The Art of Mirriam Neal

Horror for NaNoWriMo?

I’m writing a horror novel for NaNoWriMo. I’m as giddy as a kid on Christmas Eve (it’s me. I’m the kid). This is the most excited I’ve been for NaNoWriMo in several years—at the very least, since I wrote The Fading of the Light. I’ve wanted to write a horror novel for several years now, but the elements never felt ‘right.’ That didn’t stop me from ranting about horror to anyone who would listen; I’ve been doing that for a long time now. I have strong feelings about horror as a genre. I know many Christians who throw the whole genre out completely, but I think they’re throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Granted, I also can’t think of much ‘horror’ that wasn’t either lazy or theologically uncomfortable. I’m sick of every horror fallback being ghosts or demons, to be honest. I’m also disgusted by ‘goreporn’ horror where the only reason to watch is to see people get brutalized and mutilated. And yet, those are the main types of horror available—to the point where most people associate horror with those things. Excessive, grotesque violence or demons.

That crushes my soul a bit on the inside. (As opposed to the outside.) The concept of horror has been misused grossly in entertainment for a very, very long time, and I have Thoughts.


To me, horror is a garnish. It should never be the only thing served. Why? Because horror is an element in real life, but if you had nothing with which to compare it, it wouldn’t be frightening at all. It would be normal, and it would be mundane, and it would be boring.

Horror should be a creeping element around the edges of what you write, even if you’re writing ‘a horror novel.’ If all you serve is one relentless ‘scary’ thing after another, the scare is going to lose its edge. You need a real story. You need something to keep people invested. You need good characters. You need things happening besides one horror trope after another. And as for horror tropes—when did they get so boring and predictable? Horror is more than decapitated heads and possessions. Horror should be creative, just like anything should be creative. The Me-Tie-Dough-Ty-Walker is honestly a lot more unsettling than another Annabelle, because we’re too used to normal horror concepts.

Frequently when I rant about horror—what it could be, and what it isn’t—people ask me for a recommendation. “What’s a good horror novel?” or, “What’s your favorite horror movie?” I have a hard time answering that, because my favorite horror elements tend to be more indefinable. They don’t tend to be full books or movies, but one unsettling thing here, one disturbing thing there. Horror, to me, is something more intuitive and difficult to describe, and it’s what I hope to capture in The Eigengrau. I’m excited to write a horror + thriller + suspense + mystery novel. I know the characters, I know their traumas, I know the mysteries. I feel like I’m already there, but I have to wait.

In the meantime, my consolation prize is a pretty big one, as consolation prizes go: my urban fantasy + Southern Gothic novel, Dark is the Night, is available to order in print + ebook formats on Friday! There’s an upcoming blog tour I’m very excited to be involved with, and I’m bursting at the seams to get this book out into the physical world. Stay tuned!


6 thoughts on “Horror for NaNoWriMo?”

  1. A good creepy movie for me is The Woman In Black. There are quite a few scenes in that movie where the focus is on Daniel Radcliffe’s character, but you can see something in the background just enough out of focus. So, you don’t know what it is or what it’s going to do. And it’s wonderfully creepy. The kind of creepy that makes the hairs on your arms stand straight up.

    On a separate note, I am so looking forward to NaNoWriMo this year. I’m going to write the full backstory for a character in my ongoing story. It’s going to be all sorts of awesome! Butlers and honor and star-crossed love that will never be. And, unlike my current WIP, not a single cell phone in sight. 😉 I’ve been wanting to flesh his story out and I decided this was the time and the year that I would finally do it. Yay!

    1. Not a cell phone in sight; just people enjoying each other’s company…. XD
      TBH as soon as ‘butler’ is brought up as a staple in the book, it has my full support. I’m excited for you, and I’ll check out The Woman in Black!

      1. Thank you!

        It’s actually funny how often my characters in my current WIP use their phones, especially since I very rarely use mine. 😆 And the one cell phone will be an important plot device further in the story.

        As for my NaNo story, it’s going to be a challenge to write, but it will be awesome! I’ve already written bits of it in flashbacks in my current WIP. So, it will be interesting to fill in the space around those moments. Just thinking about it makes me want to cheat and start on it now. 😆

  2. I completely agree with you about what horror should really be. When it’s done well it’s awesome.
    Super excited about your nano project.

  3. I’m a published horror and dark fantasy writer. I got super excited when I came across this post as I’m doing Nano as well right now. I’m completely following you now as well. Us horror chicks gotta stick together! lol.

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