Choosing a genre as a writer, to me, has always felt a little pointless. My somewhat ambiguous process is to get an idea, develop it, and see what genre fits the story – not the other way round. Likewise, my tastes in fiction tend to lean… randomly.
Or so I thought.
Inspiration For My Latest Novel
I’ve been working on a new WIP, what I thought was an urban or contemporary fantasy leaning more towards drama. It was inspired by the 1950’s movie Harvey, a comedy-drama about a man who sees a six-foot-tall white rabbit, with a dose of The Sixth Sense injected into it too, a psychological thriller about a boy who sees ghosts. It takes the background mythos from Harvey and the tone and themes of The Sixth Sense.
While I’m still in the drafting process, this so-called urban fantasy is leaning into that Sixth Sense vibe hard. Like really hard.
Not going to lie, I’m having the time of my life with it.
The Problem With Horror (And Comedy)
Genres are like hats. I like to try them on, discard them, and try them on again. Certainly, I’m an admirer of all kinds. Why do you think this blog is called Writer In A Hat?
For the longest time I thought myself a speculative writer. Science fiction. Fantasy.
Horror technically falls under that category too, though I’ve steered away from using it. Why?
I’ve always found horror books really, really boring.
Horror and comedy were two genres I swore I’d never dabble exclusively in. Meaning I would never brand myself either a horror or comedy writer even if I occasionally wrote elements of comedy or horror. The two genres feel like a death sentence.
Because if a horror doesn’t frighten or if a comedy doesn’t make you laugh, they’re failures.
It’s a bit of an unfair expectation. They have to achieve one thing and a lot of the time they don’t. Meanwhile, you can have a science fiction novel that makes you laugh. Or a fantasy that terrifies you. And if they don’t, then it doesn’t matter because they would still be perfectly functional in their specific genre.
Why This Really Isn’t A Surprise At All
Here are some of the things I, the “horror is boring” person, was/still am into:
- Grizzly Tales For Gruesome Kids
- Trapped! (The game show)
- Katy Towell’s animated horror shorts and audio readings on YouTube. Personal favourite is Lady On The Screen Porch.
- r/nosleep (Or more specifically Cry Reads of r/nosleep. I’m A 911 Operator scared the poop out of me, but Autopilot is the best.)
- True crime
- Netflix’s The Haunting Of Hill House
- Stranger Things
Am I Officially Re-Branding As A Horror Writer?
The short answer is no.
I’m not too keen to take on the horror author label because I’m not entirely convinced I am one. Yes, I do admit (reluctantly) that there are horrors that I like, that I enjoy the thrills and the angst that comes with certain types of horror.
But I don’t like frightening people for the sake of frightening them.
While everything I’ve listed above is horror, it’s not exclusively the horror elements that held my attention. That, and there are other stories out there that I like a lot more that are definitely not horror.
My favourite book of all time is the sci-fi novel The Man Who Fell To Earth. My favourite animated show is a fantasy, Avatar: The Last Airbender. The last book character I fell hard for was Henry Palace from The Last Policeman trilogy, a crime thriller. The last show I binged in one night was Homecoming, a psychological thriller. The show I wanted to binge in one night but couldn’t because of it’s sheer length was Lost, a mystery adventure.
These stories I love do all have one thing in common though: a constant, underlying threat of physical harm or life-changing destruction and characters who are desperate to protect something they hold dear.
Okay, so maybe that’s more thriller than horror. Am I a thriller writer?
Whatever the case, I’m not going to grind my current WIP to a halt because of some writerly crisis. Genre crossovers happen all the time. Really, what is genre, but a marketing technique? I’m enjoying what I’m doing. The finished story might just end up being a horror.
Hopefully it won’t end up horrible.