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what makes a scary story?


Celethiel

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I was sitting at a resturant reading a book, and it occured to me... What makes a story scary...

i mean you can't really pull of things like one would in a movie, with the jump scar or whatever...

and I don't think i've ever read a story that scares me...although one about a serial kill probably would, and it is also something I'd never EVER read :o

So i was wondering what people think makes a story scary, and if it depends on the individual?

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Tension and horror. You can't do the jump scare, exactly, but if someone is reading the key is to build the drama of what's going to happen and then terrorize the characters in an unexpected way. That induces the "Oh, my god!" moment. I don't write it, but I've read some books that do that. It's hard to surprise me, though.

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I find creating an uneasy atmosphere through environmental effects or through disconcerting character reactions can build the tension and feelings of impending doom that can start to affect the reader in the way I want them to feel.

 

One thing you can do in a book that you can't do in a movie is cause the reader to live through a horrific experience as if they are experiencing it themselves. Descriptions of the protagonist's internal and external agony can bring an intimacy to horror that can leave your reader quite traumatized for a long time.

 

I wrote a ghost story that had such a scene in it. I had to put a warning on the front of the story because that particular scene was incredibly disturbing. Writing it caused me to question my own sanity wondering where such a thing might come from. It's not easy writing from the abyss because you have to let the abyss enter into you so that then you can put it onto a page. It's terrifying to expose yourself to it. When you look into the abyss the abyss looks back is not a truism, it's just true.

 

Foreshadowing and the use of pathetic fallacy (where the weather reflects a current mood or emotion in the protagonist) can increase the feeling of tension and fear that will set a reader up to look at everything with paranoia so that even the simplest of gestures or actions by other characters can be viewed with suspicion and fear.

 

Anyways: BOO! :P

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5 hours ago, Jason Rimbaud said:

I would love to read the story your referring too it sounds amazing.   Is it on GA?

 

J

 

Sure. It's called 'Adagio'.

 

Thanks for your interest! :)

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15 hours ago, MrM said:

 

Sure. It's called 'Adagio'.

 

Thanks for your interest! :)

 

I will most definitely vouch for the scariness of Adagio. 

I don't write horror, so I don't have much to add to the conversation. I don't often read it either. Helpful, aren't I?

Edited by Wicked Witch
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@MrM Pathetic fallacy, I've used that throughout two novels and was unaware of the term.

 

Adagio, I have to read that now you've talked about it. I have read novels that I have found disturbing, even so disturbing I've stopped reading. And that has happened to me on GA. However, I have yet to read anything that gives me frissons - that is like when watching a horror or supernatural movie the hair stands up on the back of your neck and you shiver.

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In the section of my story of Aeris, Act 2 - Prelude to War - Part 3, I tried to give a minor horror experience. Unfortunately, my main Beta Reader promptly told me, "Stick to SciFi, love stories, and steamy smut, and leave the horror to Stephen King." So, what I sent to @BlindAmbition, who was kind enough to Beta Read, the first section, of the rewritten chapter, was completely changed. Only a minor graphic, that could be seen as more gore than horror, that was just a drop into the rest of the story.

 

So, I'm learning too. I'm glad to be reading the comments, and the story examples shared, so I can improve myself.

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5 hours ago, BHopper2 said:

In the section of my story of Aeris, Act 2 - Prelude to War - Part 3, I tried to give a minor horror experience. Unfortunately, my main Beta Reader promptly told me, "Stick to SciFi, love stories, and steamy smut, and leave the horror to Stephen King." So, what I sent to @BlindAmbition, who was kind enough to Beta Read, the first section, of the rewritten chapter, was completely changed. Only a minor graphic, that could be seen as more gore than horror, that was just a drop into the rest of the story.

 

So, I'm learning too. I'm glad to be reading the comments, and the story examples shared, so I can improve myself.

 

Well, first off, I hope you have second opinion Beta Readers. Sometimes what does not appeal to one person in horror will with someone else. it's a very subjective experience. Also, I find that good horror comes from writing a story that isn't specifically about horror but has themes that need to be explored through horror: rape, child murder, serial killers, demonic forces, etc.

 

Horror causes us to face in our reality things we rather not have to face. Facing our mortality or that of someone we love is an obvious one and never get old. The loss of innocence is another thing that can come from a horrific experience. A theme of 'horror' that is echoed through this site is the loss of love. Losing something vital to your personhood by whatever means can be a terror we fear will come to pass or a horror that we have experienced and have to find some way of living with.

 

Here is one of my favorite 'definitions' of horror from Apocolypse Now. The words are meaningless here. It's the feeling behind the words that capture the horror of this scene. It's very literary and can be used to bring chills to you if you hear it, read it, or watch it. This is a masterpiece of horror:
 

 

Edited by MrM
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