The Incongruencies of Horror

Hopeful Horror?

Image Credit: El Horror es Mío

Horror as a genre seeks to provoke fear, disgust, and terror. That is its mission and main purpose.

And yet, as incongruent as it sounds, horror may be the most hopeful genre. What? Really?

We previously debated if horror should have a happy ending. Today, we are going to discuss the incongruencies of horror. And horror does have lots of incongruencies.

Incongruent sounds like a big word. It means when something does not match an expectation.

For example, a snowy July would be an incongruency. Similarly, a priest in a brothel would be another example.

Incongruity is used as a tool to create satire and humor. The juxtaposition of two opposites invites a punchline.

We also looked at the intersection of humor and horror. Humor is supposed to make us laugh. Horror is supposed to make us avert our eyes. And yet, they work together.

They mesh because they are both extreme primal emotions. Furthermore, they are excellent vehicles for the writer to explore social commentary. Indeed, the best horror stories make us think and have a strong theme.

Who said the disturbing and disgusting cannot be art? Even hopeful art?

What Does Optimistic Horror Look Like?

What is so scary about a clown? Image Credit: Taringa

Horror is arguably the most optimistic genre, after science fiction. Science fiction is inherently optimistic since it is about the future and hence it indirectly implies we will have a future. But horror? What makes it hopeful?

Although there are no traditional happy endings in horror stories and the best you can aspire to is a return to the status quo, this a joyful event after a fashion. Think about it.

You get to live another day. The monster is defeated, vanished, or delayed. You survived. Story ends.

Being alive, surviving an encounter with a monster, wild nature, and the supernatural means there is another day. The story goes on. The narrative is told by the survivors. Yes, people die and get maimed. But not everyone died.

If the monster or villain wins, they, in fact, become the protagonist.

But horror stories are hardly about the monster. They are about people and their struggle with the monster/villain. They are tales of survival and endurance.

Hence, optimistic horror is no different than any other genre or subgenre of horror. Still, we can focus on writing stories in which the tone is about the ‘survivors’ rather than the ‘victims’. Those who overcome and win.

Better yet, we can tell stories about the human spirit, the human condition, and philosophical examinations of good and evil using horror tropes. And we should. Stories with strong themes are memorable.

Using Incongruity to Show Theme

A horror film with a strong political theme. Image: The Purge ©Universal Pictures

Theme is important in any story regardless of genre. Incongruity is about avoiding expectations, surprising the reader.

If you can bring the unexpected to the reader and left them awestruck, the story becomes livelier. The best plots thrive on conflict. Conflict drives the plot. A plot without conflict is quite boring.

For instance, a man afraid of the sun faces vampires. His only chance of surviving is to go outside and face his fear. Would he do it? A woman afraid of corpses finds herself in an abandoned cemetery full of ghosts at midnight. Will she make it until the morning?

If your theme is facing your fears or the inevitability of death, putting your characters in situations which bring them face to face in conflict with those is fundamental. Incongruous? Perhaps. Good writing? Yes.

Remember, you cannot have light without darkness, beauty without ugliness, good without evil. Opposites not only define each other but their inherent contrast moves the plot forward.

Horror is full of incongruencies. Horror is inherently incongruent. Its biggest incongruency is shining a light to the darkest, most depraved and immoral corners of the human soul and discovering the best and virtuosity of humanity. To discover we are all not monsters.

Moreover, that life is worth fighting for in spite of how bad we may have it.

Reader, do you find horror stories inspiring or not? Why?



No Responses

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

March 2023