It’s Time to Learn: Horror Fiction vs. Weird Fiction
By Stephanie M. Clarke*
Horror fiction and weird fiction are both different facets of the broader genre of speculative fiction. Generally speaking, speculative fiction is fiction which contains elements of the fantastic or the supernatural. Futuristic elements may also be included in works of speculative fiction.
Weird fiction utilizes various conventions from other genres to tell stories about the uncanny in everyday life. The pioneers of weird fiction often used supernatural themes to impart readers with feelings of unease, such as ghosts or haunted houses or the idea of an ancient evil that waits for the perfect ordinary moment to come back into power. Notable weird fiction writers are Shirley Jackson, Ambrose Bierce, and M. R. James.
The horror genre can be considered a logical offshoot of weird fiction, where the story focuses on the horrific, or fear element of weird fiction. A story can be weird but not be horrific. Once the writer focuses on the thing that is frightening, with the intent of scaring the reader, the story crosses the blurred lines between weird fiction and horror fiction. A few examples of horror writers are Stephen King, Sarah Pinborough, and Gary Braunbeck.
Tips for writing horror fiction:
- Choose things that are familiar to your readers. The more likely your story could happen in their town, to their family, in their homes, the more frightening the circumstances will be.
- If using legendary monsters, stay true to those tropes. While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with writing about a common monster, horror readers may balk if your monster is too different from what they know them to be.
Tips for writing weird fiction:
- Consider the normal and then turn it slightly on its side. Some forms of weird fiction, such as bizarro, may actually take the norm and reverse it completely. Historical weird fiction writers, however, played around with other aspects of the story, such as mood, examining conditions, and focused on the actions of the characters.
- Read weird fiction. You can learn to write weird fiction by reading the writers who did it well and are considered pioneers of the genre, such as H. P. Lovecraft and Algernon Blackwood.
*Stephanie M. Clarke is an Americam Psychologist, blogger and author, who writes on Widbook’s blog weekly about the literature universe