By Elizabeth Sunny Poovathunkal

What’s the difference between Horror and Suspense? Raghav Chandra believes the two merged with each other at some point, and that suspense ended where horror began and vice versa. Vanita Coelho, however, contends the difference lies in the effect evoked in each one of us. To Coelho, horror is a mixture of fear and repulsion; crude because of the amount of violence it contains. Suspense, on the other hand, is far more subtle and sophisticated. For Satyarth Nayak, suspense is the emotion you go through when you feel a ticking time bomb under the table, whereas horror is when the bomb goes off.


There was, however, one thing that all panelists agreed on: the importance of Atmosphere in Horror and Suspense writing. Unfamiliarity is what creates suspense and thereby the atmosphere that writers aim to enhance reader experience. To build the right atmosphere, using all the five senses is important but so is not overdoing it. Some things are best left to the reader’s imagination.

After an intense discussion on writing, atmosphere and styles, the panel soon moved to suspense and horror in cinema and if it affects writers and their writing style as well. While popular movies like The Blair Witch Project and The Shining were frequently referred to as movies that effectively captured the element of horror, most writers agreed that cinema did not always have the desired effect. Audiences saw through the dull graphic effects and flat storyline. According to Arnab Ray, while movies have the advantage of music and silence, the limitations were the fact that movies have to effectively wind up their plot in an hour and a half. Writers enjoy infinite space. Moviemakers have to function within a confined space. Horror movies that don’t quite care for the character are ineffective, such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

The most poignant part of the discussion pointed out how humans themselves are the most dangerous and horrifying characters. “You are capable of the biggest horrors possible”, said Coelho, as the panelists discussed how readers, when they learn what humans can be capable of, realize that they do relate, at some level. The Shining cropped up here again for its exemplary depiction of an alcoholic man, an experience Stephen King related to at a personal level.

The session drew to a close after thrilling ghost stories from every panelist, interesting anecdotes, a special question from the youngest member of the audience.