In my research for the Infernous Trilogy, I’ve found two consistent pieces of advice to write the most compelling horror.
- Think of a book or a movie that disturbed you the most. I’m not talking about cheap jump scares, but something that unsettled your gut. Maybe it’s just a single picture you found floating around online like the one above, a King novel, or a James Wan film. Either way, likely, it was a relatively vague monster/demon/creature/etc. Here is why over explaining your nemesis can actually be a bad thing.
Detail of the enemy can be your own enemy
All through your writing ventures and your schooling from the age of 6, you’re taught detail detail DETAIL. The more detail the better – so long as it keeps the story line moving. However, this rule has an end in horror writing. Everyone has something that they fear. Whether it’s a memory of their childhood house basement, a scene in a movie, or something that they simply made-up in their head. But – that isn’t someone else’s fear. It’s only yours.
You have a much better chance of scaring the hell out of your readers by painting a vague picture of what your enemy is, but not give away too many details. Maybe your character only sees a silhouette of the beast. Maybe they see it fully, but you just don’t explain it. Why do you do this? Because:
When details end, the reader’s imagination picks up and creates their own worst nightmare.
A side-note as well: When your enemy is unknown, it’s creepier as well. When the reader doesn’t know what the thing in the corner of the room is, it let’s their mind travel to its own darkest depths.
2. Long sentences.Short sentences have their place. But rarely in horror. It’s disjointed. It disrupts the flow. And detail matters. Except when it’s about the nemesis. See?
When you said the scene for each chapter, go crazy with details and long descriptive sentences. Set your rooms, buildings and scenery with such vividness, the reader will see it in their head. Long sentences can suck them into a story.
We need more horror writers out there! Comment your thoughts, questions, or details of your latest horror project!
I love this! Great tips. Currently writing yet another horror story.
Glad you liked it! What kind of story are you working on?
It’s a series, actually. I post on r/nosleep a lot. It’s about a dark entity that latches onto a family and causes a lot of trouble, but they’re unaware of what’s causing it for a while.
I completely agree, there need to be more horror writers out there! That’s exactly why I started my blog… but that aside… I love to know the details but not clue the reader in. Just like it’s hard for me to believe characters in horror movies will conveniently figure out the backstory of the villain/killer right before the climax, I tend to believe it’s more realistic and unsettling to leave those unanswered questions. Although, some of my favorite stories, especially the King short stories, zoom right in on the horror, crack it right open so it’s in your face and you can’t look away…