Read Greg Ruth’s previous article, Horror is Good for You (And Even Better for Your Kids).
Horror has a lot to teach us, in terms of narrative, that can be used to tell different kinds of stories—you don’t have to tell scary ones. I’m ignoring the lazy tendency towards shock or gore narratives, which—while technically horror—don’t rate in my book. Jumping out of the closet to spook your little brother for fun can be cute, but it’s hardly rocket science. What we’re here to dive into is the construction of horror narratives. To earn legitimate frights, to build tension and create mood, whether in film, TV, comics, prose, or a single image, requires a lot of thought and planning and elegance in order to do it right. What we can learn from horror begins with the recognition that the tools needed to make it work are tools used in every other kind of story, even romantic comedies. Comedy and Horror are so related to each other, so identical in their construction as to quite nearly be the same thing. Horror just uses these tools in a more precise and specifically sharp manner, so in developing an observational eye for these tricks and tools we can make any kind of story better and more effective.