Relationships are Key to Horror
For me, when writing horror, the relationships are the key. The ones between your characters and, most importantly, the reader. Because if the reader doesn’t care what happens to them, then the book’s just going to be tossed aside or deteriorate on the shelves. So how do we set off getting the reader to feel empathy for the people in our story world? We show them aspects of themselves in our fictional creations. The friendly, well-meaning neighbor who not everyone appreciates until the day something horrible happens near where you live. They’re always observant, always into what’s happening in the neighborhood. You dismiss them out of hand on a regular day. Until a zombie appears and they become you and your family’s best bet to escape the Apocalypse.
The disgruntled grandpa, no one pays much attention to anymore. His crazy ways are just not appealing—until when the count goes down and your life’s on the line and he ends up saving it. What about the bad example teenager no one understands, who ends up being your savior when the demons/vamps come out at night? The woman tortured and left by the roadside who triumphs over her abuser in the end? We read about these personalities because we’re hooked by a trait of theirs, with which we can identify. Who hasn’t felt out of place at a fancy party? Tongue-tied in a foreign area/country? A bit crazed when cut off on the roadway? Those are pieces we may not like to agree we identify with, but they’re there still.
We develop our characters for readers to both love, tolerate, or downright hate. Every emotion becomes important, a chance to communicate with the reader. When our heroine feels ruined by the loss of her home, we understand that. When a young boy wants to take an adventure and escape “everyday life” we want to know why, who he’s with, and why that relationship is important to the story. So what are some of the ways you use the familiarity in your own selves in writing to pull the reader in and “show” them that we all make-up a puzzle that once together, becomes our character/s?