We reveal what makes for successful horror literature and introduce you to the best horror novels in the eerily beautiful genre.
When autumn lays a blanket of fog over the landscape and darkness falls early, the mood is just right for reading horror. Horror literature offers a wide spectrum: some books only evoke a pleasant creepiness, while others make readers leave the lights on at night. Some feature gruesome monsters and blood for thrills, while others rely more on psychological sophistication. Horror often overlaps with other genres, such as thriller, fantasy or science fiction.
But what makes the best horror novels? They thrive on strong emotions: Fear, shock and revulsion. Authors need to know how to arouse such feelings.
Every horror novel needs a terrifying threat. Authors often resort to the supernatural: unexplained events, ghosts and monsters. Others, however, manage without such elements and deal with a serial killer, for example. Most of them play with primal human fears: almost everyone feels an instinctive fear of losing control of themselves, of the unknown in the darkness or of the dead.
Another trope is the connection with the familiar and the real, such as a house or a doll. Horror is particularly effective when it breaks into or even comes from an otherwise normal-seeming world.
The heroes and heroines of the story are also crucial. The thrill is strongest when the reader can identify with and fear for the main character. The characters need individual attributes and comprehensible motives.
And as is often the case, hints are more effective than explicit descriptions. Leave some of the horror to the imagination of your readers.
Are you curious about how famous authors have used these elements or are you simply looking for an exciting read? Our team at novum publishing have collected our five favourites from among the classics of horror literature.
Five examples of the best horror novels ever written
Stephen King: “Pet Sematary”
As the best-known and most successful horror author of our time, Stephen King more than deserves his mention in our list. “Pet Sematary” is about a family who move to a tranquil town and soon come into contact with the mystery of the pet cemetery and the ancient Indian burial ground behind it. Animals and people buried there come back to life, but something is clearly wrong with them. Stephen King masterfully combines the idyllic setting with the monstrous.
Shirley Jackson: “Haunting of Hill House”
In this classic haunted house story, an investigator seeks evidence of the existence of the supernatural and, to do so, finds himself with three other people at Hill House, a mansion with a dark past. Inexplicable, eerie events occur, driving one of the protagonists in particular into an increasing loss of reality. Jackson’s atmospheric and subtle portrayal leaves open the question of whether it is a mental breakdown or something supernatural.
H. P. Lovecraft: “The Call of Cthulhu”
H. P. Lovecraft’s stories are considered classics of cosmic horror. In “The Call of Cthulhu”, the protagonist comes across a secret cult surrounding a powerful being on his uncle’s estate. As he investigates the cult, mass manias, mysterious deaths and visions full of chaos and madness occur worldwide. Doubts fade about whether the being is real as it awakens.
Mary Shelley: “Frankenstein”
The medical student Frankenstein creates an artificial human, but turns away from his deed in horror, whereupon the monster pursues its creator with murderous zeal. The well-known story left a lasting mark on the horror genre and is also considered the first science fiction novel, as it was inspired by contemporary experiments with electricity. A distinctive feature of the novel is that Mary Shelley evokes compassion for the monster in his existential abandon.
Edgar Allan Poe: “The Fall of the House of Usher”
Another pioneer of the horror genre is Edgar Allan Poe with his short stories. In “The Fall of the House of Usher”, the protagonist visits a friend in his haunted estate. When the sister of the emotionally disturbed landlord supposedly dies and is buried in the cellar, ominous events take their course. Poe’s characters balance on the edge of madness; his stories are dark descents into the human psyche.
Have you been inspired to write your own horror novel? We look forward to your eerily beautiful manuscript!
Let your imagination run free!
Your team at novum publishing