A Broad Overview of the Horror Genre and Its Key Characteristics

When it comes to human emotions, admittedly, the most intense is the fear of mysterious and inexplicable phenomena.

As the human imagination can be truly limitless, a myriad array of archetypical characters, such as demons, apparitions, demi-gods, monsters, and mutants have been given life since the dawn of human civilization and were attributed to every incident that cannot be explained back then.

Based on those fictional entities and their unsurmountable prowess, an astoundingly diverse variety of legends and tales were crafted to date, no matter how much science and technology have progressed as of now.

Imagination and fear offer an impeccable foundation to three literary genres, namely, horror, science-fiction, and fantasy.

However, the scope of today’s blog is limited to a brief discussion of what defines horror as a genre among these three, along with a few of the most significant characteristics of the horror genre.

What Defines the Horror Genre?

Novelists and critics tend to differ on the definition of horror as a genre, having complementary and identical perspectives about the subject.

However, they all agree on how it can be described as a genre, which exploits fear as one of the primal human emotions for producing a sense of literary enjoyment in the readers.

Dominic Strinati, in his “An Introduction to Studying Popular Culture”, defined horror “as a genre that represents the need for suppression if the horror shown is interpreted as expressing uncomfortable and disturbing desires which need to be contained.”

J.A. Cuddon, the noted literary historian, chose to define horror fiction as something that shocks or even terrifies the reader or may instigate a feeling of abomination and abhorrence.

In the anthology of Prime Evil in 1982, acclaimed writer Douglas Winter referred to horror as emotion and had gone stating that horror genre literature is not something that deserves to be abandoned on a special shelf at bookshops and libraries.

Five Key Elements of the Horror Genre

Virtually all bestselling horror novels are centred on the following fictional elements.

1. Introduce Sinister or Malevolent activities, Incidents, and/or Characters

Perhaps, the perfect example of this would be Dracula by Bram Stoker in 1897, when he came up with the epic tale of beautiful, brooding malevolence that enthralled the community of bibliophiles worldwide.

2. Evoke an Intense Emotion of Disgust, Shock, and Fear with an Ominous Backdrop

There’s a burgeoning sense of the uncanny and that they’re different from their superficial appearance.

3. Intense Overtone

Fiction exploring the horror genre revolves around extreme emotion, tone, environments, as well as mood, and together, they yield an unsettling feeling of mysteriousness.

4. Founded on Shocking and/or Terrifying Plot Revelations and Twists in the Story

In sharp contrast to some typical episode of Scooby-Doo, where the evil guys generally turn out to be machinating realtors in the disguise of paranormal creatures, the ghosts and werewolves in horror literature are unmistakably life-like.

5. Provides Readers with an Encompassing Feeling of Grim and Gory

The horror genre thrives on macabre situations, from sickening and morbid circumstances of death to multiple iterations of unearthly violence.

Vampires breaking in, zombies marching and trying to induct you into their legion, or in less intense storylines, long-dead relations or friends are visiting unexpectedly.

Buy the Best Horror Books of All-Time by Brian T. Seifrit

Brian T. Seifrit is a noted Canadian author with over a dozen publications. Before discovering a true passion for creative writing and devoting his entire time in fiction writing, he worked for some time as a full-time columnist for the Trail Daily Times, a small community newspaper based in the village of Fruitvale, West Kootenay, British Columbia.

A few of the bestselling horror novels that he’d authored to date include Absolute Anger, A Blood-Stained Hammer, and Voracity – the K-15 Contagion.

Perhaps, an exceptional versatility in writing across multiple genres is the reason why his literary works are immensely appreciated among a vast majority of book readers in Canada and around the world.

You can explore the complete work of fiction by Brian T. Seifrit and even order them on the web simply by visiting his author page on Amazon.