Tip Tuesday Round Up: Bring the fear


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    Tips on how to immerse your readers in the trappings of a great horror story

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  • Plotist Team: Community Storyteller

    There are a few things that stand out to me in this collection of tips. When I think about the various stories that have truly evoked fear inside me, a few common threads come out.

    In the works from Clive Barker, his entire collection touches on things that by instinct make me feel incredibly uncomfortable. That sense of unease lays a brilliant foundation for the various stories of horror he writes. His Books of Blood are brilliant for this as each is an incredibly short story, but the way he weaves the common with the uncommon and uses vulgar language so sparingly it becomes almost a shock when it shows up. To say I love Clive Barker's writing ... is a bit of an understatement. It's odd because nothing I have ever read from Stephen King ever bothered me. Yet a single page from Clive Barker and I feel like insects are watching me, plotting to crawl all over me.. Not sure how he does it.

    We should totally thank Stephen King for destroying clowns as a fun thing though! :D I actually went to a clown college growing up, so I think I am immune to the fear that it could produce as a creature. ;)

    The quote from Screencraft reminds me of something Clive Barker said to me once. I was lucky to be present when he showcased Hellraiser to a group of people and did a long talk. The quote from his talk that stands with me today is "If you don't feel it, why should your audience". He was talking about the different emotions his characters go through. In this case he was talking about writing sex scenes and horror scenes. He pointed out that if you didn't feel turned on by what you were writing, why would anyone else? If you didn't feel uncomfortable by what a character is going through, why would the audience? If you don't feel that finger of cold fear running down your spine as your character experiences it, why would an audience?

    In a way, it seems slightly like common sense, but it changed how I wrote. I no longer thought about show v tell. I no longer focused upon telling an extreme story to shock and awe. Instead, I found myself remember that a bit part of storytelling, of communication really, is the ability to convey your point to someone who has different experiences than you do. So if I wanted to write about say a fear of paperclips, it is not going to resonate very strongly with many people, unless I create the world and take what is acceptable and normal, and change it.

    David Lynch does an incredible job with this. The characters act surreal, and really oddly, but it's done in such a way that their craziness is taken as the normal for the world.. or is it? So much is left in the hands of the observer that it adds serious levels of unease which is a brilliant way to trigger fear in my book.



  • @Josey said in Tip Tuesday Round Up: Bring the fear:

    ....uses vulgar language so sparingly it becomes almost a shock when it shows up.

    I don't remember where I read it (and I just read it within the last two days ugh) but I read that swearing was so common during WWI (at least among British troops) that for an order to be given without a swear somewhere in the sentence alerted the men that this order was unusual and one they should be nervous about (whereas having a swear somewhere in the sentence meant that whatever the order was was ordinary).

    I wish I remembered where I saw it >.<

    Anyway, depending on the character (because some people/characters are vulgar), I avoid swearing just for that reason. If it's made clear that it's not in the character's personality to swear, then when they do, you know for sure that something serious is happening.


  • Plotist Team: Community Storyteller

    @typical_demigod That is fascinating. I wonder how many writers actually take in account the usage of vulgarity when trying to tell a story. :D


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