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Jessica Cluess: Why Classic Horror Films are Great Influences on YA Writing

Jessica Cluess is a lifelong fan of classic horror films and has used their unique storytelling lessons and methods in her young adult literature books. As a successful writer with an expanding audience, she has often talked about why horror is a surprisingly good influence on YA writing and how people interested in this career option may learn a few lessons by watching some classic horror films.

Jessica Cluess

Jessica Cluess Explores Her Love of Horror

Jessica Cluess knows that horror movies have a bad reputation. Even some horror fans prefer watching “so bad they’re good” movies instead of truly terrifying films. It’s not hard to see that many of these flicks are not so good and exist only to titillate. However, the best and most classic horror movies have stories to tell and lessons to impart that can help enhance an individual’s YA novel.

First of all, horror movies all have one underlying lesson that all teens and children need to know: the world is a dangerous place. Parents try to protect their children from this idea, which is noble, but can also cause some children to be unprepared for life. Horror films show some outrageous situations that, while not always realistic, could potentially affect some young adults, Jessica Cluess says.

In this way, horror films are very similar to YA novels. Great YA novels not only entertain their readers but teach important life lessons. The best YA books teach teens about being accepting, how to be strong, and the different ways to prepare for life’s challenges. Horror movies take these challenges to extremes that young adult novelists may tap into for their in-depth storylines.

Lastly, Jessica Cluess emphasizes that horror movies are not just mindless gore films with no redeeming factors. The best and most classic horror movies have deep moral cores and interesting personal lessons that young adult authors may use when crafting their storylines. For example, she highlights “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” and how this classic film teaches important life lessons.

This movie focuses on teenager Nancy Thompson, a smart and strong young girl who successfully defeats a nightmarish boogeyman named Freddy Krueger. While all of her friends die around her, Nancy stays strong and continually seeks out ways to help herself. Rather than waiting for somebody to save her (such as adult figures), she takes control of her life and defeats Krueger in the end.

This simple hero story is a powerful lesson for young women, as Nancy not only can’t rely on her parents but her boyfriend either, as he ultimately dies at Freddy’s hands. It also features surprisingly complex social commentary and characterization, including her parents’ strained marriage, her mother’s alcoholism, and her dad’s inability to take Nancy seriously as she reaches adulthood.

It doesn’t take a trained film or book critic to note that these themes are very common in many young adult novels. Jessica Cluess points out that Nancy would fit perfectly into any YA book as a strong, intelligent, and powerful role model for young girls trying to come to terms with themselves. Many other horror movies feature similar themes in what can be powerful and meaningful lessons.