I remember thinking about these stories the next day and hoping IT could never happen to me or in my town. It’s funny how some stories stick with you and some don’t. Why is that? Is it the story itself? Is it the characters?

I’ve read three novels in the last couple of weeks that claim to part of the horror genre (I’ll talk about these three books in another post). None of them were particularly memorable. All were written well. They had the right amount of eeriness, the plot moved forward at a heart-pounding pace, and in some instances I felt scared. A little bit. What did they lack? Characters. Oh, they were in there all right, but they felt so flat and one-dimensional that I forgot about them the moment I stopped reading and I never really cared if they lived or died. The stakes change a little when you don’t care what happens.

You see, as a writer, I read books for entertainment and to learn from. Lately, I’ve been choosing books to learn a little something. Unfortunately, I’m learning that horror novels don’t care about character development, and they should.

Now, I can’t say that ALL horror novels fail at this, they obviously don’t, but the three I read hoping to educate myself in the genre, sure did.

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