How is humor used in horror?
Humor and horror can be best friends. At its most basic, humor is the release valve that allows people to feel a bit of relief amid all the nerve-fraying that often goes along with horror. That’s the accepted wisdom, but I don’t think it tells the whole story. I believe a skillful application of humor in any horror story can actually heighten the realism. Think about it. Life is funny, and it’s often when people are pressed into terrible circumstances that their humor really shines. Combat veterans often tell hilarious stories. ER doctors often have wicked senses of humor. If you add a little humor to your horror, it feels more realistic. And beyond that–and I’m paraphrasing Roger Corman here–if you don’t give your audience something to laugh at, eventually they will start laughing when you don’t want them to.
In my own writing, humor just happens. I’ve been told I’m a smartass (Paul Anderson even committed that observation to print, so it’s there for posterity to read in Torn Realities), so I guess my personality is just bound to make it onto the page. I used to fight it, thinking that horror had to be completely dark and serious, but I just don’t see it that way anymore.
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