Wednesday, April 13, 2011

They're Not as Scared, Josh

I talked a bit more about the On Dark Rhoads blog over at Inchoate with "Gearing Up for the Rhoad" and got into some technical and non-writing aspects like commenting and general blog shoptalk.

Last time here we talked about pace and tension. What does it really mean in regard to the scare factor of the tale though? For that matter what does the format do to the scare? Certainly as much as horror is known for it scares, for leaving the audience creeped out if only for a little while, it is about the horrific too, obviously, but as a kind of milieu it is about the situations, beings, and the like that are horrific or monstrous. As such it doesn't always have to scare or horrify at least on the small scale--nor constantly either.

A story about a haunting is a horror story even if you are not scared by it. Stories with monsters are likewise horror as well by virtue of the monsters, though this might require it not additionally being say a medieval fantasy story. It is a matter of degrees and a question of intensity. It is the outlook that matters. Monster heroes in a city will be urban fantasy for instance rather than horror if it lacks horror. It's all shades of grey as far as the presentation goes. Often what distinguishes horror from the other similar genres in this no man's land is how the unnatural elements affect the characters. This is especially true of horror role-playing games. The game need not scare or horrify the players per se, but the setting, the conflict, and the scenarios had certainly better present the characters with fear and horror or a sense of dread.

I see the same delineation in horror fiction even as others insist the product, whatever it is, book, movie, or game, must frighten them or affect them personally to be successful and therefore count. As an example consider the movie Paranormal Activity. I don't mean to compare my haunting tale to it for either its admirers or detractors, but it is a good example from an illustrative viewpoint. Some who live with an actual haunting were dismissive of the bulk of the phenomena as not being scary enough to carry the horror. Others cannot fathom staying anywhere haunted and are floored by these kinds of movies. To bring it back to the original questions I would like the scare factor to be there. I would like nothing more that to have people, well, haunted, by the events, and suspicious of their own surroundings. Was that book where they left it? Wasn't that water glass on the right a moment ago where now it's on the left? At the same time it's okay if they don't do that, as long as the experience through reading the entries was enjoyable.

Come back next week for a special post (instead of my usual day off) regarding a forthcoming role-playing game called Amaranthine from David A. Hill Jr. of Machine Age Productions makers of Maschine Zeit. David is running a Kickstarter campaign to fund the print run of Amaranthine right now.

Mood: relaxed.
Music: Hotel California by the Eagles and Someone Else? by Queensryche.

Eagles: Hotel California
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Queensryche: Promised Land
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