I’ve been thinking about this for a while. Since I gave up writing horror, actually. Surprisingly, however, the story that got me thinking about it again was a horror story. I finally got around to reading my friend John Peters’s story “Summer’s End” the other day. It’s not that I didn’t want to read it. In fact, I downloaded it weeks ago. It’s quite simply that I don’t have time to read anymore. Between my kids and my volunteer work and my own writing and just day-to-day life, reading has come in last on my to-do list for quite a while.
(BTW, my trip to Las Vegas the other day may have changed that. For four glorious days, I had, for a change, enough time. I wrote, I read, I slept, I had leisurely lunches with my husband and I shopped (a little). What luxury!)
It was on the way to Las Vegas, in fact, that I picked up “Summer’s End”. I expected it to be good. JP2 (his nickname from our old Horror Library group) is an excellent writer. I knew I’d be drawn in and find it difficult to put down. What I didn’t expect was how the story played on my emotions. Disgust, horror, and, finally, righteous indignation. I felt them all while reading this tale. And it got me thinking.
We writers play with emotions in our stories, but what we’re really playing with are our reader’s emotions. If we get good, we can make you cry, laugh, feel sick to your stomach (JP managed that one pretty well!) or get angry. But why do readers seek this stimulus? And what are they looking for in it? I can’t honestly answer this question although as a reader, I know I’ve sought all of the above, and as a writer, I’ve explored all of it (except maybe making you sick to your stomach—well, maybe…). In fact, the reason I stopped writing horror was because I wanted to make my readers feel better about the world around them.
What I realized after reading “Summer’s End” was that maybe that’s the point of horror, too. Maybe after you read a good horror story that’s really made you sick to your stomach, you stop and look around you and realize this world is so much better than that one…feels pretty good, huh?
I encourage everyone to read a good horror story before Halloween. Maybe you should start with JP2’s “Summer’s End”…