Review: On Writing Horror: A Handbook by the Horror Writer’s of America

Onwritinghorrorcoverrose

Quick review for a quick read. Probably would give this a solid three stars, as it’s a give and take for content and usefulness. If you can get it at your local library – do so before thinking of buying this, because I can think of quite a few reasons why it wouldn’t be worth the $16.99 price tag. It features some great essays and advice, but ultimately, much of this isn’t an thorough viewpoint of the horror genre and what it contributes.

Well organized into its respective sections, and it touched on quite many relevant factors for those looking to start writing horror, from a number of respected writers in the field. Among some of the useful essays I found: Tina Jens wrote a wonderful way to examine characters in “Such Humble People.” Joe R. Lansdale examines the importance of place and setting to horror in “A Hand on the Shoulder.” Jack Ketchum’s “Splat Goes the Hero” is another examination on writing believable characters and ways your readers can follow your story believably. “The Dark Enchantment of Style” – while not simply specific to horror, offers good advice in employing stylistics in writing and attention to language. Michael Marano’s “Going There: Strategies for Writing the Things that Scare You” does a great job of encouraging new writers to write past their boundaries and engaging what scares you to the page. Lastly, I really liked “Eerie Events and Horrible Happenings: Plotting Short Horror Fiction” by Nicholas Kaufmann, because of its brief but very helpful eye to plotting details and shaping the narrative overall for appeal.

There are quite a few other essays that grabbed me, as this compilation delves into the appeal of horror fiction, strategies to write it, strategies to market it, and subgenres to consider in other mediums (video games, screenplays, etc.) But I’m going to preface this review with a huge caveat: this isn’t really a good compilation for delving into more expansive discussions surrounding the material within. I think it’s a worthwhile text for starting dialogue about writing horror, but to use this to actually *write* horror from is severely limiting, and even the references given for authors who want to break into writing the genre is limited.

Beginners to the genre and those who want snippets of encouragement might find this more useful, and I definitely thought some of the advice given was nicely and succinctly stated, but it left me wanting a little more from it.

Overall score: 3/5

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