A comment made to me a while back has been tickling at the back of my brain. Discovering that my birthday is on Valentine’s day an acquaintance took it upon herself to offer some unsolicited career advice. If you are a creative of any type you are likely familiar with such comments, but I digress. This person said that with my birthday and my name I should be writing romance stories. My name and birthday would make wonderful marketing tools and romance does have a huge reader base.
Hmmm. I like a good love story just as much as the next person. Heck, my own personal love story is quite compelling. However, in the end, I smiled politely at this well-meaning person and responded with a vague, for sure, or something of that sort. But it did start a line of internal dialogue. Why don’t I write in the romance genre? Then a pointed question arose: Why do I write horror?
I have always loved spooky stories and the unexplained. When I was a very little kid my grandpa used to call me “spooky” because I loved to hear the same ghost stories over and over. My dad has always had an interest in Fortean subjects and I suppose it rubbed off on me. But I wanted to know if my chosen genre went deeper.
I started looking into why people like horror. I discovered that scientists have identified four types of people who like scary stuff.
- “Type T” personalities or adrenaline junkies. The “T” stands for thrill seeking, think sky-divers. They are addicted to the physiological responses the body has to fear.
- People who enjoy the “excitation transfer process”. For these people it’s all about how they feel after the experience is over. We are not aware of it but the physiological changes linger after a fear experience. The positive feelings generated after an episode, such as relief that the experience is over, are intensified. I would call this a natural high.
- Primitive response. As a survival tactic, the brain is constantly searching for changes in our environment. We evaluate something we don’t see every day for its potential threat level and catalog it away in a database of threats. Consider slowing down to rubber-neck a car accident. Horror allows us to disrupt our daily routines, build our threat database, and explore danger without putting ourselves at risk.
- Seekers. These people are fascinated by the unexplained and have a genuine desire to understand it from various angles. Horror offers opportunities to examine aspects of the macabre in ways that everyday life could not.
Considering these four archetypes I can see how romance-fans and horror-fans are closely linked. Love is thrilling, it can be relief when it’s over, we look at others to avoid pitfalls, and many of us are looking for true love or trying to understand what it is. You may never have a true paranormal experience but the terrors of relationships haunt us all.
But I think I’ll stick to my chosen genre.
I think I am a bit of all four types with a heavy emphasis on number four. I really want to know. What is this stuff? Is it real? Is there a scientific explanation for some phenomena? Is there a spiritual answer? Is there proof? Why is this important to humankind? What does evil look like and how do we overcome it? In my writing I try to explore these questions while telling an engaging story.
Besides, who says horror can’t be romantic? Ever heard of a little cross-over romance/horror novel by the title Dracula?