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Thread: Is paranormal horror

  1. #1
    Getting there. WriterDude's Avatar
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    Is paranormal horror

    Is all paranormal always horror?

    We have an old woman at the top of the stairs. She freaks the blind cat who won't go up there anymore, but if you dismiss her on your way up, she's kinda not really there and disappears. But its always cold on the landing at that spot.

    Sometimes, late at night, she'll stand by the living room or dining room door until we decide to go to bed.



    Would this be horror, or does it need an overt threat?

  2. #2
    practical experience, FTW phineas12gauge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WriterDude View Post
    Is all paranormal always horror?
    casper the friendly ghost is paranormal - is that horror?

    One definition of paranormal: ...designates experiences that lie outside "the range of normal experience or scientific explanation"[3] or that indicates phenomena understood to be outside of science's current ability to explain or measure

    So while paranormal could have elements of horror, it's not necessarily a requirement

    We have an old woman at the top of the stairs. She freaks the blind cat who won't go up there anymore, but if you dismiss her on your way up, she's kinda not really there and disappears. But its always cold on the landing at that spot.

    Sometimes, late at night, she'll stand by the living room or dining room door until we decide to go to bed.

    Would this be horror, or does it need an overt threat?
    It could be, how does it make you characters feel?
    Last edited by phineas12gauge; 05-17-2012 at 06:53 AM.

  3. #3
    The colors! THE COLORS! leahzero's Avatar
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    It could be horror, or psych thriller, or mystery/suspense, or all sorts of things. All depends on how it's executed.

    Horror tends to be about concrete, visceral threats.
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  4. #4
    I think it's a question of tone and intention more than the situation itself. In other words--no, paranormal does not always equal horror. And not all horror is paranormal. The two intersect often, yes, but they aren't mutually exclusive.
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  5. #5
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin Umbrageofsnow's Avatar
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    Heck, even if you outright say she's a ghost, not even all ghost stories are horror, a fair number of ghost stories count as just plain fantasy. For example, the recent "Rising Lion, the Lion Bows" short story at Strange Horizons and PodCastle was a fantasy non-horrific ghost story. There are plenty more.

    Of course, the argument can be made that supernatural horror and science fiction are both (occasionally overlapping) subsets of fantasy. And I'd keep going, but I think instead I just need to invent an ouroboros emoticon. G

  6. #6
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    I feel like a lot of agents, at the very least, associate paranormal with romance nowadays.
    I think paranormal just indicates a sense of the strange, of the unbelievable, while horror shows a more intense sense of fear in more concrete ways.

  7. #7
    Horror Man seun's Avatar
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    The paranormal can be horror but it doesn't have to be. The paranormal is when the hairs on the back of your next stand up. Horror's when the thing making those hairs stand up breathes in your ear.

  8. #8
    Sometimes I creep myself out. AW Moderator Calla Lily's Avatar
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    Nice, seun.

  9. #9
    Been Here A While Feidb's Avatar
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    I say for it to be horror, something scary or horrific has to happen. There has to be some kind of threat. Otherwise, it's just freaky. There has to be either a body count or the threat of a body count, to put it crudely??? Nobody actually has to die, but the threat of death or severe bodily harm or maybe spiritual harm has to be there for it to be horror. You, as the reader have to be scared somehow, regardless of the final outcome.

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  10. #10
    Still confused by shoelaces Once!'s Avatar
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    I see two intersecting circles here. Highly personal views follow:

    For me, "paranormal" encompasses anything outside normal experiences. That could include ghosts, telepathy, telekinesis, divination, etc. By contrast, "horror" is something that scares me.

    The paranormal can sometimes scare me (eg. ghost stories) but it can equally be intriguing rather than scary (eg. water divining). Similarly, horror can involve the paranormal. but it can equally involve non-paranormal protagonists (eg the Saw series of films, Alien).

    But ... this can mean that a story can send mixed messages. If I start to read a ghost story, my mind can be tricked into expecting it to develop into horror. I can be disappointed if the author takes it into a different direction.

    One film plays on this tension quite well, IMHO. In Halloween, we are never quite sure if the villain Michael Myers is a plain common or garden psychopath or something paranormal. At first he gives all the signs of being a psychopath, but then he keeps on getting up when you think you've killed him...

    Now that's definitely creepy! Okay, so it's a bit overdone these days. And the WWE "superstar" the Undertaker has made a career out of this one gag. But it was very cool the first time I saw it.

  11. #11
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin Umbrageofsnow's Avatar
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    Read a quote by Ramsey Campbell (HWA lifetime achievement, and various other award winning writer), it seemed relevant here: "Some horror stories are not ghost stories, and some ghost stories are not horror stories, but these terms have often been used interchangeably since long before I was born. I'm in favor of this. Many horror stories communicate awe as well as (sometimes instead of) shock, and it is surely inadequate to lump these stories together with fiction that seeks only to disgust, in a category regarded as the deplorable relative of the ghost story. ... the quality that has always appealed to me in the best horror fiction, [is] a sense of something larger than is shown."

    I am not sure an overt threat is needed for horror, although it is usually expected and implied anyway. I think maybe the possibility for fear or insanity could matter too. How scared is your character going to be. If he is a little nervous, it isn't horror. If the woman looking out at him gradually becomes an obsession that keeps him up at night, then it is horror. If he murders her because of it, read some Poe for inspiration.

    Paranormal (as OP used it) is to horror what magical realism is to fantasy. An extremely fuzzy distinction. Focus on what your readers are meant to feel. I'd say uneasy is enough to qualify as horror.

  12. #12
    figuring it all out miseh's Avatar
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    for me horror is something personal. i don't need gore or blood to pee my pants. it's mostly things i don't understand or can't touch. honestly a lot of books/movies that are categorized as horror don't scare me at all. but they would scare others.
    ghosts mostly scare me because i can't touch them. psycho killers don't scare me at all.
    as long as it bleeds i can kill it somehow.

  13. #13
    Maestro of Mischief Justin_AC's Avatar
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    Short answer: yes, sometimes.

    Long answer: If you want it to be. Is paranormal, all on its own, horror? No. But horror can contain elements of paranormal. I mean, is every horror movie/book/show regulated strictly to normal? Of course not, what a silly notion. That would limit horror to things like slasher films/books a la Michael Myers and Scream.

    But stuff exists out there like The Shining and Hell House that's definitely in paranormal territory.

    You might as well ask "Is sci-fi horror?" No, not on it's own, but it can be. Just look at Ridley Scott's "Alien," or "Event Horizon." Those films are definitely horror, but they've also got a whole heap of science fiction in them. Horror can be just about anything, as long as it's intended to be, well, horrific.

  14. #14
    One evil little baby step at a time Griffin Hayes's Avatar
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    I've seen these two definitions for paranormal vs supernatural and they make sense to me.

    Paranormal has to do with powers of the mind (psychics, telekinesis, telepathy etc.)

    Supernatural has to do with a spiritual world parallel to our own and the beings who reside there.

  15. #15
    practical experience, FTW
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    As a literary descriptor, I think "paranormal" is best used before another genre word. For instance, paranormal romance or paranormal mystery are very clear. Paranormal by itself doesn't tell me enough.

  16. #16
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    As Dryad said, it should be used before another genre word. You can have a story about a friendship between a ghost and a boy and would it classify as horror? I doubt.
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