1. Day Dreamer
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    Day Dreamer New Member

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    Struggling to write a horror scene

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Day Dreamer, Jun 19, 2010.

    Hi, in my novel the opening is a horror suspense scene. The problem is I want people to find it truly scary and after re-writing it five times and showing it to my friends all of them have agreed it is well written but not scary. It lacks a way of making the reader be emotionally attached to the person in question. Below is a synopsis of the scene, how would you suggest I make it more scary.

    A Short Synopsis of the Scene: The protagonist is drowning in the sea around his city which is infected with nuclear waste, he crawls out of the water and onto land. He meets a group of people camped out on the beach who are trapped. The city in which he lives is tearing itself apart and one of the causes of this is the Infected (Basically Mutants) they have various hives around the city and after coming out of the water he finds that the only way to get to his home is through one of these 'Hives', so as he is traversing the Hive he is being chased by these Infected. One of the people on the beach came with him and got killed. After this he gets out of the Hive and collapses ontop of a roof.(One point is you don't know exactly why he is drowning or how he ended up there, that is explained near the end of the novel.)
     
  2. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    Is there a way that this scene could not be the opening one? It's very difficult to create the kind of emotional attachment between character and reader where the reader has had no time to learn about, or connect with, the character in question.

    If you could start at an earlier point chronologically, then you could give the reader time to acquaint with your MC. Also, you can build the horror up slowly. I find that the best horror is slow to build, creating a feeling of unsettlement, where it's clear that something isn't right, but not where/who/what. Japanese horror tends to do this particularly well, if you're looking for examples.
     
  3. Day Dreamer
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    Day Dreamer New Member

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    That's my problem you see, the overall story is that of a conspiracy it's just the beginning is this horrific reveal of the creatures in the city. I can't start earlier without ruining the rest of the story and I thought it would make for a good opening. It would probably work better if it was a film or game, if you were to watch the beginning of Metro 2033 on youtube, what I am trying to do is similair.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Fear comes from anticipation of a bad outcome. As long as the reader is expecting something bad to happen, you maintain the tension.

    The moment you reveal the expected bad, you release the tension, and the fear goes with it.

    So is drowning his only fear when he is in the water? Or does he imagine that he may not be alone? Maybe something bad is in the water with him. Maybe something in the water has gotten into him, that will slowly drive him mad and rot his body.

    It is difficult to make the reader feel the fear of drowning while he is sitting in a warm dry comfy chair. You have to make the reader feel the chill, the disorientation, the gag reflex as water splashes into his nose and mouth. Make him feel his arms and legs growing numb and weak from cold and exhaustion. Make him feel something brush against him under the surfase, and wonder if it is drifting seaweed or something more ominous. If it is seaweed, will it entangle him and drag him under?

    The reader has to forget the comfort of the chair, and let his imagination carry him to the scary corners of his mind.

    Reveals are not horrific. Reveals are anticlimatic.
     
  5. Day Dreamer
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    Day Dreamer New Member

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    Thank You Cogito, that was actually really quite useful. I'm going to go and try to re-write my beginning now. Thank you.

    Another Question I have is, would it be scarier in first or third perspective. Bearing in mind that through the whole novel I'll have to write in this point of view. I can't decide.
     
  6. hbk7137
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    hbk7137 New Member

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    You could also try starting the story inside the Hive, rather than in the water. You could make it a dark place, build up the tension as the MC is surrounded by the infected (though don't reveal to the reader what he's surrounded by yet.) The main character could be trying his hardest to stay quiet, but he keeps coughing because he nearly drowned outside. Then, while he's hiding in darkness, you can slowly reveal details of how the MC got there, how he nearly died in the sea, where he's trying to go, etc...
    Anyway, hope that helps.
     
  7. rhsexton
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    the perspective depends purely on which you're more comfortable writing from. For my stories, I do a lot of first person. I can easily get into the head of the MC and tell the story from his/her perspective. I've found that not many can do this though. They see the story from several perspectives at once.

    Something to ask yourself is this: will the story follow only the MC throughout the telling or is there the possibility of switching to someone else's perspective later? If you can write the entire story from the MC's perspective, all the drama, horror, and mystery it involves, then first person could work. But if there is any part of the story that has to be told from someone else's pov, then you'll have to go third person. There are exceptions to this, but not many.
     
  8. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Use a lot of description of the Infected. If you want to keep their physical appearances somewhat mysterious for the purpose of the story, use sound descriptions instead. Keep the reader constantly aware of what the enemy is, and that it's getting closer.
     
  9. Fantasy of You
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    Fantasy of You Banned

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    This is the best thing to keep in mind whilst trying to make your reader scared.
     
  10. Aeschylus
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    Aeschylus Contributing Member

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    Don't focus on the Infected themselves; focus on the people's fear of them. Don't call them the "Infected," because that lets everyone know right away that they're just zombies or mutants, and then it's not new. But if you leave them as nameless monsters that they know nothing about, the reader has no idea exactly what they are or where they came from. The Unknown is much scarier than any mutant. Perhaps the people on the beach are terrified to enter the city but don't know why; they just hear terrible sounds at night and see the gruesome remains of their friends that never came back.

    So instead of the main character fighting through a sea of mutants, which is more of an action scene from a zombie movie, have him slowly move through the city, terrified the whole time and hearing and seeing things that he cannot identify. He doesn't need to even see them, just needs to FEEL them. And if they need to hurt him or something, have a shadow rush past and swipe at him, unseen; better yet, have him never see anything at all.

    Cogito's right; as soon as you reveal what's really going on, it loses the fear factor.
     
  11. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    True.

    Also true.

    If you've ever watched anything suspenseful what is the thing that is always the same? You don't know what is going to happen. There is a build up to the bad/scary thing that happens. There is also an element of unknown to it which is what makes it scary. People fear what they don't understand. Anticipation always makes things scarier.. always.
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    More to the point, the reader/viewer thinks he or she knows what is going to happen, but doesn't know exactly what or when.

    You're in the wrecked spacecraft, and you know it is infested with reptilian aliens with acid for blood, just looking for hosts to lay their eggs in. It's dark, fluids are dripping from the ceiling and the maze of pipes could conceal anything. The wreck is unstable, and there are the constant creaks and groans of shifting metal. Any moment, one of the team will surely be snared by a tentacle from above, or a seven foot tall deadly, slimy alien will explode from a niche to the side. Then BANG! Everyone panics, until they realize Pearse merely got snagged on a piece of debris, sending it crashing to the deck, Everyone breaths a sigh of relief and Sloane curse's Pearse's clumsiness. And then...

    It's all about the buildup, and toying with the reader's imagination. It's almost a relief when something truly nasty does happen, except now the reader's imagination now has one more nasty possibility to anticipate, now that Jackson has been disembowelled before them - and no one saw exactly what did it.
     

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