The Five Essential Ingredients for a Scary Story
As an author of spooky tales or "Trick-or-Treat Thrillers" as I like to call them, I've often been asked, what's my secret for writing a scary story. Well, we all know that tingly, spine-chilling feeling we get from a wonderfully suspenseful, creepy story, but how do you get there? How do you create that amazing, almost intangible feeling from a few written words? Below, I’ll share with you, my private recipe.
What is a scary story without the cold chill of a dense fog or the sound of a low groan? I remember a story I once read that started with a girl just walking down the street. Nothing was attacking her or jumping out of the bushes, but the way the author described the disturbing quiet of the street sent chills up my spine.
Balance/Contrast between the Familiar and the Unknown
Begin with the normal, the comfortable, and lead into the unexplored. Your dad came home drunk―again. You've seen this before, but what's he going to do tonight? Or maybe something is following you in the dark. You don't know what it is, but you know what it wants―you! Then again, maybe you're home in your own bed when someone breaks in. Your feeling of security is suddenly shattered! Playing the familiar against the unknown is startling, disturbing, and best of all, interesting.
I've read stories where I didn't like the character and really didn't care when the thing in the shadows attacked. Also, when I barely knew the character, same result: BIG yawn. When you create characters that emotionally connect with your readers, you can drag the reader into the monster's den right along with your damsel in distress.
Balance/Contrast between Believability and Disbelief
Have you ever watched a movie where the action turned cartoonish? The director was trying to create an amazing scene, but instead it became ridiculous. Start with ordinary and relatable, then build up to the unbelievable. The shock of someone discovering their innocent five-year-old daughter is turning into a zombie―a real zombie!—is a key moment in a story. But anchor it with real emotions.
Balance of Pace
Don't go too slow or too fast. Keep enough action to hook the readers, but don't race to the finish line, skipping the chilling build up. Suspense and excitement are the keys to keeping your reader turning the pages. You can find entire books written on proper pacing, and I recommend reading as many as you can.
If you're a beginning writer, and my list seems as terrifying as a vampire in a Stephen King novel, take a few deep breaths. Chances are if you enjoy the genre, many of these things are already second nature to you. So, my final advice to all of you would-be-authors: have fun. If you can do that, well, you've won over the most important person of all—yourself.
30 spellbinding tales from some very talented authors. If you love witches, this is the book for you. From the good, to the wicked and everything in between. You can pre-order this book today on Amazon. Released March 2nd.
Whether wicked or whimsical, few folkloric figures are as iconic as the witch. Wax & Wane: A Gathering of Witch Tales serves up 30 spellbinding stories of witches that are enchanting and terrifying, amusing and enticing. Classic or eclectic, fantastical or historical, these witch tales are a literary incantation to delight any fans of witches and witchcraft.
Includes stories by Stephanie Burgis, D.T. Neal, Lawrence Dagstine, Jo Wu, Jeff Parsons, Virginia M. Mohlere, Dara Marquardt, Coy Hall, J.T. Lawrence, Liam Hogan, Stephen Blake, Tiffany Morris, Megan Neumann, S.K. Gregory, Flynn Gray, Dave Dormer, Diana Corbitt, Joseph Rubas, Cynthia Ward, Jennifer Loring, Heddy Johannesen, Cooper O'Connor, Spinster Eskie, K.A. Hardway, Mike Penn, Kevin M. Folliard, Silas Green, Lori G. Petroff and Jonathan Cromack.
Til Death Do Us Part by S.K. Gregory
Aurelia Graves has been called a witch for as long as she can remember. Well she did once raise the dead, but that was just a man in a costume, wasn't it?
When a woman from town comes to her house, begging for a spell to return her husband to her, Aurelia sees a way to make some quick cash. Unfortunately her spell goes terribly wrong and Aurelia must call on a man she has just met, to help her out. Daniel claims he can help Aurelia master her abilities as a Necromancer, but is he all that he seems?
1.Tell us about your book
The book is called The Vampire Henry. It is about a vampire living in an unspecified mid-western town. He is a working-class schlub who has aspirations to be a writer. During the course of the book he meets another vampire named Sara who he becomes romantically involved with. That is the bare bones of the plot really. It is a literary horror novel, and I have used the theme of vampirism to comment on all the things in this society that seem to me false and parasitic: the overwhelming curse of capitalism mostly, but also dysfunctial family relationships etc.
2. How did you come up with the idea?
I HATED the Twilight series and I wanted to write a book that adhered to the basic tenets of vampire lore and yet was as unglamorous and unromantic as I could make it. My favorite writer is Charles Bukowski, and he is a writer who I admire for his honesty and ability to not sugarcoat or romanticize in his poems and stories. So I thought, wouldn’t Bukowski make a great bloodsucker? (Substituting his alcoholism for a thirst for blood, of course.) So that was the concept. I must add that The Vampire Henry is only LOOSELY based on Bukowski. A lot of the actual book comes from my own experiences.
3. Who are your favorite writers?
Bukowski of course. After that, Carson Mcullers, Harlan Ellison, Fitzgerald, Richard Matheson and Ray Bradbury
4. Tell us three things about you that no one knows
I was in two comedy groups, I like Katy Perry, and I have an aversion to wooden popsicle sticks.
5. What’s next for you?
Not sure. Was writing a novel about a rock group but I may have abandoned it. Writing short stories and songs right now. Will see how that goes.
Sick of vampires who glitter? Who run around in the sun, looking all hunky and moody? Then meet Henry Lovell - the Vampire Henry. Nothing glamorous about Henry. He's a working-class stiff (no pun intended) and aspiring writer who just happens to drink blood to survive. He may or may not be immortal, but he knows one thing - life is Short baby, so drink up. . . This then is the tale of the Vampire Henry. It is a story like a lot of other stories really: full of messy mistakes, heroes and villains, survivors and victims’ - blood, sweat, and tears. Oh yeah. . . There's a Lot of blood. . .
Henry is a vampire, but not the kind you read about or see on television. He doesn't fight crime, or sparkle. Instead he is a struggling writer, trying to get by and make a living. Yet despite the lack of huge battles, somehow this story is still compelling and you want to read on. It looks at what happens when your average Joe loser is turned into a vampire. A man whose only goal is to make it as a writer and spend his long life drinking. He doesn't try to curb his blood lust, but is careful not to get caught. He is in essence a serial killer. I did enjoy the book, Henry was an intriguing character and while you couldn't exactly call him likeable, I did want to see what happened next to him. If you are looking for something a bit different, I would recommend this book.
1. Tell us about your book
The First Singers is a part one of a dystopian trilogy, mostly because if you are writing a dystopian novel, it has to be a trilogy. Right? The main character, Teena, lives in an old military base in San Jose, California, together with a couple hundred other kids. When a child reaches their eighteenth birthday, they go through a selection process called the Hunt. The few who pass will move on to the mysterious Island while the rest of them are killed. The book starts when Teena wakes up on her birthday and follows her on her quest to find out what is real and what is not.
2. How did you come up with the idea?
The thought process involved picking up toys in the playroom. Manual work seems to be the key to writing for me in general. There was also an afternoon of scouring the internet for a semi-interesting monster that doesn’t get used in almost half of the books that hit the market. The rest happened from there.
3. Who are your favorite writers?
Ah, a trick question, I love to read and I don’t really play favorites. I like original ideas, good story telling and interesting characters that teach me something about the world or even myself. I’ll read pretty much anything that sounds like it will hit at least one of those points. That and Terry Pratchett.
4. Tell us three things about you that no one knows.
I went bungee jumping once when I was fourteen. I am not entirely sure why, but I decided that I would, so I did. There is absolutely no way I’d ever do that again.
I also jumped out of a moving train once. If anyone wondered, it was not a good idea. Turns out there is an art to jumping out of moving trains successfully.
I failed an English as a second language class when I was sixteen.
5. What’s next for you?
I don’t know yet. I have a few different concepts in mind and I am really drawn toward science fiction for the next book, but I still have about three or four months of polishing the last book of the trilogy before I get to think about narrowing down the theme for my next project.
In the far future, Teena is ready to celebrate her eighteenth birthday by running for her life. Up to this day she lived in a former military base in the middle of an old, desolated city. Today will decide if she will join the fabled Survivor Island or if she will be killed by her former friends.
Teena lives in a world where on a person's eighteenth birthday, they are sent out on a Hunt. If they survive, they are sent to the Island, a mysterious place where they get to live their lives in peace. The only problem is - everything Teena has been told is a lie.
I thought that Teena was a good character. She is tough and worked hard to survive outside, but there is a naivety to her too. She has no idea about relationships and has led a very sheltered life. The lizard creatures, the Asin, are a suitably formidable enemy. I enjoyed this book and I would definitely recommend it to fans of dystopian fiction like the Hunger Games.
After is the first book in a trilogy of zombie tales.
Jenna Deluise is a trying to survive in a broken world that was once overrun by zombies. Her father has committed suicide and she is left to take care of her mother, who has retreated into her own mind.
When her father's ex-boss shows up, he claims that her father is still alive. In order to draw him out, he kidnaps Jenna and locks her in an underground lab.
She meets Wesley, her father's ex-lab assistant and they form an uneasy alliance in order to escape.
The sequel is called Before and takes place twenty years earlier, when the outbreak began. Danny is a street thief who ends up being injected with the antidote to the virus.
Jacqueline 'Jack', is a hacker, who receives an email about the virus. When she attempts to bring it to the police, she is chased.
Danny and Jack team up with a doctor as they try to prevent the virus from being released.
Before is due to be released soon from J Ellington Ashton Press.
The third and final book is Viral. Jenna's story continues as she tries to bring down the Alliance and stop the virus for good.
About the Author:
S. K. Gregory is an author, editor and blogger. She currently resides in Northern Ireland.
“Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.”