Face Your Fears: Why You Don’t Need to Avoid the Horror Genre

Face Your Fears: Why You Don’t Need to Avoid the Horror Genre

 

How often do you find yourself perusing the horror section at the library or bookstore? When do you find yourself wanting to read something that disturbs and unsettles you? Unless you’re like me, with a sick desire to be forever scarred by the literature I consume, the answer is probably “not often.” And why is that? 

A lot of us only find ourselves dusting off our spooky stories and checking out horror novels around Halloween—which makes sense. Autumn is the perfect time of year to get lost in a good, creepy book, thanks to the nights getting longer and the air getting chillier. Pair that with the obvious—Halloween, and its spirit of fright and darkness—it feels like the universe is telling you it’s time to get scared. So why wouldn’t you crack open that Stephen King book, or your favorite collection of horror stories? 

As much as I would love to ramble forever about my love for autumn and Halloween, that’s not the main point here. In my opinion, the general population doesn’t consume enough literature designed to frighten and disturb, for a variety of reasons. Whether it feels like the wrong time of year, or if the genre just doesn’t seem to ‘click’ with you, there are a lot of reasons we stray away from horror. If you fall into this category, consider for a moment why you avoid the genre, and keep this in mind as you continue reading. Hopefully, by the time you’re through, I’ll have convinced you otherwise.

“Horror is too dark! I want books that cheer me up, and make me happy!” Well, my friend, allow me to introduce you to the sub-genre horror-comedy. Not every horror novelist is out only to scare you—a lot of them want to make you laugh along the way! While there are many different types of comedy, and all of them have been integrated into horror at some point, the genre most commonly makes use of black comedy. Through black comedy, also referred to as dark humor, authors take a dark, twisted situation and help us find a reason to laugh at it. With comedy, authors can shift the tone of their work from something grim and serious into something more playful and fun. From a writing perspective, comedy is an important tool for horror because of its ability to make a dark concept or scene more palatable to the reader. There’s a horror-comedy out there for everyone—if dark humor isn’t your style, there’s horror-satire, and parody, too!

“It’s not the right time for a horror book!” Going back to my original statement about horror and Halloween season going hand in hand, a lot of us are less inclined to pick up horror novels throughout the year because it simply doesn’t feel right. Thanks to mainstream horror franchises making a point to release their movies around October, and their popular characters being recognizable and festive Halloween costumes, we have a deeply ingrained association between the holiday and the genre. However, if you take a closer look at the genre, especially from a literary perspective, you’ll find that a lot of horror is better suited for different times of the year. Take Ring by Koji Suzuki. The Japanese novel laid the foundation for the well the well-known American movie franchise under the same name, but the two have drastically different themes. One of the primary themes of the novel is that of birth, and new life, making it a perfect read for springtime, when the flowers are beginning to bloom and wildlife returns. The short story “Hot Potting from Chuck Palahniuk’s novel Haunted is a horror story revolving around frostbite, and bitter winter nights in the woods—just right for reading on a freezing winter night. There are horror novels, as well as short stories, that are very seasonal without taking place during autumn. Try taking a horror story with you to the beach this summer—I can guarantee you’ll find something that feels just right for the occasion.

“I just don’t like being scared. I don’t want to read something graphic and terrifying.” Fortunately for those of us who don’t like feeling afraid, there are a lot of novels that are creepy, but not outright scary. Sometimes, the best place to look for that perfect scary story isn’t within the horror genre at all. In fact, the fiction shelves are full of novels that are dark, unsettling, and spooky, but not to the extent that they can be considered horror. If the genre seems daunting, start with something a little gentler, like mystery or thriller novels. While not technically horror, the genres have a lot of overlap, specifically with their themes of suspense. If you’re not looking to feel terrified and disgusted, but still want to give the genre a try, look for novels that fall into the thriller category as well—you’d be surprised how many works fit into both!

Although I likely haven’t convinced you to become a total horror junkie like myself, I sincerely hope you’ll give the genre a try next time you’re picking up books at the library. The world of horror is full of incredible, unforgettable stories and novels just waiting for you to read them!

Meet the blogger:

Lily Gibbs.LILY GIBBS is a Creative Writing and Education major who hopes to someday publish her own horror novel. When she’s not writing, she spends her time making jewelry and playing with her cat, Venus.  

Minecraft as Storytelling

Minecraft as Storytelling

 

A little more than 10 years ago, I started to play Minecraft. At first, I just watched my father play Minecraft over his shoulder, but eventually, he got annoyed by my back-seat gaming, so he set me up with my own computer and Minecraft account.

Once the computer was set up, I dove into Minecraft with a verve that would probably remind you of a starved person at a feast. 

When I played Minecraft, I played in creative mode for the most part. That meant I was immortal, invincible, could fly, and had access to every single block or item in the game. It was the ultimate sandbox. The best playground in. The. world.

When I would play, I’d build giant villages with castles in the middle, and all the while, I’d be chattering to myself about the pretend people I’d created to live in these block houses and castles I’d created. Along with the stories I told myself at night to make myself fall asleep, and the worlds I would create with my friends while playing with our imaginations, Minecraft was one of the first ways I wrote. I rarely put these stories down on paper or even told my parents about them, but they lived inside my head and gave me the same comfort and love that writing gives me now. 

And I’m certainly not the only one to tell stories using Minecraft as the medium. May I direct your attention to the great and mighty YouTube, most powerful of all video-viewing platforms. I grew up watching SkyDoesMinecraft and his gang, ExplodingTNT, Aphmau, and NerdCubed, these just being a couple that come to mind. Just scrolling through my YouTube subscriptions is a walk down memory lane, greeted by my old Minecraft-ian friends. 

Minecraft isn’t alone in being a storyteller-friendly platform, either. Creators of all stripes use video games to relate stories. The freedom of video games to tell interactive stories isn’t just an up-and-coming medium, it’s a here-and-now storytelling device. And as the world gets more internet-oriented, it’s only going to become more relevant. If you go on Wikipedia and look at the page listing the top 50 best-selling games of all time, you won’t help but notice how many of them have stories woven into the actual gaming experience. Even Minecraft, which can be utterly creatively free when you use it as a sandbox, has lore written into it that I’m sure has made some writer or writers at Mojang very proud over the years. 

I still love Minecraft. And even if I don’t use it as a petri dish for stories the way I did when I was 10, I still crack open my account every so often to build the worlds I create in my stories. It helps me actually see the worlds I create inside my head. And if I had the skills necessary to build my own video game as a way of telling my stories, I’d do it in a heartbeat. It’s simply a more immersive version of the choose-your-own-adventure books that pervade school libraries worldwide. 

Even though this won’t seem like news to many people, I still feel it’s important to talk about. I was born in late 2001, I graduated high school in 2020, I’m going to graduate from college in 24’, and I’ll probably live another 50 or so years. Assuming society doesn’t fall into some Mad-Max-esqe non-technological apocalypse, digital storytelling is only going to get more prevalent. It’s time we leaned into it. 

Meet the blogger:

Kivi Weeks with a Mouse Rat shirt in front of the water.KIVI WEEKS is an emerging author based in Minnesota, splitting her time between Saint Paul, where she goes to college, and Duluth, where her parents live. She has three cats and three tattoos, and wants more of each. 

Who Am I-Who Are You-Who Are They 

Who Am I-Who Are You-Who Are They 

 

All novels, essays, and short stories follow this rule; the narrator speaks from a point of view you can recognize. There are five commonly accepted PoV’s: First-Person, Second-Person, Third-Person-Limited, Third-Person-Omniscient, and Third-Person-Objective. See if you can discover any new information related to PoV from this blog post; if you have your own additions or advice, feel free to share your findings with other authors, writers, or word-smiths of any kind you know. 

First-Person (For example, James Balwdin’s, Notes of a Native Son) Utilizing I, me, mine, my, etc., first person narratives often tell the story informally or directly from a main character’s point of view. Their experiences are how to see the story, be it emotionally or rationally. 

The interpretation of the character requires either a stability, or an easily understood unreliability between the reader and the text, otherwise the text does not flow in an understandable manner. Often great for any genre of writing, first person point of view is still versatile despite possible narrative constraints. 

Second-Person (For example, N.K. Jemisin’s, The Fifth Season

A very difficult form of narrative, either describing actions taken by YOU the reader, or in conversation with the reader, YOU directly, utilizing YOU as the pronoun. Common cases of Second-Person stories are “Choose-Your-Own-Adventure” books, in which YOU flip to the page that matches the decisions you choose to make. 

This PoV requires skilled use of interactions between characters, dialogue, and setting in order to function effectively in any story. It can be extremely hard to pull off, but when done correctly it is a hell of a read. Easier to use in poetry and fiction, although it can work in non-fiction as well if the author is trying to write in conversation with the reader. 

I recently ended up writing a short fiction piece in second person, based around a character’s thoughts to himself. He’d occasionally directly talk to himself in his head, which is where I used “you” in the text. I personally enjoyed working in this PoV. 

Third-Person-Limited 

The narrator speaks only the information the characters they narrate for knows. The reader gets no extraneous information, no direct statement of emotion or feeling unless it’s something that can be seen or shown to and through other characters. 

This PoV is best used in story-based genre’s, most generally fiction, non-fiction prose, lyric essays, and longer forms of poetry. 

Whatever the character knows, is what the reader gets to know. None of this, “Oh, but the magician was furious despite his deadpan expression,” stuff.

Third-Person-Omniscient (For example, John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men

A utilization of the same s/he her/him pronouns, with a narrator not connected directly to the story. The narrator is instead an unobtrusive, all knowing being, observing everything that occurs, and detailing it to the reader with whatever the author or writer deems to be necessary flair or style. 

This narrative style focuses on showing everything a scene or setting or encounter or dialogue has to offer, granting the reader immense knowledge of the happenings within the story. Extremely easy to use in any genre, though less common in most forms of poetry, and NF. 

I usually write this by writing what I know of the current topic in the story, then cutting it down to what was happening directly. Instead of building up to what the reader should know as well, I would cut down to what they know, allowing them to also infer from pieces left in the text. 

Third-Person-Objective 

A PoV with hints of the omniscience within it, but with objectivity. Kind of weird to explain it like that, but it is what it is. The omniscience is only in the actions and setting portrayed by the story, the narrative, while all emotion and thinking, is created objectively by the reader in real time as they read the story. 

This style is incredibly useful for non-fiction authors when portraying events constructed to benefit their narrative, and although bland (in my opinion) within poetry, it can work as a sort of rationale, a stop-gap between two topics the poet desires to breach together. Fiction’s take on objective third person is more in the telling of the actions, the events. Despite this objectivity, it allows for the reader to construe their own emotions and experiences onto the PoV character.

 

Of course, to argue and say one particular PoV is easier than the rest is wrong. While the second person perspective is much more difficult due to the nature of the reader feeling themselves as the narrator instead of the character in most possible stories, each PoV shares its own difficulties and stylizations that may be easier or harder for you to write in or with. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, and it requires practice and effort to find and improve upon those weaknesses, and determination to improve their strengths.

Meet the blogger:

White mug that says SKYLIR HAUSER was a Hamline University student enrolled in the Runestone Literary Journal internship course during their senior year at Hamline. They’ve spent the past three years taking intensive reading and writing courses, as well as writing multiple short stories in different PoV’s.

Five Twin Cities Coffee Shops to Visit for Your Next Writing Session 

Five Twin Cities Coffee Shops to Visit for Your Next Writing Session 

Writers have many methods to keep their brain rolling with ideas. I can attest to the countless hours wasted staring at a blank canvas, running around the house looking for things to keep me occupied as I waste time struggling for inspiration. When times get tough for our noggins to pump out some juice, a trip out of our designated bat caves can sometimes be the perfect pill. In the Twin Cities, there are many nice little nooks for a writer to write their next work and the coffee scene here is quite expansive! Whether you’re a coffee or tea writer, morning, day or night writer, read below for five distinctly unique Twin Cities cafes to tuck into with your favorite writing utensil! 

Nina’s Coffee Cafe (165 Western Ave N, St Paul)

Right in the heart of St.Paul’s neighborhood Cathedral Hill, Nina’s Coffee Cafe has an eclectic and classy atmosphere with an old soul with eye-catching architecture. It’s furnished with various styles of chairs, couches, tables, benches, and chandeliers, which leaves endless nooks fit for any writers’ taste inside or outside the cafe. And if you’re an early bird (or just plain lucky), you can score the balcony nook overlooking the busy atmosphere of the customer flow below. 

Claddagh Coffee (459 7th St W, St Paul)

Just south of Nina’s in the West Seventh Neighborhood, Claddagh Coffee brings the atmosphere of a 1920’s style Irish cafe to the cities! This rustic coffee shop offers a fabulous array of signature drinks to complement their charming brick-walled interior. Perch by the window to find your next protagonist crossing the street or simply enjoy a comfy spot to chat with a fellow writer or read a book. 

The Get Down Coffee Co.  (I 1500 N 44th Ave, Minneapolis)

Started by Black entrepreneur Housten White and Dogwood Coffee Co. owner Dan Anderson, The Get Down Coffee Co. brings urban culture into focus. This is the most recently established cafe on this list after opening in 2021, adding some sleek funk into the Twin Cities cafe circuit with a simple layout and bright accents. It’s the perfect place to write your ground-breaking coming of age story while sipping a signature roast out of a house mug.

Cafetto Coffee House (708 W 22nd St, Minneapolis)

Focused on highlighting local artists of all crafts, Cafetto is a radical palace of wonder. Bringing back the 90’s vibe of post-midnight conversations over coffee and cigarettes, they’re open until 1am every day. One could say that these are the perfect conditions for a flourishing midnight writer. The art sale upstairs is worth a look for your next ekphrastic piece—or might be something worth taking home to freak out your next visitor. Need a little break? Play the pinball machines downstairs and get lost in the graffiti!

Cafe Astoria (180 Grand Ave., St.Paul)

Bringing out the inner aesthetic in you, Cafe Astoria is a British tea place. This cafe is so photogenic it’s hard to keep this one off my list! With the most tasteful menu of artful eats, grabbing some snacks whilst you’re here is a must. Take in the wood furnished interior decorated with plants. The smells of soil, earl gray, coffee and flowers feel sweet in your lungs. Sit in the sun-filled dining area and stare at the flower mural before diving into your memoir of your grandmother in the garden picking you your favorite flower.

There are many more places in the Twin Cities that cultivate the perfect atmosphere for authors. Wherever you choose to write your next bestseller, I hope you’ll at least check out a few of these places for inspiration. 

 

Meet the blogger:

AMELIA JOHNSON Johnson is a student at Hamline University in St.Paul, MN. After obtaining her bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing in spring of 2023, Amelia hopes to continue her work in poetry alongside her passion for cooking. In her free time, she tends to wade out to the depths of what nature has to offer and eventually returns to the rabbit hole back into society.

Hybrid Books I Loved to Read with the Seasons

Hybrid Books I Loved to Read with the Seasons

Spring: Bluets by Maggie Nelson 

“This deepest blue, talking, talking, always talking to you.”

Maggie Nelson’s Bluets is one of my favorites due to its unwillingness to belong to any single genre. The poets call it poetry and the essayists call it a lyric essay, but then they will both agree it is neither. It swims between genres, washing up to shores, then sailing out again. Bluets is a story told in fragments, listed from 1 to 240. Fragments thinking, feeling, sensing, and seeing the color blue. 

Spring to me has always been a time of rediscovery and rebirth. A time when I no longer feel packed down, but am finally dredging through it all. Bluets is a journey of healing and growing. It’s the moments right when everything starts to unthaw, and we watch every water droplet take its own path back into the earth. 

Summer: Stranger Care by Sarah Sentilles 

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was sick and you took care of me, I was a prisoner and you visited me, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” 

Sarah Sentilles’ Stranger Care is one of those books you read and then realize you will never be the same again because it has become an intrinsic part of who you are. Stranger Care is said to be “a memoir about loving what isn’t ours.” It is a series of flash essays put together to share the story of Sarah’s love and grief felt while fostering her daughter Coco. I love this memoir because the essays could stand alone, but this story can not be told with a single essay. It shows you how to love bird, whale, tree, moon, child. 

I am a summer baby, so maybe that’s why summer has always felt like home to me. Summer is a time I am able to step away from the nagging responsibilities of school and life to appreciate the small things. Stranger Care is an ode to all of those small things. It’s a story everyone should read if they want to love their world more intimately. To learn how to love the incomprehensible things beyond their world. 

 

Autumn: Evidence of V by Sheila O’Connor 

“Reform V. Reform her pieces into story. To reform what I have left.” 

Sheila O’Connor’s Evidence of V is a fragmented blend of fact and fiction. It is a novel built around a void. The story of her own discovery of her unknown maternal grandmother who was sentenced to six years in a Minnesota state reform school for the crime of becoming pregnant at 15. O’Connor takes us along with her on this journey, showing us legal documents as if we are researching this history side by side. Evidence of V is a book of contrasts, holding a beautiful blend of truth and imagination alongside a harrowing story of exploitation and erasure.

Autumn is known to be a time when everything changes. Classes start up again; the leaves change, color-painting vastly different landscapes; and all a sudden the cold nips at our ears. Evidence of V feels like autumn. For Sheila, for V, for June, everything is changing. And as the sparsity of facts settle at our feet within the text, a coldness sets in as we realize the heart rendering truth that the rest of V’s story no longer exists. 

Winter: The Unwritten Book by Samantha Hunt

“Then a further quiet beat because their answer isn’t a word, isn’t even an answer but something full of silence, a broken sense that feels like the bellowing hush of empty space the moment after we finish reading a book.”

Samantha Hunt’s The Unwritten Book is unlike any other book I have encountered. It is a genre-bending work of nonfiction exploring ghosts in the broadest sense of the word. Through her essays, Hunt is always looking for clues and patterns, making connections. Like her grandmother, she plays with words, discarding and rearranging definitions. Most importantly, The Unwritten Book is an investigation of her father’s ghost book, an incomplete manuscript he wrote that was found days after he died. 

Winter feels like a time frozen over, where the snow hides everything away from the world. A time when you can dig and dig and dig through feet of snow, uncovering mysteries previously forgotten. This is what The Unwritten Book feels like. Blindly shoving your hand into a snow pile until you feel something, something that you can only infer about because it’s frozen, stuck and out of sight. But also instills a sense of wonder and magic that it deems to exist at all.

Whatever season you choose to start your literary journey in, I think you’ll enjoy these texts!

Meet the blogger:

AUSTIN MALBERG is a current senior at Hamline University, studying Creative Writing and Psychology. Her poems have previously been published in the Fulcrum Journal. Outside of school, she loves to read, play fetch with her cat, and mail letters to her friends and family. 

 

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