Watching, reading and playing horror. Is it good or is it bad? Advice from an expert.

Tempted to try some scary movie? Here’s what to expect.

A little note: I’m a fantasy writer but since a couple of my friends have identified some “scary” ideas in the plot of my upcoming book “Kyle’s Nightmare“, (an ancient spirit), I thought it would be great to debate some preconceptions and curiosities about the horror world.

For those who are into horror and worry that feeding your eyes with scary tales might affect your life in a way or another, I decided to interview an expert. Meet Julia Benally, an experienced horror author who also plays horror games.

So, Julia, does watching horror materials on a regular basis:

Q1. Make you have nightmares or make you immune to them?
Julia: I guess it depends on the material. There are some things I will NOT watch, and others I can watch all the time. What does scare me, I’m not immune to. I once tried making myself immune to this particular thing I found freaky, and all I did was get nightmares. So I don’t go near it.

Q2. Make you more scared of the dark or braver?
Julia: It makes me scared of the dark, but I’ve always been scared of the dark.

Q3. Enjoy life more because you’re thankful those things don’t exist?
J: One day I read this freaky story, and I said to myself, I am so glad that’s not real! It made me feel pretty good. Of course, when it really freaks me out, telling myself that it isn’t real feels kind of foolish, since I did wantonly scare myself. It’s only as real as your head makes it out to be, sometimes.

Other questions:

Q4: What should you do in case you get really scared (and maybe it’s even late at night)?
J: For me, if I get really scared, especially if it’s late at night, I turn on my top light in the room and sleep with it in my face. Sometimes I think of a comforting song, or a lullaby, and play it over and over in my head.
 
Of course, some things are too freaky, and that’s when I have to make rules for myself: Never watch/read this again, work on this story only in the daylight and stop before evening comes on, and then do something uplifting, like dancing, or watching a funny movie, reading scriptures, writing in my journal, or spending time with my family.
 
For me, as a writer, brainstorming about my book gets my mind off of everything. I also pray. It comforts me to tell Heavenly Father about my day, what I wrote, what I thought, and the plans I’ve laid for my next project. In those moments, you realize that what you’ve seen, or what you’ve written, or what you’ve read because you had to study a magazine, is nothing at all. Everything is just fine.

Q5: Which of these do you think have more impact on the viewer: movies, literature or gaming?
J: I’m not sure about this one. Each one has a different impact on the viewer. In gaming, the viewer is a participant, in literature, the viewer has their own imagination to rely on, which can be really vivid, and in movies, the viewer is exposed to freaky elements, equipped with music, which really hits the senses. I guess, again, it depends on what’s in the game, story, or movie. Based on the viewer, the impact is different.

Q6: For who is this genre?
J: You never know who likes horror. In grade school, all my schoolmates loved horror. In college, they wouldn’t go near it. Lots of people I know have a background with horror, and they love Halloween, and love Stephen King. I don’t. People find it surprising that I love Christmas and Easter the best. Personally, I love the extra oompf of horror, it’s suspense, it’s lack of mush, it’s excitement and the rush of fear.

Q7: While it’s great to experience adrenaline from time to time, maybe sometimes it would be great just to relax. In your writing and watching/reading list, do you stick to this one genre or do you like to alternate between it and some other?
J: I find if I stick too much to horror that it makes me antsy. I have been moving into different genres, and hopefully they’ll get picked up soon. I did a young adult romance once, and working on another. I’m actually getting one of my first fantasies published in Black Noise Quarterly, and have two looking for a home. Writing other genres is extremely fun. I don’t want to be stuck in one genre forever.
 
For reading, I mostly read horror for magazines, but for books, I adore Jane Austen, The Hobbit, The Chronicles of Narnia and Treasure Island, to name a few. They make me happy, and I love happy endings. While I love horror movies, I’m extremely picky about what I watch. If I see “horror” slapped on a case, I do careful investigation because gratuitous sex and gore turns me off, especially if the story line sucks.

And some bonus questions:

Q8: From your point of view, which are the scariest beings? Zombies? Vampires? Ghosts? Aliens?
J: Come to think of it, if any of these are done right, they can all be freaky. A vampire with glittery skin is a freakin’ joke. A vampire like in Bram Stoker’s book Dracula is a different matter. Zombies that can’t move just makes me wonder how anybody got bitten. A zombie that can run is different. Aliens that look like tomatoes are stupid. Aliens that can think are freaky. Ghosts like The Grudge freak me out like nobody’s business. Ghosts that suddenly do over the top things like bright lights and wind, meh. In the end, I would say ghosts.

Q9: Which scary beings do you like most to put in your stories?
J: I really love making up my own monsters. I find it fun, because then I can make up rules for them, and I don’t have to follow the rules of other already-made monsters.
In Toni’s Land, my monster was an alien, but it was my own alien, carefully designed with loving creepy care. Designing a monster gives me a pleasure that no other freaky character gives me. I feel like each one is a masterpiece in and of itself. Once the monster is designed, the story flows with its rules and is tailored to that monster.

 

Q10: From slightly scary to horror, can you make up a short list of your stories?
J: I’ll put them in what I found the least scary to the scariest.

Robert, Tiger, Love Notes, Toni’s Land, The Ten Hour Project, Donna or Tara, The Hairy Man, The Bridges, Devil’s Hour, The Cowboy Cabin, Megan’s House.

I’m not sure if anyone else would order them this way. I just know that Megan’s House really freaked me out.

It’s about a ghost, too. LOL.

From the list above, I, Tina Silvens, have read “Tiger” and I agree that’s a story which has some scary parts but it won’t freak you out to the point you can’t sleep. I read it at night, so I know what I’m saying. And I’m usually the sensitive kind.

Want to find out if Julia’s stories are able to scare you? Here’s her blog where you can find her list of short works: sparrowincarnate.blogspot.com

Conclusions:

  • Don’t try new horror material at night.
  • Be honest with yourself. If you get scared easily, you don’t have to force yourself to watch or read scary things. Chances are you won’t become braver.
  • Enjoy the thrills, take some breaks and, just like food, keep your entertainment list varied!

In case you have your own questions about this subject, post them in the comments!

P.S. After this interview, I’m sure my novel “Kyle’s Nightmare” is not at all a horror story. It stays faithful to the fantasy-action genre, and although I said it was more serious than “The Arid Kingdom”, it still has some moments of humour.

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