|Posted on April 23, 2013 at 6:40 PM|
Guys, I am an occasional peruser of Creepypasta, short horror, and Slenderman stories. I love horror stories, I love reading them, writing them, and seeing other people's reactions to them. As I've said before on this blog, I prefer psychologically horrific stories to stories that rely on gore and violence, or on too many monsters. The former is why I watch slasher films to root for the bad guy, and the latter is part of why, while I do admire the Fear Mythos and even find some of the beasties therein really damn cool (The Intrusion squicks me in so, so many ways and Wooden Girl is an awesome concept for a fear of being controlled, and of course Slendy and the Rake are in there too), I don't feel as much of a connection with it as I do with the Slenderverse. You can mail me your hatred now or later, preferably in the form of a Creeper, since nothing really says "I hate your guts" like a walking bundle of TNT.
You shouldn't have, guys. No really, you really shouldn't
have, I haven't slept in my own bed recently!
But I digress. As a horror author, I very often see young horror authors make... mistakes, and those mistakes lead to poorly written, unscary stories. I can't tell you how many times I've had my suspension of disbelief broken in a Slenderman story by something silly like describing his facial features as "faceless face" or something like that. I once read a relatively decent Slenderstory where they had him sitting at someone's kitchen table. Not standing. Sitting. With his legs kind of awkwardly stiff in front of him and his hands dragging on the floor. I literally laughed for three minutes as I imagined dear old Mr. Thin looking up at his latest target and saying, in that derptastic voice a certain LittleKuriboh gives him, "HIIIII GUUUUYYYS, ARE WE HAVING PANCAKES FOR BREAKFAST?" And if you wouldn't laugh at the idea of Slenderman asking you about breakfast foods, then you, dear reader, have no understanding of what "Narm" means.
Point is, the wrong choices in writing horror can ruin your scary moment fast, perhaps faster than in any other genre. Just like writing a sex scene incorrectly can kill the fantasy fuel instantly for your reader, so too can incorrectly written suspense and horror kill any sort of tension and fear your reader has built up. For example, done correctly, the Slenderman scares the living fuck out of me, because I have actually experienced the kind of worry and paranoia he inspires in his victims and the idea of something subtly, patiently screwing with my head freaks me out so damn much. But if not written correctly, I'm more liable to snark at him and want to give the guy a hug, even if he's ripping your protagonist to bloody little shreds. Done correctly, the idea of a tiny spider slowly inching towards me on a thread would terrify me, but normally I am not scared of spiders, at all (gasp! A girl not scared of spiders? What is this blasphemy?!). Good horror builds and builds, offering no hope of release from tension until the author wants to let you go. As a horror reader, you are ideally at the mercy of the horror author - you're their captive audience, their willing victim, and they as a result get to screw with your head for the duration of the story... that is, if the story is good and they do a decent job of putting you in the right frame of mind.
This brings me to the point of this blog entry. While pasta-binging, I stumbled across the Creepypasta Wiki's how-to guide on writing Creepypastas, and thought it was a good read. Good enough that I feel it should carry over for all horror writing, and even for writing in general. If you'd like to read the whole thing in their words, that's right here. But as for this site, here's my paraphrasing of their guide and some added explanation. These are rules you really should follow and consider with any writing, but since it focuses on horror writing, that's what I'll stick to.
We'll start off like the guide does by pointing out the three basic types of fear you can instill in a reader:
Now, I mentioned that not everyone has the same fears, and that's true. But there are some fears almost everyone finds scary, and that can be useful no matter what horror tale you're telling to instill the above types of fear in the reader:
This is all just a starting point, remember, so don't be afraid (pun semi-intended) to use what scares you as a jump-off point for your story!
So, now that we know what kinds of fear there are, and what things can be considered scary, how do you get these feelings to show through the storytelling? That's where tension-building comes in. Now, you probably have a lot of questions about how to do this, such as:
One more thing we should discuss before discussing how to start or end a story - word choice. Grammar and punctuation, of course, are important, but word choice can make or break a horror story. What are you trying to imply about an action, scene, or moment in time? Let's take a break from Slendy for a second, and use the Rake for this one. One of the Rake's traits is that it speaks to its victims in a creepy, inhuman whisper. Consider the implications of the following lines:
Which is the more descriptive? Which is the more interesting? Which just... sounds right for the Rake's whispering, inhuman voice? Here's another set:
Both of those sentences could be used for different scenarios, depending on what you want to imply about your monster in this case. Word choice can mean the difference between your monster having slimy tentacles or sticky ones, between a subtle nuance that hits the reader later, or a huge punch that hits the reader right now. Words are tools and weapons, choose them well.
And now, the really big question... how the hell do I start/end this thing, anyway? Let's break that into starting a story, and ending a story.
One more thing. Horror can be a genre full of cliches and tropes like any other genre. Now, Tropes Are Not Bad, but they can be overdone. So, be careful with using anything included in this list right here.
That's all! Now go forth, write horror, scare the reader... and try not to look out the window... >:3