EXCERPT from "Dark and Story Nights: Mood and Atmosphere in Horror" by Mary SanGiovanni in Many Genres, One Craft: Lessons in Writing Popular Fiction
It is often argued that horror is not a genre so much as a pervasive emotion which characterizes a piece of fiction. These writers advise one to write the story that best conveys the message the writer wishes to get across. Should themes in that story be conveyed through human reactions to situations of extreme stress or anxiety, should its subtle symbolism invoke primal fight or flight instincts, and should its narrative build tension, then the genre of the story is often labeled "horror." A successful horror story need not rely on the tropes of the genre to work as a horror story. It simply must make the proper use of mood and atmosphere to convey its message.
Mary SanGiovanni is the author of the Bram Stoker nominated novel The Hollower and its sequel Found You, both from Leisure Books, and Thrall from Thunderstorm Books. Over the last decade, various periodicals and anthologies have published her short fiction, some of which was collected in Under Cover of Night. She co-edited the GSHW anthology Dark Territories. Mary received a Master's in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. She was a member of Horror Writers Association and the Garden State Horror Writers Association, and is currently a member of The Authors Guild and Pennwriters. Find her online at http://marysangi.wordpress.com.