Horror Fiction – Folklore and the Entertainment Industries

If you’re into horror stories, regardless of what the media is, you can find it practically everywhere. That is, if you watch horror movies or read horror stories. If you’re trying to write something in the horror genre, however, being original is getting increasingly hard. To write horror fiction, and be somewhat believable, you need to play by certain rules. These rules are included in accepted canons for each genre and sub-genre and sometimes you can effectively alter those canons.

As someone who’s watched more than my fair share of horror movies and read more than my fair share of horror stories, I could easily write about how much the horror genre has changed over the last 40 years. I won’t do that, however, because it’ll get really boring really fast. Instead, I want to make observations about some specific things related to various supernatural creatures as defined by folklore and the entertainment industries.

Horror Fiction – Vampires

spooky castle and full moon - horror fiction Prior to the latest glut of vampire-related entertainment, there were some common ways to take care of vampires. They could be repelled by crosses or garlic and killed by wooden stakes to the heart or exposure to daylight. In some instances, decapitation also worked. Modern day vampires aren’t affected by crosses (or anything Holy) or garlic. In The Vampire Diaries TV series, witches help certain vampires walk in daylight. In the The Twilight Saga film series, vampires avoid daylight because they sparkle, not because it can kill them.

In the Philippines, the Aswang is something like a vampire, but not quite the same thing. Many Filipinos absolutely believe in their existence while believing vampires to be fictional, just like everyone else.

Information about the Revenant indicates it’s something like a cross between a vampire and a zombie, but there’s not very much reference material on it.

Horror Fiction – Zombies

There is even more of a glut of zombie-related entertainment these days than that of vampires. They come in all forms, from the slow-moving Night of the Living Dead zombies to the living zombies of Zombieland.

The only rule that seems to apply to all zombies is that a bullet to the head (brain destruction) is the only way to be sure they’re “dead”.

Horror Fiction – Other Supernatural Creatures

One of the more interesting book series I’ve read (well, some of the books) is Women of the Otherworld by Kelley Armstrong. There are more supernatural creatures than I can remember in her novels. Some of the creatures are based on real historical types of people and some are pure fantasy and I’ll try to list some of them:

  • Vampires
  • Werewolves
  • Witches
  • Sorcerers
  • Ghosts
  • Necromancers
  • Angels
  • Demons, Half-Demons and Demi-Demons
  • Nymphs

And those are just the ones I can remember. In my opinion, these versions of all those creatures is way more palatable than what the rest of the entertainment industries have fed consumers for the last century, through films, books, and even comics.

Horror Fiction Writing

I’ve only touched on a few kinds of horror-related creatures, pointing out the obvious. If you’re going to write horror fiction, you have to be well-rounded. You have to pay attention to all the supernatural characters (some more than others) in popular culture to build a fantasy realm that people will buy into.

You also have to be careful to use the right types of supernatural creatures because not all of them would or should fall into the horror genre. Elves, leprechauns, brownies (and whatever other names are given to little people) are folklore creatures better suited to children’s stories than horror stories.

Fortunately, there is more than enough source material (written and visual) to begin your own horror story. Unfortunately, there’s also more than enough competition to make your story not stand out from the rest.