One reason why horror stories may not be as popular as they once were has little to do with vampire-/zombie-/monster-romances and is more related to the difference between sight and perception. While certain sub-types have watered down the genre as a whole, the real problem is film.
See why I say horror literature will always trump film. Let me know if you agree.
While I realize I've written on this topic before, I think it's worth revisiting. See last time I was talking about your imagination and how certain descriptions can make your mind run wild and concoct a brew of all your worst fears.
After reading this paper & this article, maybe there's a little more to eerie fiction than the reader's imagination. The study discovers that certain cues change our perceptions before the images we see reach the conscious. In other words, we can see what we're told to see before we put all the facts together.
The study has a great example of how this words. For instance, maybe we do or don't see the dark alley over our shoulders. Imagine someone whispers to you, "Oh my god, do you see the gorilla over there?"
You look into the alley, and dammit, it's there. You see the gorilla, or just the outlines of it amongst the shadows. Soon enough, you think it's strange you didn't notice the gorilla right next to you, but because your friend pointed it out, it became clear as day.
However, it's not because your friend told you what to see. While visual and verbal suggestions go a long way, your imagination does kick in. When I use the term "imagination" here, I do not mean to suggest the deeper end of your creativity. I'm talking about the moment right before your conscious deciphers everything, the moment when you're trying to place all the facts together by what you can sense.
Something about the shadows gave a cue that a gorilla could really be in the alleyway. Something about the sound of the wind, the wave in the shadows, and the slight suggestion made you see the gorilla. But when you finally realize what's truly there, you might think the gorilla only existed for moment, because your friend told you to see it.
Film tends to use the same method. Everything is pointed out to you. While your imagination is an awesome juggernaut, a film often stunts it. That is, you're told exactly what to see, hear, etc.
In a book, good horror will make a slight suggestion and give you all the details. However, it won't simply point at the beast or whatever. Instead, there's room for perception before you either break down the facts or continue moving forward with the story.
Good horror will let you creep yourself in such an entertaining fashion, that, there's a good chance you won't stop to break down what you just read. It grips you and keeps you moving. Direct imagery, such as you see in seasonal horror flicks, often deters the viewer if it doesn't concur with their presumptions. Those presumptions can be delighted by horror fiction because they slip into your interpretation of each sentence.
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Fear, focus, and the future. C.M. Humphries talks about writing, horror, and whatever.