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Fantastic realms: Let’s get physical

Explore the body horror genre with visceral tips from author and editor Alex Davis

There are many kinds of horror out there– psychological, supernatural, monster horror, chiller – which employ a whole host of devices to unnerve their audience. But horror is also a genre that at times prides itself on being ‘hard to read’. The design of some is to inspire revulsion and disturb the reader as they work through the story. It’s not an easy effect to pull in a book by any stretch, but when done well it can stay with the reader for a long time.

When the human form is at the centre of this, we often use the term‘body horror’ – the idea of the human body rebelling against its owner by way of simply changing from human to something else. If you think of movies such as American Mary, Hellraiser and The Fly you’re probably in the right ballpark – three fine examples of body horror on the big screen. But this can be among the hardest horror to write, not just because of the sometimes disgusting scenes going on but also because putting it down convincingly, impactfully and, particularly, without clichés presents a great range of challenges. In this article, we’re going to look at how you can write your ‘body horror’ stories and scenes in a way that will truly affect with your reader.

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