Developing a Genuinely Tense and Scary Scene

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A few weeks ago, I woke up from a dream – more like a nightmare – frozen in place, unable to move from the fear it had evoked. And in true writer form, the first thing I thought was, “I must remember this feeling so I can put in it into a novel.”

As with all my dreams, it was fairly nonsensical. I arrived at my grandparents’ place and noticed a man standing in the street with a gun in his mouth. I went inside where my grandparents, one of my cousins and one of his daughters were unaware of what was going on outside. As I explained to my cousin what I’d seen, he went to look out the window and suddenly the man in the street noticed he had a house full of people at his mercy. He took the gun from his mouth and pointed it at the house.

We all rabbited to a bedroom at the back of the house but the hallway that runs the length of the weatherboard provided a clear view out into the street. Inexplicably, the man was suddenly on the roof of the house across the road and the gun that had been small enough to fit inside his mouth was now a bazooka that had to be carried on his shoulder. Then he was running down the driveway and had found our hiding place. There was nowhere left to run…

Thankfully, that’s when I woke up. But it had all the elements of a genuinely tense and scary scene. To frighten the pants off your readers, here are the individual components. Continue reading

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Developing A Genuinely Scary and Evil Villain

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I’ve written previously about anti-heroes and villains and how they seem to be the characters of choice these days, at least the characters that seem to resonate most with readers searching for complexity. So, of course, growing numbers of people are attempting to cash in on that. The problem is that we are being flooded with ridiculous caricatures that are no more scary than me in the morning before I’ve brushed my hair and had some caffeine. Every James Bond villain ever may have something to answer for this.

When we examine the more successful and enduring villains, such as Dracula and Frankenstein (or his monster – depends on which of them you think was the bigger baddie), and some of the more recent but no less memorable, such as Dexter Morgan and Hannibal Lecter, we find people and creatures who scare us but who also exhibit vulnerability, meaning that in some capacity they are scared themselves. They’re at the darker end of the light and dark scale but they’re more deep grey than black. And regardless of their villainy, there’s also something attractive about them, something tempting about them, something that draws you in, even when you know you’re probably going to end up dead if you don’t resist.

If you’re planning to give it a go, here’s a few things to consider to make sure you have readers crying in terror instead of with laughter. Continue reading