Saturday, July 20, 2013

Is a ghost story a horror story? By guest blogger Barry Napier

Is a ghost story a horror story?

Does a supernatural thriller deserve to be categorized as horror? What about films like Saw and Last House  on the Left? Should those be considered horror or psychological thrillers?

Chances are, those questions garnered many different responses among anyone reading this. I personally don’t think Saw is a horror movie because horror needs more than tension and gore to pull of the genre’s staples. (If interested, I have written more about that HERE once upon a time).

Anyone that has self-published work through Amazon knows how detailed the platform can get when it comes to placing your book in the appropriate genre. For a writer that wants their book to land on a Top 100 list within a certain genre, this can be quite handy.


But for readers searching for new authors and titles by genre, it can be quite daunting and irritating.  Go back to the top and revisit this question: Is a ghost story a horror story?

My answer is a loud and definite NO.  Consider this…there are ghosts in A Christmas Carol and it is, by all intents and purposes, a ghost story. But it’s not horror.  Alternatively, there are ghosts in The Shining and that is classic horror. This example alone indicates that creating sub genres within main-level genres is necessary.  

But how far do we need to stretch this sub-genre placement?

These are questions I have wrestled with a lot as of late. When I first started writing, I labeled my work as horror. But in the last two years, the content in my books is more along the lines of suspense or supernatural thrillers.

The term “supernatural thriller” makes me cringe, but I don’t know what else to call most of my recent work. To call it “horror” would be a disservice to the genre. Thankfully, Amazon has many suggestions for me. If I don’t want a book labeled horror, I can choose from a wider variety: occult and supernatural, ghost, thriller, dark fantasy or paranormal (just to name a few).

While some of the following have not yet appeared on Amazon, I have seen these sub genres on blogs and
review sites. A few of these seem to go a little overboard:
·         Historical paranormal romance
·         Survival vampire horror comedy
·         Dark fantasy steampunk

I am admittedly undecided as to whether or not I agree with needing so many sub genres. I believe they can come in handy in certain cases (although maybe not quite as specific as the three examples above). Sub genres allow writers to get very specific in query letters. For instance, I am well aware of the fact that many agents don’t represent “horror” by will check out “psychological thrillers.” Similarly, some won’t bother with “horror” but will consider “paranormal romance.”

I will admit to calling one my own novels a “supernatural thriller” when it was a horror novel at its core. As a writer, I can’t help but wonder if there is some dishonesty in this or if the acceptance of so many sub-genres makes it valid.


What say you, genre gurus and fellow writers? Are sub genres a valuable tool for writers or are they bogging down markets that don’t really need such delineations?

For more on Barry, check out his Facebook page HERE
or follow him on Twitter  @bnapier

1 comment:

  1. Oh! So! True! Barry.

    I discovered this same reality when I published 'Tales of Terror' [about beast-entities: Out of Print ;] trying to en-trance my ghost/supernatural readers who, I learned, only wanted 'scary lite'.

    In fact I began getting reviews of appreciation over NOT running amok through the haunted house with chainsaws whirling - LOL. (Hmm, maybe LOL isn't appropriate when discussing the psychological discomfort of one's readers! )

    Anywhoo the point of my acknowledgment of your blog post is to agree -- readers slice their preferences for 'horror' reading with a pretty sharp knife!

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