Monday, April 9, 2012

H is for Hope in Horror and beyond

While I don't know much about the genre of horror (or action or mystery or a couple others) there is something I have noticed in the very few things I've read. That even when the story is dark, depressing and it seems there is no hope at all... that is not the case. There is always a little hope.  And hope, while can feel like just a generic concept can work wonders as the theme for a variety of stories.

(image link)

One example is that of zombies. I almost considered doing zombie for the Z post, in fact, to talk about what we can see in such stories when we look past the brain eating and running for their lives stuff. I haven't actually read or watched many zombie related stories but the few that I have read had something about them that the reader could hold onto, could hope for (and often so did the characters). Sure, many will die in them, but there are often survivors (even if it seems like there is only one).

Hopes even get dashed. A character grows when they learn that the goal they strive for, the dream/hope they had doesn't turn out to be what they imagined, but that doesn't end all hope as they know it. In fact, they adapt and keep one candle lit for a little light can heed off some darkness.

Even in some movies/books that aren't exactly "horror" this theme can be found. The specific example that comes to mind is Independence Day. Sure the focus of the movie is the whole alien attack, but that's just it. The big moment comes when people that wouldn't under normal circumstances work together, they can put aside those differences and save the day. We hope that in the face of a different other (in this case, aliens) that us humans could put aside our differences and fight for our survival.

Writers, we spin these tales and while we dash readers hopes with many different things (plot twists, death, love triangles ending, etc) we always have to give the reader something to hope for when it comes to the story. Even if that hope is a candle that will later burn out, we give them something to keep the pages turning. And sometimes, it is within the darkest genres/stories that the light will shine the brightest.

What do you think?
Does hope come out in your stories?
Any other common themes that you've noticed?


DeniseCovey_L_Aussie said...

Hi Dawn. I just read a post by Margo Kelly (don't know if you follow her but her link is on my blogfeed) who recreated an excellent chart showing story from Mystery, Horror and Suspense genres. Was very good. After reading your post I thought you might like to read it.


SA Larsenッ said...

I think there needs to be some form of hope in a story. Otherwise, the tale would be too depressing. Although, some horror reading and/or viewing films is done for the mere pleasure of being scared, there has to be that 'deeper' that connects us with the tale, a longing for things to work out.

Shadows Express Managing Editor said...

I agree there must be hope, but you still have to create those moments that seem hopeless. It is then the role of the protagonist to overcome that.

This creates another level of conflict, and growth for the protagonist.

Great post. Got me thinking - not about horror but about a certain fantasy tale that appears hopeless. :)

Magic27 said...

Great post! I could indeed do with a hug (and a little hope!) right now...
I agree with a previous commenter - if there were no hope, horror/crime/zombie etc. literature would be just too depressing... I think this is maybe why the only Agatha Christie story that ever freaked me out was the one in which there's no hope at all ("The Ten Little Indians"). I won't say more in case you don't know the story - but it's a dark, dark tale that one...!
Here's to both of us getting away someplace not-home sometime soon... (obviously, going to another country is much easier when you live in Europe - Spain is less than 3 hours west of here, Italy about 5 hours east, just about any European country is less than 3 hours by plane)...

Dawn Embers said...

ooo Comments.... Yay!

Denise - I will have to look up that post. Thanks for letting me know.

SA Larsen - Good point. Having that connection is helpful.

Scribe - Yeah, that other account is long to type, lol. In order to appreciate the moments of hope we do need that hopelessness as well, true. Good luck with your story, I have faith in you.

Magic27 - Why thank you. :-) Ahh... it would take lots of hours for me to fly, but it'd be worth it to see the other countries.

Em-Musing said...

Oh, I love hope. I love when all hope seems lost in a book or movie...and then ta TAH! Something great happens to end it. I still can't "follow" you. Any suggestions?

Dawn Embers said...

Em-Musing - Those are good moments. As for the follow, I really wish I knew how to help. I am not tech savvy so have no idea. Maybe I will tweet the issue and see if anyone knows of a solution.

Dianna Fielding said...

Hope is a great literary tool. Writers should employ it more often.

Good luck with the challenge!

Dianna Fielding

Arlee Bird said...

Hope provides motivation for the characters as well as the readers. Even if all hope is dashed in the end, the presence of hope must drive us to the end of the story. Otherwise why keep reading?

An A to Z Co-Host
Tossing It Out

Dawn Embers said...

Dianna Felding - I think sometimes writers don't even know that hope is a part of the story. It's got such a range that fits in so many stories.

Arlee Bird - Good point. If there is no hope then what is the point of reading it. There has to at least be a chance even if it gets dashed at the end.

The Hopeful Romantic said...

I love a good horror story...however, the most chilling stories are often found in the abberation of what is considered normal, in the unexpected. It is behind the streets of net curtains that you can find true horror.

Enjoyed the post Dawn ;)

Dawn Embers said...

The Hopeful Romantic - Thanks for the comment. I don't know horror much so I'm glad you liked the topic of horror and hope.