Writing horror, in essence, is writing about what you fear. If you are afraid of what you’re writing about, chances are that fear will resonate with at least some of the other people in the world (most people being built from a similar chassis) and those readers will be your audience.
See The Dentist if you don’t believe me.
Of course, movie-wise we also have Leprechaun, and I’m not sure that anyone is afraid of leprechauns, though probably many are afraid of seeing that movie. Because it is bad.
Then again, I’m not afraid of dentists.
In fact, I look forward to my dentist appointments. I treasure the feeling of clean teeth. I gain peace of mind from the fact that my teeth have been checked out, my mouth tidied up, and all pronounced good.
Or, assuming that my teething is pronounced not good, I can then get the requisite work done so that my teeth are once again pronounced fit as a fiddle. Which, I suppose means that my teeth can be used to play music on. And piano keys are made of ivory, which is like a tooth, and now I’m afraid that I’ll be hunted to extinction and, best case scenario, will be relegated to a wilderness preserve where I’ll only have to worry about poachers trying to raid my gums.
Luckily dentists have a vested interest in protecting my teeth.
I guess the truth is that writing horror doesn’t mean you have to write about what scares you (or me) personally. What is true is that you have to be able to imagine why people might find what your writing about scary. Put yourself in their (scary) shoes. Imagine what’s hiding inside their (scary) closets and under their (scary) beds.
With dentists, I know I’m not scared of them. But what’s scary about them? Pain, and the fear that your sooner-rather-than-later loss of your teeth will be confirmed by an expert.
My dreams have often contained wobbly teeth, or wholesale losing of them. I wake with a fear too great to put my hands on the suspect teeth, to test them with a push, a tug, to make the dream into reality.
So in my prospective horror novel (this is not actually a prospective horror novel) about a dentist, I’ll be including elements of pain centered around one of a person’s most vulnerable areas and the fear that said area will be crippled (through loss of teeth, through numbness, through restraint), including a recurring theme of an inability to communicate (both while sitting vulnerable in the dental chair, and as the ultimate fear of what dental troubles will lead to).
Also in the novel, this horrifying image: