900 300 Writer and the Wolf Editorial

Definition from Oxford English Dictionary

Let’s start with a quick definition of ‘horror’ as an emotion separate from its role in entertainment:

A painful emotion compounded of loathing and fear; a shuddering with terror and repugnance; strong aversion mingled with dread; the feeling excited by something shocking or frightful. Also in weaker sense, intense dislike or repugnance. OED

In this glossary entry, though, I’ll be referring to horror as a genre designed to elicit those emotions outlined above. 

What is horror?

Horror is a genre of fiction (or film) written with the intention of scaring, disgusting, unsettling or horrifying people. Horror stories typically come under the ‘genre’ or ‘commercial’ fiction umbrella and if they feature paranormal elements like ghosts or vampires they count as speculative fiction, too. Horror is a huge category and includes loads of sub-genres like slasher, gothic, monster and psychological horror. The Horror Writers Association has a fantastic (long) definition of horror on its website.

Related terms

Ghost story, scary, spooky, monsters

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Siobhan O'Brien Holmes

Siobhan O'Brien Holmes is a developmental editor working with middle grade and YA authors. She specialises in speculative and genre fiction, particularly horror, fantasy, mystery, sci-fi and anything with a dash of magic or macabre. She is a member of the SfEP, EFA, ACES, British Fantasy Society, Horror Writers Association and SCBWI. She has an MA in Novel Writing and an MA in Children's Literature.

All stories by: Siobhan O'Brien Holmes