We love to be scared and what scares us varies from person to person. Everyone is afraid of something. Drowning, fire, spiders or to be left alone in a pitch-black room.
Or maybe not alone.
Spirits, ghosts, things that make our necks crawl and hairs prickle, the inexplicable something that occupies space but not matter, that constrict our throats with unseen hands…
There are people who are truly afraid of the supernatural because they believe in the supernatural and The Paranormal Activity film franchise helps ‘scare‘ them again and again. (Six films grossed over 65 million dollars per film.)
It’s not hard to scare people with a visual representation of spooky creatures especially with the amazing production talent filmmakers have available today.
But the writer’s task is far more difficult: to create the same visuals on the page. Fear is a strong emotion according to Webster’s Dictionary, caused by anticipation or awareness of danger.
Watching a film, we see an ominous, dark setting,we hear creepy sounds get louder and louder, cueing us before each scary event. People and things jump out and fear is genuinely ignited at strategic intervals.
What we hear and see clearly up on a screen has to be hinted at, foreshadowed and described in a novel with vivid detail.
A writer uses tension and suspense to grip a reader. A writer uses secrets to keep characters in the dark as well as readers. There is a plan to engage the readers and keep them in a state of unrest throughout the plot.
A film can plunge us into terror in a single shot.
A writer has the benefit of a calm rise to terror, twisting the beliefs of readers until they question their own reality.
Words have always been able to produce a scary effect on people. Writers like Edgar Allen Poe, V.C Andrews, Clive Barker, Stephen King and many others are pretty good at delivering a nasty dose of unease.
It may be easier to feel scared watching a scary film, but writing a scary story can bring up fears in a reader that go much deeper and last longer.
What have you read that really scared you?