Friday, February 6, 2015

Writing Scary Stories

I love Reddit. A long-time lurker and a part-time commenter, I can say that Reddit has everything under the sun. Even some things you never even thought of being interested in. One of my favorite parts of this site is NoSleep, where all submissions are deemed to be true life horror stories.

I know, it took me by surprise too that I would like scary stuff. Okay, okay. Back to the post.
The most important things I’ve learned from writing actually comes from this subreddit. Readers flutter. Fast and hard.

You have to trap them in sticky paper and let them struggle to get away.

Or something less morbid, like hook them. Like fish.

The second thing I learned was that after you run around in circles, telling me details that don’t really matter to the story, I lose interest and you lose credibility.

Think about it. How often can you give copious details about something happened to you? Let's not even make it a scary event. Just something that happened on your normal routine. I know I can't even remember how I got downstairs a few minutes ago and technology does have a lot to do with it.

I was carrying a Nook down the steps. Fifty Shades of Grey was making me cringe, but I can't even remember what happened and I don't remember why I haven't eaten all day.

Now go back to something traumatic or scary. For me, just a few months ago, someone hit my car while I was in. All I could remember was traffic, car accidents, and the sudden double bang.

Do I remember the license plates or the cars in the parking lot? Do I remember what the paramedics asked me? The police?

It might not be the same for every situation but focus intensifies when you're in danger. And the focus is you. Not the cashier’s name or the color of the sky or what time it was exactly.

Details like this don't stick because they don't matter. For example, I remember a truck in the accident because it nearly crushed me.

Another thing that really stuck out from some of these stories was that the really good ones didn’t bother to tell you what could have happened. It was extraordinary to watch the manipulation of your own imagination. True talent right there.

Which ties better into how to scare people. You will never blanket scare people. It can't happen. Some people are scared of different things for different reasons. Let their imagination fill in the blanks.

Like, there's something beyond this doorway.

Now, I get it. There’s a law out there that says that in order to be universal, we have to be specific. And it’s true. You don’t relate as well with cookie as you do with Little Debbie’s oatmeal cookies. Even if you've never tried them.

But going on about unusual things like a mixture of two different kinds of Kool-aid in his cup while someone is in the middle of an adrenaline rush?

This kind of weirdness only works at the beginning of the story or to slow the narrative down. (That's great at the beginning if you're starting with action.)

Now, just for the fuck of it, the first sentence of an imaginary story:

Mr. Randal stood on his itsy-bitsy porch, glass of berry-grape Kool-Aid in his hand, when Teddy Noel’s car spun in the cul-de-sac and ripped her neighborhood power a new one.

Seriously, though, check out NoSleep. It’s wonderful!