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Stone Cold Steve Jobs



Sometimes less is more.

A proper description in the right spot can help make a story. Too much description, however, can cost you. 

Oddly enough, it can really cost you in a horror story. The trap beginners fall into is the idea that gore = fear. That’s not necessarily true.

The right amount of blood, the right amount of description, and the right amount of direct action can make a horror story. The wrong amount can leave you with something like Jeff the Killer.

Why does less tend to be more in a horror story? Well, the reason boils down to the psyche of the person. Meaning derived is meaning described. For the average person, the things the mind comes up with tend to be scarier than whatever you actively describe. 

Consider, for instance, the famous shower scene of Psycho. Each shot is deliberately cut such that we rarely, if at all, see the victim being stabbed:

Additionally, there’s far less blood here. This has the effect of keeping us in the dark as to the extent of the injuries. Less blood can bring us more alarm. 

Too much blood and too much gore, however, has the opposite effect. Take a story like Jeff the Killer. You get more a feel of something written by an edgy 12-year old. The story becomes satire and loses its horror element. It becomes something that you may fear or take seriously as a child but does not age. As a writer, you’re constantly striving for what you can’t quite achieve: ageless.

In many cases, the less blood and gore you use, the better off you’re going to be. The exception tends to be satire. Generally speaking, using less blood is better enjoyed because blood has become almost a cliche these days. This by no means is to say you should never use a drop of the stuff. But toe the line. It will help you greatly. Lay the ground work, but let your reader’s mind do the rest.


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Way back in the day my high school drama teacher said pretty much the same thing and even used the same Psycho reference. Invasion of the Body Snatchers was another that I can think of that worked phenomenally without the use of over-the-top blood and violence.

  • Brohoof 1
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There is a time and a place to use blood, mind you. You can make it work but it’s helpful to know when and where to use it.

Apparently Hitchcock was a bit of a troll. He used to get into crowded elevators, tell an engaging tale to someone with him that would get everyone’s attention, and when he was about to get to the punch line of the story, he would get off the elevator and leave them guessing.

Edited by Stone Cold Steve Tuna
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