By Megan Standley
Who doesn’t enjoy a good horror story? Wait, you don’t? I guess that’s too bad for you! Most of the best stories cause us to be afraid. However, these stories don’t have to be horror stories. The fear of your story never being published will motivate you to get the story just right for the publisher to read if that’s how you react to the emotion of fear.
One of the best horror writers known to this day is obviously Stephen King. Even if horror isn’t your thing you seriously need to check out his work. He has written some books that are less scary but still make you think about the mysteries of the world, so there’s enough of his work to go around. His story and the first Stephen King novel I ever read is The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. This story is about a girl who gets stuck in the woods. We see into her world each day she’s stuck in the forest. It’s more of a psychological thriller than anything else, but you can see how King incorporates the fear of being alone in the forest (where just about anything can kill you) on each page.
I’m currently reading IT and there are really gory bits in the story. I’m only on chapter 9, but if you have seen the size of the book you’ll know that I’m not even close to the end of the story. However, I’ve already learned one horror writing trick from this book: one way to successfully incorporate fear into your writing is to create a really gory scene that could make the weak vomit. That is, if you want to make a horror story or psychological thriller, you should try to appall even the hardiest horror fan.
If you’re creating a natural goody-goody story where everything goes alright and there’s nothing to fear, then that’s not a very good story. Something needs to happen. Whether that something is sad, enraging or scary, conflict is central to any good tale. Since fear is the focus of this blog entry, I will deal with how your story should strike fear into your audience’s hearts. That will help make your story into a good one. Your character must feel this emotion too, even if you don’t want them to. Your reader has to relate to your character or you’ll see readers disconnect and put down the blood and sweat that you put into the story that took months for you to create.
We live in fear every day, believe it or not. Consider the fear of being late or the fear of being fired or replaced. The fear of being rejected by everyone. The fear of failing a test. The fear of the world ending. The list goes on, but the good thing about this is that you can incorporate that fear you feel and incorporate it into your character. Who knew it could come so easily?
If that doesn’t work, one piece of advice I can give is to put on your brave face and pick up a Stephen King novel and read it. Trust me – he’s a brilliant writer and he’ll blow your mind. Observe how he uses words to chill your spine and make you turn off the lights and quickly run to your bed so you can be safe. Use that for inspiration! However, do not copy him because that, my dear people, is plagiarism and is in fact frowned upon in most societies.
There are plenty of ways fear can be instilled in your character. Think of a dire situation – it could be life or death – and then end the book there with the intent of writing a sequel. That will get the readers to fear what will happen next. Will the main character survive? Will they be doomed for all eternity? You decide the path of your character. The payoff will either be a bad or good consequence for both your readers and your characters.
Overall, fear is what drives us humans and in turn should drive your character when the time calls for it. Consider even your secondary characters! Make them relatable to the reader as well. Make your readers quiver and fear the dark. Make them sleep with a nightlight on, fearing what’s in the darkness. If they do that, you’ll know then that you’ve successfully incorporated fear into your story.