Humor or Horror: What is More Effective in Fiction

Humor or Horror: What is More Effective in Fiction

Humor or horror: What is more effective in fiction?

By Tayyaba Batool

Maybe you think of horror and humor as natural rivals.

Horror is something that frightens or repels you – think of movies like Cujo, Silence of the Lambs, or Psycho. Humor delights you with wordplay and its delivery.

However, what is funny to me and makes me laugh likely differs from what makes you laugh. And, we all have the same type of fears: afraid of the dark, spiders and tarantulas, dark alleys, and desolate roads.


To make your readers laugh or scream, you need to make them relate. It is critical to know your audience. You must know who they are and something about their life experiences. Are your jokes understandable for them or they will it just go over their heads? If your target readers are young adults, then you must tailor your humor according to their level of understanding. The same rule goes for horror. However, writing horror is easier since there are so many common fears. If you use any common fear in your writing such as isolation or drowning, most can relate to that.


You can add the element of danger.  Your characters must feel terrified of a person or scared of a situation. A horror writer uses the scary situation for screams and comedy writers uses the situation for laughs.

Radio Shack used to have a basement haunted house at Halloween. On a Friday night, four teenage girls bravely entered the haunted house, holding on to each other’s arms.  They progressed through the haunted house screaming and laughing from ax-wielding monsters and heavily costumed players popping out from their hiding places. The fourth teenager in line became the first teenager in line, with all the other teenagers cowering behind her.


Horror entirely depends upon surprises. The killer suddenly pops up behind the main character, knife in hand, poised to strike; a supernatural body suddenly appears; a grotesque, drooling monster leaps out of the shadow, and everyone screams (and cowers). On the other hand, while creating an element of surprise in humor, there is more to surprise your readers than a sudden visual. Your reader might anticipate your character’s next move and might laugh in delight when have the character head in a different direction (do something unexpected).