Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Wicked Wednesday - giving your readers the creepy-crawlies


Giving your readers the chills is a tough thing to do. There's only one Stephen King. As for the rest of us, we have to use all the tricks at our disposal.

- When I think creepy atmosphere, I think setting. Graveyards, haunted houses, empty streets. Just placing your characters in an ill-lit room will help immensely. Yet it doesn't have to be a horror stereotype. If you're good, you can make any setting spooky. The reader is going to expect something out of the ordinary even if you place the scene in the ladies' restroom or a wig shop.

- It's in the details. Don't over do it with lavish descriptions of dusty cobwebs, the wind blowing the drapes, and something lurking in the shadows. Drop a chilly detail here and there. Something that might be normal but isn't quite. Something that will make the reader wonder. A writer's best tool in creating a spooky scene is the reader's imagination. The reader will always imagine something horrible and help to give themselves goosebumps.

- Part of the creepiness of a story is in creating suspense and tension. You want the reader on the edge of their seat. An effective way of doing this is through the characters' reactions. Don't let your text be filled with too much thinking. Describe what they're seeing, hearing, smelling. Use all the senses. Write their physical reactions. Spooky stories are about showing rather than telling.

- Even with paranormal tales where things are out of the ordinary, try to keep things as realistic as possible. What scares people the most is if they start thinking something like that is possible. Hit on the things that frighten people the most and use them to help build up the tension.

What tricks do you use for creating a spooky atmosphere in your stories?

(Note: I've been a little busy lately. So these tips are reposted from a post I did in 2011. I've been doing Wicked Wednesdays that long? Wow.)

Click on over to the spooky Untethered Realms and find yourself an enchanted drink. We have the recipes! Even one from Jezebel.

19 comments:

  1. Aww some great tips. I love the idea of something spooky happening in a wig shop. Oh dear, I think you may have just dumped a whole host of possibilities into my brain. I'll no doubt be plotting the what if possibilities for a spooky wig shop all day now. Hehe.
    Great post and thank you so much for resharing.

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  2. Great tips. I've kinda been paying attention to this lately, because I like being subtle while playing with people's feelings and fear is one of them. :-D

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  3. Horror needs atmosphere but not a heavy dose of description.
    Four years of Wicked Wednesday - that's awesome!

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  4. I love when scary things happen in normal settings, during normal moments. That's always worse to me. Not that I don't like a haunted house or a dark graveyard. :)

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  5. I don't know if I have any tricks, but I sure love yours. Made notes. 'nuff said. :-)

    Anna from Elements of Writing

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  6. I totally agree with keeping things as realistic as possible even if the story is paranormal. The more realistic something is the more it terrifies me.

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  7. Congratulations on four years!
    You rock, and your advice is spot on! Realism is key!

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  8. Wow! It's hard to believe it's been that long since you've been doing Wicked Wednesdays! Great tips!

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  9. It seems like, oftentimes, the atmosphere and a character's state of mind determine spookiness and fear more than mere setting alone. A horror book or film could have a great premise, but it might not feel all that scary if there's no haunting, creepy, terrifying mood to go along with the thrills and chills.

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  10. For me, creating the chills is all about the ambiance of words. Word choices lend to a sense of terror and build the expectation of something around the corner.

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  11. Great tips! I really get stuck on the suspense and tension. I guess I write too much silly stuff. :D

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  12. Great tips. I don't have any to add because I generally don't write spooky stories (despite having vampires in them.)

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  13. Wigs ARE creepy. And wig shops, and anyplace with mannequins in general.

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  14. Great tips! Plausibility is a great factor. Keeping the MC reacting to the stimulus is key too.

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  15. So many great tips! Most of my projects have a horror bent, so I found myself nodding a lot while reading this. One trick I like to keep in mind is utilizing the fear of the unknown. I used to explore/explain the evils a little too much, which always took away from the creepiness. Leaving things to a reader's imagination is much more effective, as you've said!

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  16. Thank you for commenting, folks. And for the added tips.

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  17. Great tips! Yes, subtlety is best. It's the build-up to the moment that really scares the reader, not describing violence in gratuitous detail. I wish more horror movie writers would get that!

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  18. Great tips! I agree with not going over the top. A slow layering on of things that aren't quite right can ratchet up the tension nicely.

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