by Pari

By the time most of you read this blog today, I will have survived (I hope) my oral surgery. I won’t go into the gory details, but I had to have something removed from my tongue. Yes, you read that right. Sitting on this end of the surgery — the night before — I have to admit I’m dreading this procedure. At best, the surgeon will just remove the whole darn thing that’s the source of worry. At worst, he’ll decide to only biopsy which means it might have to come off at a later date.


Of course, since I’ve been living with this frightening prospect for a few weeks, and because I’m a writer, I’ve been thinking a lot about fear. Compound this with the fact that I just wrote an article about anxiety disorders for work, and the subjects of worry, fear, obsession, anxiety etc. are very much on my mind.

One of the things I’ve never quite understood is readers’ and movie goers’ attraction to horror. I kind of understand the adrenaline rush of it and the anticipation. But that’s never been a huge draw for me. I guess it’s obvious that at the state fair I rarely went on rollercoasters but adored Ferris wheels and merry-go-rounds  . . . and the farm animals.

I think I understand the anticipation implicit in horror as well. There’s a tingliness that is very cool . . . fun, like foreplay. I’d be happy in that place for a long time before the resolution. Of course the resolution must come, the bump in the night must be revealed. I’d just rather it be a raccoon than an ax murderer.

Since I don’t really understand the idea of horror in the context of creativity, I did a little research. http://www.horror.org/horror-is.htm

This is a fantastic perspective. I have read and respect the astounding storytelling craft of Stephen King, Dean Koontz . . . our fabulous Alexandra Sokoloff.  And I want to understand the attraction of this genre  — and if you don’t think it’s a genre, I want to understand that too — so I hope everyone will chime in and educate me.  

Unlike most Mondays, I WILL be able answer your comments since I expect to be home. The prospect of being at work when the Novocain wears off is just too daunting.

23 thoughts on “Dread

  1. B.G. Ritts

    I'm not at all a horror fan, something I tie to having been seriously frightened by a program I saw on television, and the resulting nightmare, when I was of grade-school age. I have, however, always found riding roller coasters to be exhilarating.

    Pari, you have my very best wishes for a positive outcome today.

  2. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Lighting mental candles for you, Pari. I'm so sorry you've been living with that fear. But you have experts taking care of you.

    I write horror about half the time and read it. I'm very particular about it, though – no torture, no rape unless it's in the backstory and part of the psychological makeup of the survivor. (and that goes for the thrillers and mysteries I read and write, too.) I am attracted to horror because it deals squarely with the fact that bad things happen, but good people can and do fight the evil. That's empowering to me.

  3. Debbie

    Pari, my thoughts ar with you. I'm glad that you've taken some time at home to recover and I hope that you can pamper yourself a little too while you're there.

    As for roller-coasters and horror, I think that they are both safe-scares. In horror, you know it could be real, but this (what you are reading or watching) is not, and when I did watch the teen 'boo' kind of horror, my challenge was not to be caught unaware and jump at that moment created for that purpose. I guess I turned them into intellectual challenges and lost interest if there was more grotesque than story. That said, I prefer psych thrillers. I think it's all in the way the story is presented. Lots of disgusting horror in Sherlock but that is not the focus and you lose sight of it as you marvel at the information gathering, amongst other things, involved in solving the crimes.

  4. Gar Haywood


    First and foremost, best wishes on your surgery. We'll pray for a speedy and complete recovery.

    I've always loved a good horror story, though I haven't read within the genre in years. The last really great one I read was Peter Straub's GHOST STORY, which I thought was spectacular on a number of levels. And I pretty much stopped reading Stephen King after THE SHINING because I didn't think he could possibly scare me any worse than he did with that book.

    I think it's a sad commentary on horror today that so many writers think that gore is the only satisfactory pay-off. I beg to differ. Anticipation of the pay-off is the real key to a working horror story. The pay-off itself has to be chilling, but not necessarily bloody or stomach-churning.

    One man's opinion…

  5. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Pari

    My best wishes, also, for your surgery. I hope it went well and your recovery is speedy and trauma-free.

    I will read anything with a good story. I'm not keen on too much gore, but I don't like that in crime fiction either – if it's unnecessary to the story.

    I'd agree that tension and anticipation is the key rather than splatter 🙂

  6. Pari Noskin

    Thanks for your good wishes.
    I suspect I had a traumatic experience with needles when young that pretty much guarantees I'll never be an addict <g> so I can relate.
    Roller coasters? Really. That's cool. I hope you find the time to ride one soon!

    Thank you. I survived the procedure. Now we just wait for the results, but the surgeon didn't seem worried, so that was good.

    Thank you sooooo much for that perspective on Horror. It makes real sense to me; I get facing bad things in the face (though I don't always like to do it). I do that our culture is really in denial, so horror might be a good antidote to that.

  7. Pari Noskin

    Thank you. Re: pampering . . . I'm not allowed to chew anything today so it's going to be a diet of ice cream and popicles and ice for next 12 hours.

    Also, very interesting perspective on the horror question. Safe scares. Very good way of putting it.
    Here's another: is psych thriller also horror?

    I'm just curious. I don't get the grossing out/bloody stuff, but I do get that tingle of fear.

  8. Pari Noskin

    Thank you. I'm very happy that it's just a matter of dealing with the pain rather than the anticipation of those shots in my tongue.

    Your "one man's opinion" is exactly what I'm looking for today. I knew there had to be more to it, that I was missing something. This is because there are writers I really respect who adore writing/reading it.

    I'm going to have to think about that and if it would be an incentive. I was watching Damages a couple of weeks and had to stop because of how cruel and chilling it was.

  9. Pari Noskin

    Thank you. I want it to be speedy too! Only three stitches and hardly looks like anything — but I do feel it now.

    I agree on reading for story too — in almost any genre — but I've avoided horror for the most part b/c of what I think it is: Freddy Kruger and all those things you mentioned. I'm wondering if I should check out some more.

  10. Sarah W

    Try to enjoy the ice cream, Pari — if you're allowed to chose, try Talenti Belgian Milk Chocolate or (if you aren't a chocoholic) the Tahiti Vanilla Bean. Best grocery-available ice cream in the world, guaranteed–or send it to me to finish for you.

    Thanks for sharing that article. I agree, good horror elicits emotions—and 'grossed out' isn't an emotion, it's a gag reflex.

    I read horror, but I usually need a good dose of the psychological to keep me interested. It's not that I don't appreciate supernatural boogeymen (buy me a drink and I'll tell you about the time I accidentally trapped the cat in the bedroom closet before reading *Night Shift* in an otherwise empty house) , but the ones we all harbor in our own minds are (usually) far scarier to me, and it flat out terrifies me that human monsters can so easily be us.

    Stephen King's *Needful Things* is as scary as it is because the horror is based on human failings and doubts. In fact, my favorite parts of *Rose Madder* don't involve the supernatural at all (spoiler: I'd even argue that the book doesn't need to see them outside of the MC's head)

    Alex's *Book of Shadows* is one of those blends of mystery (an excellent police procedural, actually) and horror so well balanced that it's tough to decide if the paranormal elements are real and if it would be better or worse if they aren't. I love that.

  11. PD Martin

    Glad to hear everything went okay, Pari. Hope the painkillers haven't worn off too much!

    Although I can read scary crime thrillers, I find true horror too scary. My imagination gets the better of me at night. And in terms of movies, I can't even stand hearing the scary music in the background!


  12. KDJames

    Holy guacamole, Pari! I'm happy to hear you survived (!) the surgery. Hope they gave you some good drugs and the pain isn't too awful. My entire mouth is cringing in sympathy.

    I don't enjoy horror, in books or movies. I read THE OTHER at an age when I was probably much too young to be reading that kind of thing, especially given my rather sheltered placid childhood. It was my first exposure to any kind of horror fiction and it totally freaked me out. And as if the book weren't bad enough, I had horrible nightmares for weeks afterward, with my mind picking up where the book left off and creating new horrors. I honestly can't remember now what was in the book and what was only in my mind. It made me feel sick with guilt that I could have such awful thoughts in my head. I remember being afraid to tell anyone about the dreams, convinced they'd think there was something wrong with me. Obviously, this was before I knew I was a writer.

    So it's not the original content that bothers me so much (these days) as it is what my mind does with all that untapped potential for something far worse.

  13. Laura

    Hope you're feeling better Pari! I enjoy a bit of horror from time to time. But only read in the afternoon. When it's still light outside. I've read Stephen Kings IT about 3/4 of the way through about 3 or 4 times, and it always gets too scary!
    What I've found interesting is it is not necessarily the horror that stays with me. The only book that has given me serious nightmares in the past few years is "We Need To Talk About Kevin" – because it feels so real.

  14. Lisa Alber

    Hi Pari,

    I hope you're feeling okay — glad the surgery went well. Did you get any good drugs out of it? 🙂

    Horror…I'm a horror person, movie-wise. Or rather, I'm a scary-movie person. Torture-porn and goriness don't do it for me, but, for example, I saw "The Woman in Black" over the weekend with some girlfriends. There's something cathartic about being scared. For the life of me, I don't know what it is. I jerk and squeal and squirm and cover my eyes and gasp, and I love the process of it. I'm a pretty mellow person, otherwise, so go figure.

    I don't read horror though, interestingly. Or rather, I don't read grisly, ultra-violent horror. I don't understand that. But a suspenseful paranormal — sure.

    I has to be the suspense, and the more understated and unseen the threat, the better.

    I agree with Gar about THE SHINING and GHOST STORY, especially the former. I scared the shit out of myself as teenager.

  15. Reine

    I love horror. It is not the fear that thrills me, though. It is the question. The question builds tension. The tension leads to resolution. It's the finding of the way, the looking forward to resolution, that moves me.

    My thoughts are with you, and I hope you are feeling well by the time you read this.

  16. Pari Noskin

    Wow. I posted yesterday after Sarah's comment but must've been so out of it that I deleted it . . .

    Here's the current state of affairs: I hurt.
    I'm home and I hurt. Wah!
    Painkillers and I don't like each other so I'm popping ibuprofen with supervised abandon.

    Okay . ..
    on to the comments

    thank you so much!

    Let me tell you . .. the real drag is when ice cream is one of the only things you CAN eat b/c after the second or third bowl, it loses its allure.

    I very much appreciate your perspective on horror. I agree that horror doesn't need to be supernatural in nature and I'm going to read the books you recommended (haven't gotten to that one by Alex yet) so gain more of an understanding.

  17. Pari Noskin

    Thank you. I'm kind of regretting NOT getting painkillers since this seemed to be just a few cuts and a few stitches. However it hurts like a mo' fo'.

    Anyway, perhaps you've hit on one of the reasons I've avoided horror too — it stays with me. I had nightmares about Bambi and those evil hunters for years . . .

    Very, very interesting and it resonates (see my comment to PD above <g>). Perhaps that's one reason I've shied away from it. But now I'm really curious because so many good storytellers, writers and my friends adore the subgenre.

  18. Pari Noskin

    Good recommendation on the time of day!
    Tell me, what horror have you read that you enjoyed and can suggest?

    You see, that was part of what I was looking for . . . a glimpse into the attraction. And I get the catharsis part. It makes a lot of sense. I'm not sure I'll ever be converted — but the suspense part is incredible. Right now I'm thinking of Dead Again and how much suspense and sense of dread was in that film and how wonderful it was.

    The idea of suspense vs blood/gore is interesting. I suspect the horror writers I respect would be firmly in the former camp.

  19. Pari Noskin

    Thank you. I kind of wish the numbing agent still was in full force . . . but emotionally I'm much happier today than yesterday. I can deal with the pain better than the anticipation. Now all I have to wait for is the news re: the biopsy.

    I love your explanation about horror and what attracts you to — and keeps you reading — it. In a way, it sounds again like the elements of a good story. The question (conflict), the movement toward it, the resolution.

    Hmmm. You've given me something to think about.

  20. lil Gluckstern

    Just wishing you the best, and less pain. I like some horror, especially if it is psychological< but blood and guts for the fun of it is not my cup of tea.

  21. Laura

    Hi Pari!
    Horror I've enjoyed: "The Harrowing" – Alexandra Sokoloff (don't read at home by yourself!) but I couldn't put this one down
    "Carrie" – Stephen King (one of my all time favourite books) I'm the eternal optimist though – I read it thinking "no one will make fun of her this time!!" I also watch Titanic and hope it won't sink….
    "Funhouse" – Dean Koontz. Fascinating (I liked the fact it was set in a carnival) but it did scare the crap out of me.
    If I'm reading horror I'll often have 2 books on the go. The scary one, and the not scary one (so that I can calm myself down and not be thinking about the scary one before I go to sleep!)
    Hope this helps 🙂

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