Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wicked Wednesday - write spooky

There are paranormal romances that are light-hearted and silly. They don't have a dark atmosphere, but most of the books in this genre try to create a spooky feeling at some point in the story. It's 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 romance 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. Vampires, werewolves, and other supernatural creatures can fear the same things as humans do.

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

Side note: Wicked Wednesday will be on Thursday next week as I'm having a special guest interview on Wednesday.


  1. Brilliant advice. I write some paranormal and I find that when I rely on things that terrify me, my readers get a bigger jump. You're right when too many descriptions are used they tend to take away from the overall spooky feeling. I try to use details sparingly and also if the scene involves more than one character, I use a lot dialogue with some tags thrown in like squeaked, gasped, whispered.

    Thank you so much for the follow. I appreciate it very much. :)

  2. Some good advice. I never thought much about it. I'm not very descriptive(a big complaint from my betas. I'm working on it.) I'm more about feelings.I think that helps to create a sense of the spooky, more than a description of the setting or the spook.

  3. I prefer my paranormals spooky, but not the potential love interest. No creepy stalker dudes allowed.

    Great suggestions. And perfect timing for me. :D

  4. I think a wig shop would be spooky in itself. Ladies bathrooms too.

    I agree you have to set up an atmophere in the piece. Playing with the unknown also helps create tension.

  5. Melissa, I like using a lot of dialogue too. Thanks for following me back! :)

    Farawayeyes, I had the opposite problem. I use to be too descriptive! I've learned to cut down now, though.

    Stina, yes, no creepy stalker dudes. Tall, dark and mysterious are better!

    Cherie, heh, I thought that after writing the wig shop too. Wigs in general creep me out!

  6. love this post because my current book is dark. I've been listening to a lot of 'dark' music for inspiration. And I have a scene in a graveyard and a few in a fog filled forest.

  7. This was a great post for me to come upon as I am trying to make my current story as spooky as possible. This gave me a lot of food for thought!

    I so agree too about the reader's imagination. I think when I remember the stories or movies that scared me the most, I was much more frightened by what was unknown or simply implied than I was by things that were spelled out in detail. The unknown can be so terrifying.

    Wonderful post, thanks for sharing! :)

  8. I think that thought that even werewolves and vampires have fears! Makes for a deeper character.

  9. I always find that either a character or a situation makes things spooky. Love your tips! Thanks for sharing!

  10. I haven't written anything spooky... yet!

  11. I love playing with details to set the atmosphere of a scene--though it's true, the reader's imagination will do a lot of the work, if it's written right!

  12. I'm glad to have come up with this post when a lot of you are writing some spooky stuff. Tis the season! ;) Good writing to all of you.

    Alex, you're great at creating tension. That's a step in the right direction if you want to go there.

  13. I think I'm better at making the characters spooky and hoping the setting becomes spooky by default... :)

  14. Something I enjoy when reading, but that is hard to do in writing, is when a mood is set so discreetly that you feel like something is off, but can't quite put your finger on it. I want to get to the point where I can do that consistently.

  15. Alexis, a good creepy character can totally make the scene!

    Shannon, I know what you mean. That takes a lot of practice. I enjoy subtlety in writing, but mine isn't that subtle!

  16. When I was in high school, I stayed late a few times. Now, that was spooky with the corridors echoing footsteps, the fluorescent light in the hall flickering, and absolutely no one around that I could see.

    I agree with leaving things to the readers imagination. It applies with films too. Sometimes what isn't shown is far more scary than anything that is.


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