The horror genre is ever changing. Some may even say it is the toughest form of literature to write in. You may know what makes you smile, laugh, and love, but are you willing to talk about what makes you scream, sweat or cry? The perfect romantic weekend may differ for everyone, but few would turn down a perfect day on the beach; the great hope of many young boys may be adventure and excitement, and most wouldn’t turn down to role to be led into the world of the hero. But writing to fright, pushing the reader to the point of fear is such a delicate task that many writers may not know where to start.
The character in your horror novel doesn’t have to be strong, independent and tough, but the character must evoke real, sometimes horrifying emotion in the reader. So if you’re looking for the best means to push your plot points through, look no farther than you antagonist.
Your character needs to feel. He or she can’t just be reacting; they have to be living. These aren’t hero’s who simply endure, they’re people who suffer and feel. They may or may not grow with the story, but they will certainly breakdown under circumstances. So here are a few tips to make your character creation a little easier.
1. Let your characters feel. They don’t need to be overly strong. Now is the time to create that professor or writer living in seclusion. They need real problems, because they are going to be showing real fear.
2. What scares you? Let your own fear play out in the surroundings. Few people like the dark, but fewer still may actually be afraid of it. Ask why would the darkness enhance my character’s fear? There needs to be a true emotional story behind your own character’s trepidations.
3. Let them love. Nothing hurts worse in life than love lost. Ask yourself which is more horrible, a great love lost, or the monster around the corner? You can always kill the monster, but a lost loved one is never coming back.
4. Open up your character’s views. Let them feel change. Horror is the perfect genre for real character development. Again, they don’t just react, they live through their environment. How will their fears and loss change them?
5. Give them a realistic past. For readers to feel sympathetic, they have to fear not only the situation, but be fearful for the person living through it. James Bond has no place here, the reader needs to feel engaged, even smitten for the hero/heroine who deserves better than what they have, and who has fallen on horrid times to face what lies ahead.
Creating the perfect antagonist may never be possible. But creating one who can feel, who the reader hates but needs, loves and can’t let go of, that should be your objective. Horror is unique in that it allows the writer to push volumes of emotion through to the reader. Give your characters the past they need, the love they deserve, the opinions they must answer for and let them feel. Heroes don’t scare, but men and women pushed to breaking and still holding on, put everyone on the edge of they’re seat.