Storyville: Writing Psychological Horror (2023)

So the first thing I want to establish is some basic understanding of what psychological horror really is. Here's a good definition from Wikipedia:

Psychological horror is a subgenre of horror and psychological fiction with a particular emphasis on mental, emotional, and psychological states in order to frighten, disturb, or upset its audience. The subgenre often overlaps with the related psychological thriller subgenre, often using elements of mystery and characters with unstable, unreliable, or disturbed mental states to increase the suspense, drama, action, and paranoia of the setting and plot, and provide an overall uncomfortable, disturbing or stressful atmosphere.

(Video) Storyville with Diplo (feat. Kanye West) | TBS

Based on my own writing and the books (and movies) I enjoy, I sometimes wonder if everything I consume is psychological horror. So let's look at some things that CANNOT be considered psychological horror:

1. Graphic Horror - Horror that relies mostly on violence and blood to terrify.
2. Action/Jump Scares - Horror that relies mostly on cheap tactics or superficial elements to try to get a physical reaction from the audience.
3. Monsters - Horror that relies mostly on creatures to scare you.

So let's explore not only what the key elements of psychological horror are, but also how best to use them in your fiction.

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One of the strongest aspects of horror is the way the narrative makes you think. When reading a story or watching a movie, try to solve a riddle. They look at the relationship between terror and horror - the preparation and the delivery, the clues and the exposure, the horror and then the realization. That's what most readers and viewers like, right? What's happening? Can I solve this riddle? We watched the opening scenes ofhereditaryand ask why there are dollhouses, what's up with grandma, what does the strange symbol mean? We have examined the environment indestructionUnderstanding Area X and the strange things that happen, all filtered through the biologist's lens - and how she interprets and survives the crawler. We try to understand what exactly The Shining is and why the hotel is more than just a hotel and what the mental powers and abilities of the cast have to do with this menace. This is an important part of the reading and viewing experience - using our minds to try, interpret, solve and understand what is going on. Sometimes we know it from the beginning, sometimes it is revealed to us in time. You may know from the start that this is a time-travelling vampire story, or you may not know until the very end that it is about a demonic possession or cult. That's part of the fun.


This is another important part of psychological horror. Where slashers and monster movies are more about the thrill, the gore and the weird, psychohorror wants to make you feel something. That's definitely a big part of my writing. While horror typically uses suspense and fear to build suspense, leading to that terrifying revelation or truth, when writing psychological horror it's crucial - it drives the narrative. It's more important to the character development of your story - making us love or hate people, be for or against someone, have a deeper connection with the cast of your story. Not only do we fear for them, a fairly common element of horror, but we fear for them because of what they've been through, how they've suffered, how vulnerable they can be, or because of a sense of justice that we attribute to them. your actions.

And emotions are important to the overall experience. I remember sitting in a movie theater and watching the abovehereditaryand I was flushed, had this fight or flight reaction, hair stood up against my skin, sweating, even a little dizzy at times. In horror, the emotion is certainly a combination of bad things - fear, dread, insecurity, uneasiness, disgust, hate, regret, loss, and regret combined with good things - hope, truth, peace, security, honor, contentment, success, and justice. It's that emotional roller coaster ride that makes a story so powerful. It is the family fleeing the horrorThe fog, and the truth of what happens in the end leaves us dismayed and maybe even a few tears. It's the darkness at the endLost Street train station, and the anger we feel at the truth that has been shown to us, an important character in a different light. It's the relief at the end of so many books and films, when the horror is thwarted and evil is defeated - it's all overbirdhouse, to theAbroad, to theThe incantation🇧🇷 If a story, book or movie can create an emotional bond with you, it will stay with you long after that story is finished.

(Video) Storyville: Trailer | BBC Trailers


Aside from the mental and emotional states we've discussed so far, one of the things I like about psychological horror is how complex and unreliable narrators can be. How can they be changed? Here are some reasons:

  1. Posse
  2. drugs
  3. Mental health
  4. Magic
  5. DNS
  6. Surroundings
  7. Infection
  8. Transformation
  9. Other creatures or species
  10. The obsession
  11. determination
  12. Consequences/Karma

And I'm sure there are many more. But when you look at all the possibilities that your protagonist may not have control over, may not be trustworthy, may not be accurate in their portrayal of things, it really leads to a multitude of experiences to share with your readers . Here are some of my stories from my latest collection (spontaneous human combustion) and the way the characters are altered, unreliable, and cloaked in psychological horrors. I'll try to speak in general terms so I don't completely spoil the stories:

  1. "Repentance" - rituals, spells, dealing with dark entities, altering reality
  2. "Reward" - consequences, karma, justice
  3. "Battle Not With Monsters" - Paranoia, false reality, oppression, fugue state
  4. "Hiraeth" - two realities, emotional abuse, fantasy, depression
  5. "The caged bird sings in the darkness of its own creation" - destiny, other species, false realities, interpretations, obsession
  6. "In His House" - a magic spell, a deal with a dark force, cosmic horror
  7. „Open Waters“ – Depression, Virtual Reality, Fantasy
  8. "Ring of Fire" - suppressed memories, corporate control via computer chip, false reality, alien control, other species, destiny, collective unconscious, spontaneous human evolution, manipulation, VR/AI

If you've read these stories, you can probably see what I mean. If you haven't already, get the collection and see how these stories unfold. Part of what makes a psychological horror story more complex and satisfying is the depth of the characters and the struggles they go through. It's everything from memory issues toSouveniron the role of the mother (and her descent) inhereditaryon the idea of ​​Puritan vs. the satanic/pagan inThe witch🇧🇷 We are fascinated by the unknown, strange and supernatural, as well as the way monsters live next to us and the ease with which each of us loses our minds and acts in horrific ways. It happens every day, just turn on the news. But what a range of possibilities here, right?

(Video) A Very English Genius - Michael Ventris - BBC History Documentary 2002


What psychological horror does is mix mental and emotional states in complex ways to create more depth, drama, suspense, uneasiness and impact. Don't get me wrong - I like good slasher or creature features, and those have their place too. Horror is a big umbrella under which there's a lot of leeway in terms of the overall experience. But psychological horror is what I love to write about, and if I were to look at my top ten list of horror books, shows, and movies, I'm sure most of them would use psychological horror to describe me to disturb and to disturb – all offcome closereAmerican psychopathto theblack mirroreseparationto theKilling a Sacred Deereunder the skin🇧🇷 When I write a story, I want to entertain you through action, create an emotional connection and stimulate your brain - and that's what psychological horror is all about, isn't it?


1. Storyville with Jensen Karp (feat. Jimmy Iovine) | TBS
2. Niccolo Machiavelli - BBC Documentary 720p
3. Storm Over Everest (The 1996 Disaster) | PBS Documentary ⁷²⁰ᵖ
4. Particle Fever (Documentary)
(Marcos Land)
5. The Heartbreaking Life of Eminem


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