Terror and horror are two nouns which are frequently confused and often taken to mean the same thing. Yet, should we take the verb formations – to terrorise and to horrify – then the difference becomes more self explanatory.
It is the emotional and physical responses to being terrified and being horrified that have my dark and twisted subconscious bubbling with excitement – how to terrify? How to horrify? Is it two spoons of terror and one of horror or vice versa?
To understand the mix, is to understand the meanings. Devendra Varma defined the difference perfectly in The Gothic Flame (1966) – ‘The difference between terror and horror is the difference between awful apprehension and sickening realisation; between the smell of death and stumbling against a corpse.’
Imagine, my dear reader, that you are trapped inside a dilapidated house, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by wolves (werewolves at that). Inside, your best friend and your girlfriend/boyfriend, all that is left of the group you were with, share your hiding place. Both have been wounded by the wolves. Both are ticking bombs. The beasts outside are closing in. You can hear them. Your best friend starts to change before your eyes. Tick tock. You hear a crash downstairs. They’re coming for you and you alone. You have three silver bullets and a rifle. There are three hours until dawn. What do you do? (Storyline from ‘Three Silver Bullets’ by Marie Anne Cope published by Thirteen Magazine in February 2005).
Try and imagine how you would feel, if you really were in that situation. Only then will you understand the build up of terror – the apprehension; the anticipation. The horror comes when you have to face the wolves; face your best friend; and face your girlfriend/boyfriend.
A story purely based on terror, however, is, quite frankly, exhausting. All that build up and no follow through……well, we all know how frustrating that can be, don’t we? You’re heart is racing; your blood is pumping; your breathing is laboured; your skin is covered in a soft sheen of sweat; your eyes are wide; you could hear a pin drop; the cold hand of fear and dread is squeezing the life right out of you………sound familiar? It is your body gearing you up for fight or flight. To be constantly brought to this state time and time again is agonising and you certainly wouldn’t be looking for a repeat performance. You need that release. You need to let it all go, whether it is to scream; to run; to fight for your life – you need it.
Similarly, a story based solely on horror would bore the pants off you in no time. Just imagine; one person after another being hacked to pieces by an axe….yawn. OMG! I hear some of you cry. That is horrific, disgusting, repulsive, the worst thing I could ever see or read. I agree, it probably is (for some of you), but I can guarantee that after three or four such scenes, you will become numb to it, blasé even, and yes, you may very well yawn and fall asleep. You will certainly be looking at your watch wondering how much more of this drivel you have to endure. What you will cease to have is any response to what you are seeing or reading. There are many many horror films that illicit this response in me. I won’t name and shame, but suffice it to say that if the blood starts oozing (too much) then I start snoozing!!
What on earth does it take to please me then? A lot, if truth be told. From a story point of view, however, not much. I just want a well crafted story that has the right amount of terror with the horrific reward. I want a werewolf attack when my character ignores the warnings and strays off the path. I expect a sadistic ghost when my character refuses to believe and stays in a haunted house for a night. I yearn for a vampire seduction when my character decides to break into the house of a man who sleeps all day. I crave a psycho when my character insists on investigating the banging noise in the pitch dark cellar. I hunger for a zombie attack when my character insists on walking alone and unarmed in a town full of ‘walkers’ (A term used in The Walking Dead on FX).
You get the idea. After all, what is foreplay without an orgasm? Just fooling around.
In BONDS, I seek to do just this – to build up your apprehension and anticipation and deliver you a monster. BONDS has only one monster – Antony Cardover – and only one heroine – Becca Martin. How much of a monster Antony actually is will be for you to decide.
Throughout BONDS, Becca is terrorised by Antony. Her dreams leave her wounded; her visions leave her traumatised; and his story leaves her scared for her life. When she finally confronts him, though, is it horror and revulsion she feels?
Antony’s action – whether perceived or actual – drive terror through the souls of many, but will you love him or will you hate him? Will you sympathise with him or will you condemn him?
Maybe it’s just me. Maybe that screw really should be tightened up, but it’s not unusual for me to fall for the monster. After all, it’s the climax we’re all really looking for, not just the anticipation.
I will await your outpourings, dear reader, with bated breath.
Remember, to fully appreciate the story, you must immerse yourself in it. It is you who is feeling it; who is experiencing it; who is facing the monster, if only you are brave enough to open the door. Only then can you appreciate the full impact of terror and the horror that lies in wait for you.
May fear protect you when the darkness comes.
Til next time.
By the way, please feel free to add your comments. Who knows where or to what it might lead…