Monday, 24 October 2011

Are You Scared Yet?

“There is no fear in a bang, only in the anticipation of it.” Alfred Hitchcock.
That is sooo true! But how do you build that anticipation?
How indeed...
Why, by creating the best suspense and page turning quality that you can. This is the basic ingredient of all good thriller stories and certainly the foundation for any scary story.

I have to say that scaring people is one of the satisfying aspects of my writing life!!
Sorry about that uncivil statement but it is true… I get a real kick when people tell me they were scared reading my stories. It is such a difficult thing to get right, I think. After all you want definitely want readers to be scared a little - but not so much that it overcomes their inclination to read on.
Raising the hairs on the back of my neck or causing me to break out in goosebumps is scary enough for me. Blood and guts kind of scary is not my cup of tea – although I know it does it for plenty of other readers… So how scary is scary for readers of paranormal thrillers?
For me, it is setting the imagination in play. A few well placed suggestions can get readers wondering and if they wonder then all things are possible. Witness a group of people quietly playing cards late at night. One says, “shush - did you hear that?” Everyone stops and listens carefully. Then another person hears a noise and someone else says it sounds like the creak a coffin lid opening might make…. Suddenly everyone’s heart beats a little faster. Then the lights go out… Now one of the players screams as he imagines something touched him…
But what has actually happened here? A fuse has blown and a door creaked slightly as it moved in a draught. But what has really happened is the imagination has exerted its full force and - as perceptive as we humans are – such things as atmosphere and sensing fear from another person is as infectious as laughing and yawning. We are all victims of our own imaginations in the right circumstances. It is this fact that all paranormal thriller writers trade in and has given rise to some of the scariest stories ever without spilling a single drop of blood!
I must apologise for the clichéd scenario but I’m sure you get my drift…
Do you use fear subliminally? Without being as clichéd as this, of course…
Can you be scared by the use of suggestions and atmosphere?


  1. Gosh, Pat, I'm scared just reading this post. Lol. I like what you've said here and think it could be applied to other genres as well. Subliminal hinting, foreshadowing, even a well placed bit of dialogue can make mountains out of molehills and make for better reading, suspense and bigger goosebumps.

  2. Stephen King is a master of creating fear e.g. in THE SHINING, I had to go to the end of the chapter to see if poor Danny lived, I was THAT scared.

  3. I definitely agree that suggestions and atmosphere can be EVEN MORE SCARY than the scary thing itself! And I absolutely loved "scaring people is one of the satisfying aspects of my writing life." Hehehe.