Tags:
  1. AmyHolt
    Offline

    AmyHolt Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2011
    Messages:
    475
    Likes Received:
    17
    Location:
    Warsaw, IN

    Menace, Tension, and Malevolent Energy

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by AmyHolt, Jan 12, 2012.

    How do you add menace, tension and malevolent energy to a scene?

    I'm writing a scene were a little girl is playing with a doll and stops because she senses something bad. She ends up going over and closing the window.

    The problem is I've never had such a hard time creating the right feeling. I want the reader to 'hear' the music in the background that tells them something's not right without actually saying that something isn't right. So how do you do that? Any tips?
     
  2. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,075
    Likes Received:
    5,272
    Location:
    California, US
    I think if you describe the physical sensations that come with her "sensing" of something bad, as well as what she does in response, you can create the atmosphere. Does the hair on her arms or back of her beck stand up? Does her throat go dry? Does her pulse go up? What does she hear and smell? What does she do - freeze in the middle of her action, or whip her head around to face the window? Are her eyes glistening? If she's frozen to the spot, describe how she makes herself move to the window, and how she feels doing it. And so on.
     
  3. AmsterdamAssassin
    Offline

    AmsterdamAssassin Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2011
    Messages:
    333
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    Amsterdam, The Netherlands
    Comes down to your narrative/description on how she senses something bad. Does she feel watched? Is there a cold breeze entering the room? Does it feel like a sudden shadow on a hot day, the shadow of the hawk flitting over the hidden mouse?
     
  4. cruciFICTION
    Offline

    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 18, 2011
    Messages:
    1,236
    Likes Received:
    49
    Location:
    Brisbane, Australia
    I can't really add much to this. This is a really good point.
    The only thing I can think to add is that it comes down to the little details being apparent in the bigger picture. I suggest you foreshadow the hell out of the scene if you can. Nothing too obvious. Subtle hints; the breeze flows into the room, the doll looks like it's smiling happily up at the little girl. All those little descriptions? Yeah, you want them all before the scene. The scene is ominously devoid of description. It's just actions, it's disjointed and the change in tone creates the sense of malevolence.

    Or, at least, that's how I'd do it. Take what you will from that.
     
  5. Cavalry
    Offline

    Cavalry New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2012
    Messages:
    1
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Blackboys East Sussex, UK
    Hi All,

    This is my first post here.

    I have a lot of issues like this as well but I always found that describing what she feels (as the first person) in that moment is the only way. Set the scene up but the tension in in the music that you need is only inside her.

    Cavalry
     
    1 person likes this.
  6. AmyHolt
    Offline

    AmyHolt Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2011
    Messages:
    475
    Likes Received:
    17
    Location:
    Warsaw, IN
    Great thought of describing her physical sensations. And I like the idea of her throat going dry. That's not something I've used much (if at all) so it will come out fresh. Plus describing how she moves to the window makes so much sense. Why don't I think of these things? Guess it's not what you know, it's who you know. :)

    The idea of her feeling watched is great. Something about your wording "a sudden shadow" got my mind moving. I can hardly finish saying thanks because I want to go take a look at the scene.

    I've seen this done. Wonderful reminder. Now I just have to go back and find the place that I read it so I can study how they did it.
     
  7. AmsterdamAssassin
    Offline

    AmsterdamAssassin Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2011
    Messages:
    333
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    Amsterdam, The Netherlands
    Another thing - check out images of doll faces. Notice that if you are feeling negative, they seem to have something almost sociopathic about them? If the girl suddenly feels threatened and the smiling doll face seems to be leering at her, that would give a good indication that she's creeped out by something.
     
  8. Batgoat
    Offline

    Batgoat Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2011
    Messages:
    110
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    New Zealand
    One of the best ways to do it would be through contrast. Start happy, joyful, and the world full of light, and then, mark a point in the narrative where there is either a subtle or sudden change, where the menace, tension and malevolence makes itself felt. Here, the world should become darker (not necessarily black, but faded) and perhaps, introduce a feeling of tunnel vision and/or claustrophobia as one experiences when they are fearful of things and prepare for flight or fight.
     
  9. Evans
    Offline

    Evans New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2012
    Messages:
    10
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Washington DC
    Consider writing the scene from a vantage point outside the window.

    Evans
     
    1 person likes this.
  10. Mallory
    Offline

    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2010
    Messages:
    4,274
    Likes Received:
    191
    Location:
    Tampa Bay
    I recommend the short story "Where are you going, where have you been?" by Joyce Carol Oates. It's about a naive 15-year-old girl who is home alone one afternoon when two creepers pull up in her driveway and try to get her to go with them. At the beginning of the story, it's dramatic irony (the reader knows they're rapists or worse, but the MC doesn't get it and thinks they're just "cute boys" who want to hang out). Toward the middle, the MC starts finally realizing the bad vibes, but by then the reader has caught on to an extra layer. Obviously the fact that they're probably rapists/killers is bad enough, but we get little hints that there's something unnatural or sinister about them. Not necessarily in a supernatural way or anything, but it's really creepy. Hard to explain. You should read it.

    The others have brought up great points too.
     
  11. AmyHolt
    Offline

    AmyHolt Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2011
    Messages:
    475
    Likes Received:
    17
    Location:
    Warsaw, IN
    Thanks for the idea but the thing that I noticed most about your post was how easily you summed up the story. There were terrible stabbing feelings of jealousy when I read your post. One day I'm going to be that good, just so I don't have to forever be be covetous of you. :)
     
  12. Mallory
    Offline

    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2010
    Messages:
    4,274
    Likes Received:
    191
    Location:
    Tampa Bay
    ?

    I hope I didn't give spoilers or anything like that. If I did, my apologies.

    I'm just saying that it's a great story to check out example-wise, because Oates does a great job at creating that sinister energy you're describing. Nothing concrete, just small cues that lead to major vibes. Check it out.
     
  13. picklzzz
    Offline

    picklzzz Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2011
    Messages:
    177
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Florida
    I would think in the situation you described, she feels a chill from the window, which is why she turns to close it. Maybe her heart starts to beat faster, or she hears the wind whispering. I find it hard sometimes too because I think I often use similar descriptions to show emotion when someone is startled or upset, and I have to work on others. I like the idea someone suggested of making a list of possibilities and then playing around with them.
     
    1 person likes this.
  14. AmyHolt
    Offline

    AmyHolt Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2011
    Messages:
    475
    Likes Received:
    17
    Location:
    Warsaw, IN
    No, you didn't give anything away. It was a great post, good idea. I just was thinking if I could write a summary as easy as that maybe I would be able to write a decent query and synopsis. It takes me two years of rewrites to have my summonary of a story look anything like the story. Sorry for the misunderstanding. It was a backwards compliment for your talent at pulling to basic story line out of a story. I really do want that talent.
     
  15. Mallory
    Offline

    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2010
    Messages:
    4,274
    Likes Received:
    191
    Location:
    Tampa Bay
    Thanks! :) I really appreciate that, and if you want me to help you with any of your summaries let me know. I"ll VM you about it.
     
  16. Inspired writer
    Offline

    Inspired writer Member

    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2012
    Messages:
    89
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    east midlands
    I guess it's the emotion of what that child must be feeling. In my limited experience, it's the character involvement that hooks the readers. Of course, the definition of the setting adds to the atmosphere. But personally it's the emotion that touches the readers. I maybe wrong. There's probably a completely different approach when it comes to writing different genres, like 'horrors' for instance. But I'd say, if you want to make it as realisitc as possible. Then tackle the issue from a more personal approach.
     
  17. Inspired writer
    Offline

    Inspired writer Member

    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2012
    Messages:
    89
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    east midlands
    Also, I'd write the description of the setting short and fast to add to the tension to build the atmosphere. 'the wind blowing in from the window' and 'the dolls face etc'. But start the scene by describing the room itself and into grest detail. The wooden flooring, the gigantic four-poster bed and possibly long cheese-clothed drapes that blow hard in the wind to give it more effect. I apologise if this all seems somewhat amateurish. Just starting out in the writing field.
     
  18. AmyHolt
    Offline

    AmyHolt Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2011
    Messages:
    475
    Likes Received:
    17
    Location:
    Warsaw, IN
    I like the idea of deleving into her emotions but the scene isn't written in 1st person and I'm not sure how to add much in the way of her thoughts because it doesn't match the writing style of the book. I'll have to go back over the scene and see if I can add any of her emotions.

    I've seen this done where they talk about the scene in such deep detail that is becomes eerie. Great idea, thanks.
     

Share This Page