3 Terrifying Tips on Scaring Your Readers

Hello Writer Bugs!

In any kind of fictional story, a little bit of terror can go a long way. But how do you strike fear in the hearts of your readers? Have no fear, I’m here to help! Here are three tips on how to scare your audience senseless.


Setting the Mood

A spooky setting can be a total game changer in a horror story. With this literary element, details are key. Paint a horrifying picture for the audience. No, that does not mean you need copious amounts of blood and guts spilled everywhere. Even the most ordinary places can be transformed into a scary environment. Build an atmosphere that unsettles readers, that only enhances the fear factor of the antagonist. Consider what the weather would be like, or how a room is furnished, or the architecture of a building. Once you provided them with vivid descriptions, let the audience’s imagination handle the rest. Not sure where to start in descriptions? When it doubt, the “it was a dark and stormy night” trick never fails in fiction.

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Solid Characters

In horror – or in any genre, really- you can’t skimp on the characters. The audience isn’t going to care about a damsel-in-distress, Mary Sue who happens to tumble into a haunted basement. And if readers don’t care, they won’t keep reading. And they won’t be afraid when that character is put in danger. Simple as that. However, they might care more about a child running around a creepy hotel. Create complex characters and give them real struggles, flaws and life problems that the audience can identify with. The goal is to make readers care and want to protect the main character. To make them feel like they could be standing in that character’s shoes, facing the same horrors. To have them biting their nails until the very end, just to make sure the character survives the ordeal.

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Pacing Makes Perfect

Specific phrasing or wording can enhance the scary factor in horror fiction. When you have longer sentences, it slows down the action, thereby torturing readers with the suspense. On the other hand, quick and short sentences can keep readers on their toes and get their hearts racing. Those fast, up-tempo phrasing works best when a character is running away from the monster or is internally spiraling into panic and confusion. If the scene doesn’t feel quite right, try switching up the pacing. This one element can change the entire vibe of a scene.

Last week, I experimented in writing horror. I noticed that using short sentences added to the claustrophobic feeling. I almost made myself panic as I was writing the story. And if it scares the writer, it will most definitely scare the reader.

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To my fellow writers out there, how do you go about scaring your audience? Also, with Halloween around the corner, what are you dressing up as for Halloween? Talk to me in the comments.

Stay safe and stay creative.

Write with Heart,

Lady Jabberwocky

A Victim At Midnight – (Short Horror Story)

“Poor kid. Didn’t stand a chance.”

There’s yellow police tape hanging across the doorway. Boot prints stained into the rug. Rain pounds against the windows. Sirens are flashing outside.

“What are you talking about?” I ask the detective. He looks through me, fishing for a cigar in his trench coat pocket instead. An entire department of police officers is surveying my living room. Furniture is toppled over. A discarded butcher knife on the floor. “You all need to leave. The landlord will kill me if….”

“Time of death?” The detective lights the cigar, takes a long drag. He stomps up the stairs, I follow. Feet barely touching the ground, as if I were floating. They don’t see me. None of them do.

“Around midnight,” A rookie cop supplies the answer, peering down at their notepad. “Friends say she insisted on walking home alone last night.”

“With a killer on the loose? Smart.”

Scratch marks on the wall leading to the bedroom. Picture frames with family photos are shattered.

“There’s been a mistake. I’m right here. Listen to me.” I plead with them, standing in their way. The detective passes right through me. “I’m here, I’m alive. I’m…”

A body –my body – is sprawled across the floor. A puddle of red soaks the carpet in the bedroom. Two puncture wounds in my neck. Anemic white skin. Eyes and mouth open, a face frozen in horror. I’m staring at my own corpse.

What happened to me? Think. I don’t remember much of last night. I don’t remember dying. But I remember fangs.

Her fangs.

Her claws.

Her voice.

I can’t breathe. Lungs emptied of oxygen. No pulse, only stillness. My chest is hollow. My skin is translucent rice paper. I begin to cry. Tears fall and I can’t feel them roll down my cheeks. I can’t feel anything. I am a wisp of air. A wandering soul trapped in Hell itself.

“P-Please. You have to help me!” I look the detective dead in the eye. “Please.” The lamp light flickers above us. Thunder rumbles.

“Think it’s the same one that killed the others? That’d be 5 deaths this week.”

The detective pulls a silver cross from around his neck. He nods. “Each one attacked around midnight. Each one drained of blood. Each one with lipstick on their face. It’s her, all right.”

They don’t hear me. I scream anyway. “It can’t end like this. My family, my friends, they need to know I’m okay. Tell them I’m okay.” The light flickers again. A chill enters the room.

“At least this kid put up a fight.” The detective remarks as they drape a sheet over my corpse.

The lights go out.


Hey Writer Bees! This week, I’m playing around with the horror genre. A genre I don’t have much experience writing in. But I do love a good challenge and a good ghost story. Let me know what you think of this short story in the comments. As always, I love to hear from you guys.

Stay safe and stay creative. (And watch out for vampires!)

Write with heart,

Lady Jabberwocky

5 Subgenres of Horror Fiction Explained

Hello Writer Bugs!

Since we are officially in spooky season, I wanted to dedicate a couple posts this month to horror writing. Horror fiction is intended to frighten the audience senseless. A lot of people love a good scare. As a genre, horror can come in a variety of shades of darkness. Today, I’m breaking down the most notable subgenres of horror fiction.


Gothic

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The gothic horror subgenre is a healthy mix of horror, mystery, death and a little romance. And some would say it’s the true beginning of horror fiction and the jumping off point for other horror subgenres that developed over time. The macabre takes takes center stage in this type of story. Setting plays a key role in gothic horror. The atmosphere must be dark and moody, usually taking place in a castle, religious abbey or haunting estate. The theme of death and love are prevalent in the plot. It’s a dreary, decaying world full of ominous omens and unexplainable events.

Example: The Strange Case of Dr.Jekyll and Mr.Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Monster

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Let’s do the monster mash. A true classic in horror genre. Typically, the plot centers around a character(s) encountering a creature. Creatures of the night are either the result of scientific experiments, born from fantastical means, or simply urban legends come alive. Iconic monsters including – but not limited to – werewolves, vampires, mummies, zombies etc. An argument could be made the even gigantic monsters like Godzilla would be included in this horror subgenre. Sometimes in the narrative, there are underlying themes of duality, an internal conflict between good and evil. It’s an interesting battle to explore within characters. Is the monster really a monster at all?

Example: Dracula by Bram Stoker

Paranormal

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In the paranormal subgenre, it’s all about the fear of the unknown. Evil spirits, wicked witches and demonic entities wreck havoc and chaos in the lives of mere mortals. Ghosts, demons and haunted houses tend to fall under this category. Exorcisms – whether the holy kind or the high-tech ghostbuster kind – occur in paranormal horror. Similar to the Monster horror subgenre, antagonists can have supernatural abilities and there’s usually a struggle between good and evil. However, paranormal creatures are derived from mythical, other-worldly origins. And let’s be honest, the things that go bump in the night are often what scares us the most.

Example: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Killer

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A killer is on the loose! For this horror subgenre, the story focuses on a central killer. The main antagonist can be a supernatural entity or a natural born psycho. Whatever their reason, the killer’s sole mission is to annihilate anyone and everyone they deem a target. With elements of a thriller and/or crime plotline blended in, building suspense is crucial in this kind of story. You want the reader to feel like the killer is breathing down their necks and lurking around every corner. Will the killer be brought to justice in the end? That’s entirely up to the writer. In horror, no one is promised a happy ending.

Example: American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

Psychological

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Send readers into a living nightmare. Throw rationality out the door and turn the mundane into something terrifying. Characters in psychological horror have either fallen into madness or are trapped in extraordinary situations. Surreal imagery or bizarre visions experienced by the protagonist only add to the insanity. For this horror subgenre, the narrative would benefit from a tight viewpoint, not a multi-narrator piece. A single character’s internal conflict can be just as compelling than an external conflict, if written well. Phobias, paranoia and one’s deepest fears are explored in this type of plot. In psychological horror, there’s not overarching monster or antagonist, the real monster is the human mind itself.

Example: The Shining by Stephen King


Personally, I’m not a fan of excessive gore. However, as a mystery writer, I sometimes must describe a corpse or a crime scene, for the sake of the fictional investigation. A little bit of horror can go a long way in any genre.

What’s your favorite subgenre of horror fiction? And if you are a horror writer yourself, how would you categorize your story? Talk to me in the comments. As always, I love hearing from you.

Stay safe and stay creative.

Write with Heart,

Lady Jabberwocky

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The Hallotober Tag

Hello Writer Bugs,

Couple weeks ago, I was tagged by Literary Liza to do the Hallotober Tag. And since I’ve been busy getting into the Halloween spirit, I thought a festive tag would be the perfect way to start October. Thank you very much for tagging me, Liza! Peeps, head over to her super cute blog and give her some love.

Here are the rules!

  • Thank the person who tagged you and link to their post 
  • Put the rules at the beginning or after introduction
  • Answer the 13 questions 
  • Tag 13 people to do the tag 
  • Delete Question 13, add a new number one question of your own
  • You are free to use the tag image somewhere in the post

What’s your favorite spooky book?

As a kid, I grew up reading the Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine. Those to me are the quintessential spooky stories. Never been to camp, but I’d imagine those are the kind of stories told at night around a campfire. As an adult, classic Edgar Allen Poe is my jam. Tell-Tale Heart is awesome. That’s the brand of spookiness I like. Those extraordinary situations that give me goosebumps on the back of my neck.

What’s your favorite thing about October?

Sweater weather, for sure. I love dressing in multiple cozy layers. Scarves on top of hoodies on top of flannel shirts on top of frumpy sweaters. We’ve had a hot summer, I’m ready for a chilly autumn full of crunchy leaves. There’s something satisfying about the sound of crunching leaves to my ears. Also, I’m looking forward to the fall foliage in New York. It’s absolutely gorgeous. Those beautiful warm golden colors. My boyfriend and I already planned a weekend trip upstate for mid-October, just to take a break from life and enjoy the season together.

 Are you a big celebrator of Halloween?

Autumn activities, like visiting a pumpkin patch or a haunted house, are always a blast. Fall fairs and festivals are wonderful too. Other than that, I don’t usually have a big celebration for Halloween. Usually, I stay home and watch a movie. If I feel like spoiling myself, maybe eat some sweets. Maybe send some sweets for my nieces and nephew. That’s about it.

What’s your favorite horror movie?

Does Hocus Pocus and Nightmare Before Christmas count? I hope so. Gorey, jump-scare type movies aren’t my thing. I prefer fun spooky movies over blood-and-guts horror movies. Give me Scooby Doo on Zombie Island any day. Give me Alvin and the chipmunks meet the Wolfman. Give me Linus waiting in the pumpkin patch in Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Wholesome Halloween nostalgia over horror.

Would you rather a cozy night in watching horrors or a big night out in a costume?

I’d choose a cozy night in. Sweatpants and fuzzy socks included. Cuddles included. Preferably with salty snacks and popcorn too. Props to you guys who have big nights out. I’m too introverted for that sort of thing.

Which has been your most favorite costume to date?

When I was about five years old, I dressed as a purple octopus. Really explains a lot about myself as a person today.

Bobbing for apples or pin the hat on the witch?

Haven’t played either game, but if I had to pick, pin the hat on the witch.

How do you celebrate Halloween?

Usually, I stay home, with no plans. However, this year will be different. My boyfriend and I were invited to a costume party with some old college friends of ours. This is probably our first Halloween party as adults. Currently, we are searching for dorky costumes to wear. If you have any ideas for couples’ costumes, please let me know in the comments. We haven’t quite found the perfect outfits yet. 

What’s your least favorite horror?

The Ring. But let me explain. When I was little, I had that stereotypical teenager babysitter who watched R-rated movies. That scene where the girl is pushed down the well scared me for life. It was one of those moments when you are too terrified to look away. Yeah, I still cannot handle that movie.

Do you have a favorite trick or treating memory?

Growing up, I was the only girl in a friend group of boys. For the 90’s kids out there, I was always the Reggie Rocket of the gang. That being said, I have fond memories of trick-or-treating with the boys on a chilly night . My younger brother dressed like Yu-GI-Oh. The other kids dressed as ninjas and pirates. And me, in an orange tutu and butterfly wings. Then, at the end of the night, we sat around a pile of candy and traded pieces. “I’ll give you two Kit-Kats for a tootsie-pop.” “Deal!” Those were the days, huh?

What’s your favorite thing about Halloween?

The spooky vibes. The decorations. People in costumes. Pets in costumes.

Scary costume or silly costume?

Silly. I don’t do scary costumes. And I don’t do sexy costumes either, for that matter. Is it wrong to just like cute, comfortable costumes? Or better yet, regular clothes that look like a character’s outfit from a cartoon or T.V. show?

What’s your favorite Halloween candy?

Gummy bears or gummy lifesavers are my favorite. Gummy anything really. I’m allergic to dairy, so I had to steer clear from most chocolate candies. Although I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, honorable mentions for favorite candy would be Jolly Ranchers and Starbursts. 


My Questions

  1. What’s your favorite spooky book?
  2. What’s your favorite thing about October?
  3.  Are you a big celebrator of Halloween?
  4. What’s your favorite horror movie?
  5. Would you rather a cozy night in watching horrors or a big night out in a costume?
  6. Which has been your most favorite costume to date?
  7. Bobbing for apples or pin the hat on the witch?
  8. How do you celebrate Halloween?
  9. What’s your least favorite horror?
  10. Do you have a favorite trick or treating memory?
  11. What’s your favorite thing about Halloween?
  12. Scary costume or silly costume?
  13. Have you every had a ghostly encounter?

I tag my blogger buddy and poet extraordinaire Jai Lynn to do this tag. And anyone else who wants to participate in this tag. Have fun!

Stay safe and stay creative!

— Lady Jabberwocky

(As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)

The Ultimate NaNoWriMo Survival Guide

(With Preptober and Nation Novel Writing Month right around the corner, I’m reposting these tips to help you survive this crazy writing challenge. Stay safe and stay creative, writer bugs! – Victoria aka Lady Jabberwocky)

Hello Writer Bees,

Signing up for NaNoWriMo this year? You’re going to need all the help you can get.

This guide will help you survive National Novel Writing Month.

Find the Time 

To reach 50,000 words goal, you’ll need to write about 1,667 words a day. Come up with a plan, find the best time for you to write.  Make that time commitment. Schedule what part of your novel you will work on each day. Decide whether you are a day or night writer. Create a routine and stick to it as best you can. And don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day, it’ll happen to everyone.

Set Up Your Writing Space

Establish your writing space. A place to be organized and creative. A place where you can focus and write and hopefully not be disturbed. Dedicate a work area, with all your research and inspiration materials nearby. Make sure you have all your needed resources close at hand. Whether it’s at home, at the public library, or at the local coffee shop, find your cozy corner of the world.

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Keep Resources Close

This coincides with creating a great work space. Notes, historical sources, journals, character profiles, outlines. Everything.  Keep all research material organized and in reach, in case you need a reference.  Use time in October to gather information and prepare for the writing ahead. Because I’m writing a story set in a specific time period (1920s), I have bookmarked a couple of historical resources, just in case. I also have a book of photos of Brooklyn in the 1920s that I like to glance through for inspiration.

Writers Require Nourishment

Be prepared with all the snacks and beverages you’ll need to get through a month of writing. I’m talking leftover Halloween candy. I’m talking caffeine, and lots of it. I’m talking the comfort food that makes your heart happy. Also, I’ve heard some even meal prep ahead of time. IF you have time, consider prepping meals in advance and leaving them in the freezer. Look, some would suggest eating healthy, and while that is true, sometimes, you need a bag of salty potato chips. And no one will judge you for devouring the entire bag.

Goals and Rewards

Set smaller goals for yourself. 10k, 20k, 30k, etc. And when you reach them, reward yourself. Whether its with your favorite movie or favorite meal, celebrate those little milestones. During National Novel Writing Month, every word counts. So, treat yourself and do something special for you once you reach a certain word count. Whatever makes you happy and relaxed, do that. This will keep you motivated and encourage you to keep going.

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Outline

Whether you are a planner or a pantser, have a general idea for a story. Develop your characters. Establish some kind of plot line, even if its a vague idea. Note the key scenes of the plot. It’s important to have an outline. And remember, use the method that feels right to you. Every writer has their own way of planning a story. Do what works for you.

Have a Support System

We all need someone in our corner, supporting us. Find some writing buddies. Consider attending write-ins and writing events. Find the people in your life you trust, who you can talk openly to. A significant other, a friend, a teacher, a classmate. Have someone to express your worry or doubt or just iron out ideas with. Someone to cheer you on through the absolutely ridiculous journey that is NaNoWriMo.

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Surround yourself with other writers. And hey, feel free to add me as a writing buddy on the NaNoWriMo website. My username is LadyJabberwocky.


What’s a necessity in your NaNoWriMo survival kit? Let me know in the comments!

Write with Heart,

Lady Jabberwocky

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(As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)