How To Scare Your Readers

By on May 10, 2017
How To Scare Your Readers - Writer's

Scaring your readers isn’t necessarily about writing a full-blown horror story. In fact, whatever the genre of book you are writing and whatever your story is about there is probably room to inject a little fear into your book from time to time!

‘But why on earth would I want to scare my beloved readers?’ I hear you cry...

Scaring readers is akin to making them laugh or cry, or getting them angry or making them nervous - essentially it is all about getting them to react. If a reader feels something from your book they are more likely to become emotionally engaged with it, to care what happens and to be unable to put the darn thing down.

There are many ways in which you can try to scare your reader from obvious gruesome horror to a subtle sense of the uncanny that sends shivers down one's spine but the reason why remains unnervingly unclear.

However you want to do it, the point remains that it is well worth doing. So if you are thinking about trying to scare your readers here are some of the ways you can:

Create a haunting atmosphere

Atmosphere plays a big part in scaring your reader. Really concentrate on the character's senses, what can they see, smell, hear? Zoning in on these creates an impression of alertness which puts the reader on edge. An atmosphere that is unsettling and uneasy or just downright creepy will also frighten the reader and prepare them for frightening events ahead.

Build up tension and anticipation

You know that ‘peeking through your fingers’ feeling that you can’t help but do when watching a scary film? Well, you need to evoke that same sense of unbearable tension for your readers. Slowly build up to the point, adding layer upon layer of atmospheric detail until they know that whatever the character is about to do/ say/move towards next is going to be where their terrible fate comes to the fore.

Give the impression that nothing is certain and nothing is safe

Readers don’t want to feel as though the know exactly what will happen next as then turn each page. Get them on the edge of their seats by giving the impression that no one is really safe. Of course, an alternative technique is to lure them into a false sense of security only to crush them early on - this way throughout the rest of your book they’ll feel as though they can’t quite relax.

Give them knowledge but deny your characters that knowledge

Your readers know that there is someone lurking in the upstairs wardrobe, your characters, however, remain blissfully unaware…for now. Letting readers have privy to certain kinds of (terrible) information can really turn up the fear factor as they read on knowing that the inevitable horror awaits.

Understand what frightens people

Scaring your readers is all about understanding and acknowledging what really scares people. People have many fears and you can explore these in different ways in your book. The fears could be emotional such as losing a child in a mall or physical such as falling down stairs or losing a limb. Think about the different fears people have and see how you can write them into your story for dramatic effect.

Scare yourself while you’re writing it

If you ain’t scared it is unlikely your readers are going to be. Sometimes scaring your readers means going out of your comfort zone yourself and thinking about what really gets your hairs standing on end or a chill running down your spine - tap into that and use it and you’ll find writing scarily starts to become natural.

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

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