As media develops and starts to cross the traditional boundaries between books, films, art, media, video games and God knows what else, the question rises up time and time again. Can a work of fiction in a readable format really be considered ‘scary’? Many would say so, as they have had the living daylights scared out of them by a work like something by Stephen King. But the question is, in a world where so much of what affects us operates on more of a visual and auditory level than a ‘word-based level, can you really scare people purely with description? I would say you would. Perhaps not in a jump scare kind of way, but more of a psychologically intense level.
There is a lot of fiction out there that makes one scared to read farther, to continue this reading experience, and this is something that movies can achieve but also have some trouble with. Movies can scare the hell out of you with a jump and loud noise, but unless you’re watching it at home and have oms kind of control over the film, then you’re not able to pause it and not want to go ahead – like a book. However, films are ‘unstoppable’ in the sense that you might not want it go on but it does anyway – which is something that they capitalise on, but haven’t really addressed in-film.
Books, however, allow you as much as time you need to read them – and this can sometimes be a blessing and curse. If you’re reading something truly scary, then you’re likely to stop reading and go very stop-and-start – knowing that you must finish this text, but there’s like to be some horrible and frightening stuff coming up. It’s not like you can just write in all caps to scare someone, but it’s still something that’s considerable – whether you’re going for a visceral, intense horror or something more deep and psychological, then you’re looking at an interesting and approachable way to go about writing horror. Many writers like Clive Barker alternate between psychological and ‘gross-out’ horror – what some would call ‘torture porn’. It’s never as visceral as in the films, of course, but still – there are many descriptions of acts and situations where you would really take offence, and words that worm into your brain and give you some serious difficulty continuing. Books can indeed be scary.