This month I’m attempting to write my very first scary short story. I don’t read much horror, so it’s a welcome challenge. No genre is easy if you’re unfamiliar with it, and telling a suspenseful story is it’s own art form.

On the surface, it seems strange that we read expecting, even wanting to be frightened. However, if you think about it, every genre uses both pleasant and unpleasant emotions to tell a compelling story. Heartbreak over star-crossed lovers. Despair over flawed heroes. These emotions pave the way for positive feelings of hope, perseverance, and victory. Catharsis is achieved.

I remember liking ghost stories as a child, tales of haunted houses and mysterious characters. The scariest stories, though, weren’t even in the horror genre. Surely I’m not the only one who was frightened by fairy tales, the original kind where the villains meet gruesome ends. I’ll never forget the terrifying conclusion to “The Red Shoes.” 

Trauma aside, scary stories are a great reminder of the emotional connection we can have with books, and their power to transport us.