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Storyville: Writing Psychological Horror

litreactor.com – Sunday July 24, 2022

So the first thing I want to establish is some sort of baseline understanding of what psychological horror actually is. Here is a good definition from Wikipedia:

Psychological horror is a sub-genre of horror and psychological fiction with a particular focus on mental, emotional, and psychological states to frighten, disturb, or unsettle its audience. The sub-genre frequently overlaps with the related sub-genre of psychological thriller, and often uses mystery elements and characters with unstable, unreliable, or disturbed psychological states to enhance the suspense, drama, action, and paranoia of the setting and plot and to provide an overall unpleasant, unsettling, or distressing atmosphere.

Based on my own writing and the books (and films) that I enjoy, I sometimes wonder if everything I consume is psychological horror. So let’s look at a few things that might NOT be considered psychological horror:

1. Graphic horror—horror that relies mostly on violence and gore to scare.
2. Action/jump scares—horror that relies mostly on cheap tactics or superficial elements to try and get a physical reaction from the audience.
3. Monsters—horror that relies mostly on creatures to scare you.

So let’s dig deeper to not only identify what the key elements of psychological horror are, but how you can best employ them in your fiction.

To read the full article on litreactor.com, click here

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