Horror Stories for Adults

“If you write stories of horror you should add some “adult content” to them…”

stepfather_amber_heard_&_penn_badgeleyI get advice like this all the time. Friends tell me this, other writers tell me this, people who read a lot of naughty-type stories tell me this… Then they say something like, “Horror stories are best when flesh is mixed with the blood and gore.” So I’m going to rant about this advice now. It’s a very short rant (pretty much a really long Tweet) but if you prefer to read one of those spooky stories instead just click here:

Anyway, the advice always baffles me. For one, I don’t cram a lot of blood and gore into my stuff in the first place. If bloodletting is appropriate to the story I go for it. But using it as a literary crutch? No way. I won’t do it. It’s a cheap trick that horror writers use to make people think they’re reading something scary. It’s a lot harder, in my opinion, to turn someone’s imagination against them and, when it happens, it’s a lot more fulfilling for the reader. So it’s not like blood is naturally gushing from the sentences I write in the first place.

It’s kind of the same with the adult content. It seems to me that if a couple of characters are going to get it on, well, they’re going to get it on. But I’d never try to force them into it. It needs to happen naturally as part of the story just like it does in real life. If it doesn’t we’re probably writing a whole different kind of story with a totally different kind of intention. What I’m getting at is that stories of horror are not about blood and guts and they’re not about erotic entertainment. They’re about scaring the hell out of you using any number of legitimate writer tricks.

End of rant. Thanks for listening. Don’t forget to visit the store. LL

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  1. If people are really interested in "adult" horror that features "adult" content, I'd absolutely encourage them to dive into writing that kind of story. Telling others to do so? No, no and no.

    I can think of very few stories where I've felt such content enhanced the story at all. True horror comes in the expectations a writer starts building around you, without your even recognizing it. In the case of a movie, it's lots of subtle cues and a sense of the possibility of escape. (Insidious did a phenomenal job of reeling its audience in without excessive gore or tricks meant to distract viewers from the fact startlement is not the same as being horrified; loved it!)

    On the writing front, I also agree that you go where the story leads you. When I read novels, it's easy to tell where someone disregarded the voices of the story itself in favor of the outline they'd plopped down beforehand. If it's organic and fits into the story? All for it. If it's there simply because it fits someone's idea of the perfect horror story, whether it works in the specific context or not? No thanks.

  2. I totally agree man. Nothing should be forced in any story, it should flow naturally. Gore for the sake of gore is foolish, and I believe you are totally right in saying that it is used as a crutch. While I have used occasional gore in my stories, like you, it's only when deemed an appropriate time to do so. With sexual content, I personally don't use it, to each their own, but I'm ok with reading a story that contains it, as long as it's natural to the story.

  3. Deb – Thank you for your excellent comment. You pose a great idea and I'm going to start doing exactly that! And by the way, I'll be catching Insidious soon – and have heard nothing but good so I'm hoping for a great scare. Peace, Ll

  4. Dustin – Good to see you! One of the things I most like about blogging is that it puts me in the company of real writers, like you. I don't mind reading gore or sexual content either as long as it's part of the tale! We are on the same page and I bet a lot of other writers are, too. Good to know. Peace, LL

  5. You are so right. What most people fail to realize is horror stories are not horror movies. The difference between the book and the movie, is the book is about the psychological thrill and easing your way into everything while still moving the plot along. While a movie is about the blood, sex, and rushing through the story. So in a movie they pretty much skip the whole rising action and go straight for the climax.
    Most people don't read actual horror and they don't realize that it's about the psychological thrill. A few years ago – about 3 – I will admit I was one of those types. I wrote a horror story and it was good, but unfortunately I was writing it as if I was watching a movie. The character was well developed on the outside, but what I failed to do was ACTUALLY mess with the psyche.

    I completely agree with you on all of this.

  6. Kevin – Thanks for sharing your story. I'm sure a lot of writers can identify with it. I guess many horror writers suffer from watching horror movies. I love them – can't get enough of them, actually. But they're vastly different worlds. Peace, LL

  7. Movies and books are worlds apart when it comes to horror. Me? I'll take the thrill ride of the book any day over the movie.*shrugs*

    We've talked about this. Gore, erotica, are all too easy as far as I'm concerned. Maybe that statement will piss a few people off, let it. Writing from a psychological stand point takes skill. Foreshadowing takes skill. Keeping a reader hanging on your every word, impatient to know what happens – takes skill. Grossing someone out reminds me of a childish prank played for a reaction.

    Here's the thing, there are as many different styles to writing horror as writers. If someone likes writing gore or erotica, good on them. Doesn't mean they should dictate how another writer writes.

    Malcolm Cowley wrote, "Be kind and considerate with your criticism…it's just as hard to write a bad book as it is a good book." In that light, I say write the book closest to your heart and let your readers feel your words. (Hugs)Indigo

  8. Indigo – As always, hugs and thanks for your comment. I especially like, "…Takes skill. Keeping a reader hanging on your every word, impatient to know what happens." And yes, that's what I stay up late at night trying to do. To me, that's the mark of a really good writer. That's the key to the kingdom and what we strive for. So to hear these writer-friends of mine give advice so off-the-charts WONG just irks me. Thanks for the validation. I'm glad I know you. Peace, LL

  9. Gore isn't scary – it's disgusting – and just because I'm disgusted doesn't mean I'm scared. In fact, it generally prevents me from being so because I'm too busy being disgusted. Being turned on and scared would just be confusing, which might give interesting effects, but if you really want to frighten someone, it's not the way to go. Besides, if you want adult content, read erotica – that's what it's for. Horror might add excitement to erotica, but erotica does not add fear to horror.

    So, basically, I'm with you.

  10. Hi Louise – Thanks for your thoughts! I think you hit the nail on the head when you said, "…Erotica does not add fear to horror." Glad to know so many share these POV. Peace, LL

  11. Gore is scary, nor disgusting. The things that make scary stories seem so scary is the fact that we keep thinking about it, and when we are all alone in the woods in a car,and your boy/girl friend goes out to find someone and doesn’t come back, and you keep on thinking you are going to die.
    But personally, my friends and i have looked down on the people who can’t stomach a good horror story.


  12. Thanks, Raven – I agree with you. The best horrors are of the mind, where life’s scariest monsters wait for us all. LL

  13. I can agree Lake, I’ve written some stories, which do contain adult content,not the watered down stuff but all the details that make for an adult horror story. I had some of my friends critique my work and have advised me to have them published. So with that stated it is the writers’ privlege whether to add adult content. Not the opinion of friends, family, or colleagues. We’re the first and last to make that deductice conclusion. Good Luck and my you be prosperious in your venture towards writing. P.S. Deviantart,com is the artist site my work as as artist is featured on my page. My artist name is artistnut64 in case you’re curious. But we writers have to back each other, on the net. Afterall we’re still amatures, Michael Crichton or Stephen King and so forth.

  14. Made a few typos on that comment. I was stating that we’re not Michael Crichton or Stephen King, but still amateurs, meaning we haven’t reached professionalism as of yet. But don’t give up , I don’t plan to. Keep up the good imaginative scenarios. That’s the key to formulating the imagination and capturing the mind of the reader.

  15. I think when it is part of the natural way the story unfolds. If you force it, this will likely come across as well. Although I am still trying develop.

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