Horror is a wonderful thing. It’s gruesome, unsightly, sickening, scary and sometimes, just deeply disturbing. Yet, we humans crave for the thrill horror provides us. Think of it this way: if you and a group of friends want to get together at someone’s place and watch a movie, which one would it be? Casino Royale, Jurassic World, Notting Hill or Insidious? Chances are it will be the last one. And what’s better than watching horror? Reading it, of course. Now, I am not talking about a horror novel, but about bite sized horror which is what I like to write. And I’m no expert but I’m going to try and jot down a few pointers on how to boo! in a line or two.
Skip the character/surrounding descriptions: For most of us, writing a background of the character or elaborating on the ‘atmosphere’ is vital, right? If it’s a horror story you would like to describe a “hooting owl” or “rustling leaves” or some such elements. Skip it. Maybe not entirely, but don’t go on and on about how the wind made an eerie noise. If your basic story idea is good, you don’t need too much of anything else.
Use more descriptive words: If you’ve to scare your reader in 2-3 lines, it means you have a limited number of words. So you don’t have the liberty of saying things like
“There’s someone behind the door,” she said in hushed tones.
Instead, say: “There’s someone behind the door,” she whispered.
Start normal: Because your horror story is going to be super short, it’s even more difficult to scare. You don’t have lines and lines to build a plot, show the scene, etc. So the trick I generally use is to make sure the first few lines are absolutely normal in that the reader doesn’t even know he’s reading a horror story. Case in point: “He looked at her porcelain body, her eyes were closed but she was smiling, as if dreaming of someplace beautiful. He lovingly stroked her neck and felt her getting goosebumps, just like she did when she was alive.”
Horror ain’t all gory bodies and ghosts: Many a time, we forget that what we can’t see or understand scares us much more. It’s why “a cold hand” will scare us more than “a ghost in a white saree with black eyes and witch-like hands”. Ok so that was exaggerated but you get the point. Showing less will also save you space! Example?
“As night fell, he began brewing the coffee. As long as she was living under his bed, he had to stay awake.”
Scary faces? Nope. Claw-like hands? Nope. Anything? Nope!
P.S: Horror can be psychological too – think Saw, Final Destination, etc.
Think succinct: Stop thinking of a plot. Think moments. What would be a scary thing?
If you were smiling while looking at your mirror – and your reflection didn’t smile back.
If an ME is autopsying, and the body breathes.
If you were living alone, and someone was snoring next to you. (ok, that’s more funny than scary but you get the idea).
The simplest things can be inspirations for wonderful snippets of horror. These are probably things you do every single day. Think out of the box, way out.
P.S: I am just an amateur writer and by no means should these pointers be taken as gospel truths. Everyone has their own style of writing and there’s no good or bad – just different.