Happy Halloween! (The Psychology of the Horror Reader)

I’m taking a breather from the outlining series because it’s Halloween this weekend–the greatest holiday of all time.

Part of having a successful book is understanding the reader you’re writing for. Arguably, readers gravitate toward certain types of books because they’re seeking a certain type of reading experience. To simplify, readers of all genres will find a “good guy wins” scenario the satisfying one. The main character finds love. Or solves the mystery. The perpetrator finds justice.

What does a horror reader want?

For me, what makes a horror novel satisfying is often that the main character has horrible, often impossible to understand circumstances forced upon them, yet survives. The main character finds an inner strength. Maybe a special power. But in some ways, the best horror novel is a struggle to conquer not just an external force or foe but also internal hangup or fear.

Often, thinking about the psychology of a specific genre’s reader can help guide your own book. It can be helpful in the early stages of outlining, especially when you’re thinking of your own main character’s arc.

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