Great new authors in dark fantasy, romance, political thrillers, and non-fiction continue to impress me with many stories out there. Along the way of networking I bumped into the horror genre. I admit to being a wimp in horror films, preferring the ‘small screen’ after dumping a coke on one of my early dates as a teenager while watching the first “Halloween” film at a theatre. It’s stupid that I work in the medical field and see blood without batting an eye, but on screen, I cringe.
As I’ve read more horror genre books, I can see where there’s a bit of overlap with dark fantasy. Usually both genres have a certain amount of bloody violence. Some reviewers give my books an eight out of ten “gore factor” but some horror novels to me make my novellas look pretty tame. A big difference to me between dark fantasy and horror is the lack of a protagonist in horror, which makes sense and what gives me a jolt sometimes when reading. Unopposed evil makes for a scary story.
Which brings me to the point, how do we define “gore” in books? Blood/body parts splashed over a stone staircase after a battle? A bunch of evil priests lying dead after being struck down by their own weapons? A vampire lying in wait to nab a serial killer to squeeze out the blood by some creative means? Or a person disemboweled by a demon and hung in a tree?
Other genres have gore factors as well. Crime, mainstream and non-fiction, particularly war stories, certainly can disturb me with horrific violence. So how much gore is enough? Answer: No answer. Fiction writers (my emphasis here) use scenes to move the plot, and may/may not have more than a drop of blood. The story stands, and for children’s books, holding back the blood is understandable; for adult books, not holding back the blood may make for a good night’s sleep in the world of entertainment today; but it’s hardly necessary depending on the message the author wants to convey. I don’t believe bloody scenes are a story; the events that lead to and follow these scenes comprise a more important part of the plot.
So, new authors go forth and write again. Is horror your thing? Go for it, and if it contains bloody violence, show us readers why it’s there instead of it just being there. For us in dark fantasy, battles are what we write, so some blood will show up on the end of a blade. For the non-gore readers/writers, stories can be told with excellence without the use of bloody violence. That’s part of what makes writing great; the creation of a story using the tools the author sees fit to use.