1. Stammis
    Offline

    Stammis Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2015
    Messages:
    275
    Likes Received:
    50
    Location:
    Sweden

    Can you scare the reader?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Stammis, Oct 31, 2015.

    In the spirit of the holiday I have been inspired to try my hands on a horror short story, and I think I got a really good idea for one. I myself as never read any horror stories, only seen movies and played horror games. So my question is, how do you recreate the jump scare in book form? Where the character is surprised and I want to let the reader to be in suspense on what he is afraid of. Perhaps that does not work in writing and the best way to depict horror in book form is to be creepy rather than outright scary?

    Also, I am not sure that my story can even be classified as horror. Here is a short summery of the story;

    A 14 year old boy lives alone with his father. The father is a drunk and beats him sometimes. Ever since his mother died, his family has had the reputation of being insane because the police suspect his dad for the murder. Only they did not find enough evidence to prove it. He has only one friend that stick by him. However, ever since his mother died there is a shadowy figure standing at the end of his bed, looking at him while he sleeps. Nobody can see the figure but him. Now, after several years he has gotten used to it. One day the shadowy figure appears at school, holding a large glass sphere. That is when everyone around him starts dying mysteriously. No one can connect the murders to him but there is still an erie connection with him and the murders because they are all people that hurt him in one way or another. Besides the shadowy figure following him around school, the glass sphere fills up slightly with water after each killing.

    There is a twist at the end. perhaps you care to make a guess and I might tell you if you are right or not ;)
     
  2. Jones
    Offline

    Jones My body is ready

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2015
    Messages:
    61
    Likes Received:
    27
    Location:
    Texas
    I'll be honest, a book has never scared me. At least not in a horror/supernatural jump scare sense (there are political/environmental books/stories that scare the heck out of me, but not what you're asking about).

    But I think before you try your hand at it, you should read some. I couldn't imagine trying to tackle a certain genre without being familiar with how the greats handle it.
     
  3. Stammis
    Offline

    Stammis Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2015
    Messages:
    275
    Likes Received:
    50
    Location:
    Sweden
    I suppose you are right. Though I need to let my story out on paper first. I will edit when it is finished. Though, as of now, I could probably drag out the story into a short novel. Many characters needs to die before the climax after all.

    Btw, does my story even sound like a horror?
     
  4. Jones
    Offline

    Jones My body is ready

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2015
    Messages:
    61
    Likes Received:
    27
    Location:
    Texas
    I think it absolutely sounds like horror. Paranormal/mysterious deaths.....I think that pretty much covers it.
     
    Stammis likes this.
  5. Inks
    Offline

    Inks Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2015
    Messages:
    655
    Likes Received:
    167
    Sent my beta into an asthmatic attack, does it count? Gosh... it still feels bad to even say that...

    Let's put it this way, one does not need horror if you pick a sensitive topic. I can describe, in excruciating detail, how it feels to have a slender knife suddenly cut into your flesh and pull through you. The tug of your flesh and the lack of sensation before you even notice blood spilling down your arm, seeping forth from a surgical cut. Experience is something which can be transferred... and someone who has not experienced things ultimately will be ineffective in creating the effect they want.

    Many people can understand certain emotions and innately recall their own moments of darkness... in the moment, you do not feel the gravity and horror. Taken aside and hit with it, it can be pretty crushing when they encounter such "shared memories".
     
  6. Stammis
    Offline

    Stammis Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2015
    Messages:
    275
    Likes Received:
    50
    Location:
    Sweden
    Interesting. I see what you are getting at. it is not the scare in it self, but the reason that they get scared to begin with that is important. The main scare of my character is to lose is only friend. It is his friend that keeps him from losing himself into the darkness within. He himself wishes for the deaths to happen, though he may or may not commit them directly.

    This is one of the biggest perk of being a writer. To explore emotions. To stay creative and realise your ideas into paper.

    Btw. Is my set up cliche? Has it been done a million times already?
     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2015
  7. Shattered Shields
    Offline

    Shattered Shields Gratsa!

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2015
    Messages:
    415
    Likes Received:
    272
    Location:
    Athagora
    The only piece of literature that's ever given me chills is The Monkey's Paw.

    Here's my advice. Make the horror simple, if you're readers have to really think about what's supposed to be scaring them, they won't be scared.
     
  8. Inks
    Offline

    Inks Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2015
    Messages:
    655
    Likes Received:
    167
    I do not know if it is cliche, and I do not like to say such things about conceptual ideas.

    Jump scares do not work in text.

    Horror is a state of mind and your goal is to create the setting which provokes such a state in the reader.
     
    Shattered Shields likes this.
  9. Shattered Shields
    Offline

    Shattered Shields Gratsa!

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2015
    Messages:
    415
    Likes Received:
    272
    Location:
    Athagora
    I've tried textual jump-scares. They're about as effective as a fish trying to swim on land. The most you can do to create one is an exclamation point.

    The objective is mainly to make the reader's skin crawl, as you said. I've never read Stephen King (a deeply held regret of mine), but I imagine he did that quite well.
     
  10. Jones
    Offline

    Jones My body is ready

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2015
    Messages:
    61
    Likes Received:
    27
    Location:
    Texas
    I don't know how people who are interested in writing have made it this far without touching Stephen King. He's not for everyone, but I think he is required reading. My advice is to just suck it up and read The Shining and the Stand, really just to get that monkey off your backs.
     
  11. Inks
    Offline

    Inks Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2015
    Messages:
    655
    Likes Received:
    167
    The Stand? 1100+ pages, but one of the few books worth reading twice.
     
  12. Imaginarily
    Offline

    Imaginarily Disparu en Mer Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2015
    Messages:
    891
    Likes Received:
    596
    My two cents --

    A jump scare in literature seems impossible to me, because technically you can see everything coming.

    It's all printed, on the page. You can just look at it. It works in film (sigh, no it doesn't) because the viewer has no way of skipping ahead. They have no way of knowing what's next or where the camera is going to go. (Obviously, this only applies to movies the person is watching for the first time.)

    So, I guess an effective jump scare in a book, if it's even possible at all, would be one hell of an accomplishment. o_O

    If your goal is to evoke emotion from your reader (you said it is), try locking them in with the character's emotions. Paint how your character feels, physically, emotionally, mentally, and I bet it will take your reader there.
     
  13. Theoneandonly99
    Offline

    Theoneandonly99 Member

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2014
    Messages:
    36
    Likes Received:
    17
    First of all, I'd like to say that 'jump scares' (in film/TV specifically) aren't even, in any form or sense, 'scary.' While they do evoke intense pulses of shock when pulled off stellarly, there is honestly no fear felt, at the very least, by me. Fear or horror, in my opinion doesn't exactly come in sudden spurts or instances, but in a way, is gradual. The feeling of uneasiness, paranoia, or anxiety - that sort of stuff- felt by the reader is proof that the said reader is truly frightened. So I advise that you don't rely on jump scares to make your reader horrified. What Inks said is true, it's in the setting, the atmosphere that the reader immerses him/herself into that makes him scared. And Imaginarily is correct as well, I honestly don't think a jump scare is actually possible in printed words, and even if you do pull it off, like I said, it's not honestly 'scary', more of just a surprise. But, hey it's your story and you're the writer. Your call :)
     
    T.Trian and PrincessSofia like this.
  14. Link the Writer
    Offline

    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2009
    Messages:
    11,208
    Likes Received:
    4,217
    Location:
    Alabama, USA
    It would depend on what your readers are scared of as well. What may invoke nightmares to some is just a walk in the park to others. (@Inks - Some might not even find the whole 'knife in flesh' thing scary. Surgeons might just eat a taco as they read while silently wondering if the author had even met surgeons before. :p)

    Point is, horror varies from person to person. For instance, give me a story that involves the ghost of a baby and the characters can hear what sounds like an infant's laughter or a toddler voice asking, "Mommy? Daddy?" out of thin air, I'm not sleeping at all.

    To me, though, the best kind of horror are the ones that:
    (1) Tap into our primal fears.
    (2) We don't see, so our imagination runs wild.
     
    PrincessSofia likes this.
  15. cutecat22
    Offline

    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2014
    Messages:
    2,431
    Likes Received:
    1,060
    Location:
    England
    It's the unexpected that's the scary thing. And it doesn't need to be horrific. OK, perhaps horrific works more that non horrific.

    What I mean, is you could make your characters go for a walk in the wilderness and your readers would know that something is going to happen. Most horror films work on the premise that the viewer knows what's going to happen, they just don't know when and so you are on the edge of your seat, all tensed up which means when the monster does jump out and frighten you, it makes you jump even more.

    Like, lets say you slip on a patch of ice. If you tense up, try not to slip, try to stay upright, you will fall and you will hurt yourself more than if you walk relaxed and let yourself fall. It's the same with injections (and tattoos). Relax and it won;t hurt as much.

    So for me, the more horrific stuff, would be if something unexpected happened. I'm just writing a scene where a taxi comes to pick up my characters. They are about to go on holiday. I was merrily typing away when my evil side took over for a minute. The taxi driver knocked on the door and when MC answered it, the driver gunned down the whole family. Blood and guts everywhere. The end! Then I sent it to a couple of beta readers. They went fucking nuts! Thought I was being serious!

    I managed to calm them down and told them I was just messing around because it's Halloween and that I wouldn't dream of killing off the whole family.

    An hour later, after the beta's have calmed down, they are messaging me to say "you can not write something that's so shit hot as that and not use it!"

    So, there are different ways to scare the bejeebers out of people.
     
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2015
  16. Mckk
    Offline

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    4,749
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    I've tried Stephen King twice and I just got really, really bored... Made it through about 50 pages both times. He's got this habit of sticking in pointless details - or certainly what appears to be pointless in the moment of the scene - and it all reads in a very kinda... journalistic/magazine style, if that makes sense. Not commenting on whether he's a good writer or not - and certainly he's successful so he's doing something right lol. But definitely not for me!
     
  17. cutecat22
    Offline

    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2014
    Messages:
    2,431
    Likes Received:
    1,060
    Location:
    England
    Not a massive fan of King but I did enjoy his short stories in Different Seasons and Nightmares and Dreamscapes. Particularly how, not everything he does, is out of the ordinary.
     
    Mckk likes this.
  18. Jones
    Offline

    Jones My body is ready

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2015
    Messages:
    61
    Likes Received:
    27
    Location:
    Texas
    Yeah, I wasn't really saying you had to like King, I was just saying that he's one of the most successful and accessible authors of all time, so anyone looking to become a writer would be well-served to familiarize themselves with what he does, particularly if they want to write in that genre.

    I think he takes a lot of unnecessary brush strokes, particularly now that there is no one around to tell him no.
     
    Mckk likes this.
  19. PrincessSofia
    Offline

    PrincessSofia Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2015
    Messages:
    118
    Likes Received:
    48
    Your story sounds like paranormal, definitely. I wouldn't say it's horror, but this is because my first language is french, and we have two words to describe this kind of stuff , "horreur" and "épouvante" : Horror is more blood,gore, killer etc.. And "epouvante" is more the psychological fear, ghosts, paranormal creatures etc.. So even though there's only the horror in english, I don't know to me it sounds weird to say it's horror when the phenomenon is paranormal lol.

    I don't think you can "make" your readers scared. Each person is different and they will each react in a different way. I think it also depends on the age of the reader ,his life experience etc.. For example when I was 13, I started reading It by Stephen King, and I remember that I read each night in my bed with my bedside lamp as the only source of light, so it was kind of a creepy setting, and thanks to Stephen King's passion for details, I could picture the scenes very well, so I got super scared and stopped reading at not even halfway through the book xD ( and 1 year later I made the mistake to watch the movie, haha I was so scared for a month I would freak out whenever I heard a noise when alone at home). Same for Dracula, I was 15 but it scared me too much so I didn't read it entirely.

    I think you should just write your story and maybe it will be scary to some readers, maybe it won't :)
     
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2015
    tonguetied likes this.
  20. minstrel
    Offline

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,723
    Likes Received:
    4,821
    Location:
    Near Los Angeles
    By this argument, you could say that J.K. Rowling, J.R.R. Tolkien, John Grisham, and Charles Dickens are all required reading, too.

    I think "required reading" depends on what you're trying to write. Stephen King doesn't help me at all. I don't write in his genres and I don't really like his style. I'm more turned on by earlier writers: Joseph Conrad, John Steinbeck, Rudyard Kipling, etc. All these "no adverbs, no semicolons, every word must advance the plot" types leave me cold. Their writing always seems to come across as sterile and journalistic, with none of the originality of voice I love so much in literature. It seems to me that some of these writers are only interesting insofar as they break their own rules.

    I tried to read King's The Stand (unabridged edition). I gave up after about 350 pages - it was as dull as any modern novel I've ever tried to read. Misery was better, but even it wasn't really that memorable. I got all the way through it, though.
     
    Mckk, Jones and Imaginarily like this.
  21. Jones
    Offline

    Jones My body is ready

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2015
    Messages:
    61
    Likes Received:
    27
    Location:
    Texas
    Well, yeah....they all kind of are.
     
  22. minstrel
    Offline

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,723
    Likes Received:
    4,821
    Location:
    Near Los Angeles
    Why? What if none of them are leading you where you want to go? What if you want to follow in the footsteps of Nabokov or Pynchon or Joyce? Cormac McCarthy? Don DeLillo? Alice Munro?
     
  23. Jones
    Offline

    Jones My body is ready

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2015
    Messages:
    61
    Likes Received:
    27
    Location:
    Texas
    That's a good point. I guess I was assuming that a given hypothetical writer strives to be relevant and marketable in today's market, but that may not be the case. I suppose there are writers motivated by other things, telling a story a certain way and whatnot, and I guess for those who fall into that category, you could find inspiration from more archaic voices.
     
  24. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,602
    Likes Received:
    5,877
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    Fear is an emotion that one has to feel a real threat to have. You read the spooky story and you start hearing noises in your house. Or another example is some time later you are afraid of the dark because the story made you fear something you wouldn't have thought of if you hadn't read the story.

    Movies might have scenes that startle people. I don't consider that fear. But sometimes you fear something will be behind you or behind a door or something in your real life after seeing or reading about it in a story.

    But other than direct fear, I think a spooky story can also leave the reader with a creepy feeling that stays with them.

    I can think of two movies that left me creeped out but I don't recall the names. One movie (actually it was more like a Twilight Zone episode) was about a crew on a crashed spaceship. The scene kept switching back and forth between them fighting spiders at the crash site and being safe at home. At the end both visions were hallucinations and they were trapped in the spiders' webs being given an hallucinogenic toxin as the spiders fed on them.

    Another story involving spiders was set in a house where the characters fought off an invasion of spiders. Just when it seemed they'd won the battle the camera pulls back and there is a covering of spiderwebs surrounding the house as far as the eye could see.

    In both stories you are left with live characters that are doomed to a horrid death. The 'creepy' stays with you for days because you imagine the rest, people doomed to be consumed by spiders.

    Dan Simmons' The Terror didn't scare me that much but I can imagine it might scare other people that can relate to the story. That's the other thing, it has to be something that strikes a chord with you. Not that you have to believe it could happen, I certainly didn't believe Night of the Living Dead was ever going to happen yet it was truly scary. But you have to be able to picture yourself in the circumstances and I couldn't picture myself in the arctic.
     
    PrincessSofia likes this.
  25. minstrel
    Offline

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,723
    Likes Received:
    4,821
    Location:
    Near Los Angeles
    That one sounds like Kingdom of the Spiders (1977) starring William Shatner. I remember seeing it and it creeped me out (I'm an arachnophobe).
     
    GingerCoffee likes this.

Share This Page