1. Hollowly
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    Hollowly Member

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    what to put in, what to keep out?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Hollowly, Aug 19, 2009.

    This question is generally related to ghost or horror stories, but what I was wondering is if there were any lessons (books, tips, etc.) on "subtlety". How to decide what facts to put in and what to omit, for the best effect (discomfort, fear, surreal feeling, etc.). Are there any such helpful resources? Or is it truly just trial and error? Are there some specific works I could look to that are good examples? Any suggestions would be appreciated.
     
  2. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    There are a lot of good examples on the market. King is slow, but he nails the atmosphere in many of his novels: It, Cujo, The Shinning.

    Ted Dekker's House.

    Some of Clive Barker's stuff.

    I haven't found any books that teach how to write horror well.
     
  3. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    archticus, that's because not very much in the realm of horror is written well.

    The subtly in horror and ghost stories is all about the foreplay with the audience. The build up. The tension before the grand climax of fright or blood.

    Sometimes an unexpected shocker is one of the best kinds, characters are going along their marry way, then bam! creepy jumps out and scares the living crap out of everyone, including the reader.

    Tapping into universal fear factors are a good way to draw the reader in too. The feelings of being helpless, but then overcoming it. The claustrophobic feelings when the frightening world is closing in.

    Getting yourself in that scared mood is a good way to do it. Have you ever been chased by someone who wants to kill you? Probably not, so go have a friend pretend like they want to kill you and chase you through a field at a park. Try to roll play as authentically as you can...and you will feel the adrenaline, the fear, and the panic. Get caught too. If you can do it in a wooded area it even heightens the senses of fear. I did this last week with a friend. It's some powerful stuff, but it helped me know how to convey those emotions onto paper.

    Try walking around your house at night with all the lights off. Stumble around in the dark and let your imagination run away with you. Get scared. Listen for sounds. Imagine you see something and that it's darn scary. Once you have the image, do what you feel you should do in this situation...you're seeing a ghost what do you do? Do you run to your bed and pull up the covers? Do you flip every light on? Do the lights work? Is it coming after you to kill you? If so what do you do? Run out of the house?

    Just let your imagination go crazy. Feel the fear. And don't make conscious choices, just do what is instinctual. That's where you find truth, and that's what helps your writing.

    Sometimes it just helps to let yourself experience the emotions, so when you write you are more in tune with what the characters are feeling, thus drawing in your reader.
     
  4. Hollowly
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    I too have been looking for good books to emulate, maybe "hill house" and m.r. james stories. I do have the horror writer's association book to look through after I finish my current writing book ("bird by bird").
    I've found this to be true of a lot of modern horror, though I do continue to read king sometimes. The roleplay idea is great. oddly I already walk around my house at night, in the dark, scared - but that's because I'm just a big chicken with an over active imagination :redface:. Didn't think to use that in my writing and I had it all along!
    Thanks you two!
     
  5. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    ^ hehe...I'm a big chicken too. :) I like to stop and take inventory of what I'm thinking about when I'm scared. Often these thoughts are great to use for a character in the same scared state. "ohmygod what was that!" "I swear I just heard something." "Nothing's there, there's nothing here that's going to get me. I'm fine."

    I make my self jumpy at least once a week, not intentionally of course. That darn over active imagination...seems something most writers have in common.
     

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