Scream Horror Magazine

What is Your Fear? 4 Best Techniques Used in Horror Literature

Posted on: November 17th, 2021

Fear is one of the most ancient feelings known to a man. Fear made us cautious about long shadows during dismal nights. Fear makes people move forward and develop their civilization, to banish long shadows from their reality.

Fear is a powerful tool of storytelling that traverses through different media. Movies, video games, and books may tell a chilling horror story. You may struggle with a creative essay and seek help with “writing my papers with PaperWriter,” or you may want to create something thrilling and exciting. Techniques of horror storytelling may serve as a solid background for it.

In this article, we will discuss the most renowned approaches to horror in literature. There would be examples of their application and useful tips on how to implement the techniques. However, these techniques would not improve your creative writing immediately. You need to put time and effort into your writing practice to achieve results. Use these tips as a background and guiding points.

Fear of the Unknown 
One of the most common horror techniques is the fear of the unknown. People fear the uncertainty of their future and cannot be ready for them. This instinct may take many shapes and many forms.

One of the most profound examples of the fear of the unknown is the novels of H.P. Lovecraft. The writer made the embodiment of the unknown elusive and everpresent. “Shadow over Danvich” and “Call of Cthulhu” are the best examples of an ever-present, invisible threat.

The unknown may take not only forms of a god-like deity. The unknown may be natural too. The key is to be creative with it. For example, Storm of the Century by Stephen King. The presence of upcoming dread creates tense suspense and pressure.

To create the feeling of the unknown, you may give a reader hints indirectly. Something is happening around the characters but not with them. It may serve as a great build-up before the relevance of a major threat.

It is important not to make a threat too elusive. If the build-up is too extended, a reader may get tired, and the effect would not be as grandiose as you expect.

Questioning of Reality 
Inability to distinguish objective reality from an illusion is another ever-present fear. It is especially relevant for the modern days. The more mental disciplines and science fields develop, the more people realize how fragile their sanity is.

This part of everyday life can become fine source material for writing a horror story. One of the brightest examples is “Shutter Island” by Dennis Lehane. After finishing the book, a reader would want to start it again. There is a desire to find all the clues leading to the main character’s story unraveling.

Another good example is “Before I go to sleep” by J.S. Watson. In this novel, the protagonist has to question the reality around here every day. At the same time, she tries to uncover the truth.

To make the characters of your novel question their sanity, you need to provide them with a half-truth. Though on the surface, everything should look normal, there should be a few unresolved questions as well. This trope can work with detective and thriller cliches as well. It can enhance the feeling of losing control over a person’s mind.

Fear of Social Isolation\Existential Fear 
This type of fear is more subtle and harder to express. However, if you manage to pull it out, you may deliver one of the best experiences in the literature media. People are societal beings. We need someone to rely on and be a part of a group.

Exile from all social circles may impact a character terribly, and his torment is a great horror instrument. A classic example of existential fear is “Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus” by Mary Shelley. In this novel, an artificial creature is exiled from the onset and does not belong anywhere. As a result, it produces a chain of tragic events.

Another classic example is “Dracula” by Bram Stoker. Despite having supernatural abilities, Dracula suffers from the inability to belong to someone.

Supernatural creatures are a good tool for expressing existential fear and isolation. Naturally, it can be applied to humans as well. However, if you want to create a story about the burden of exile or the inability to create a meaningful connection, supernatural images will enhance your idea.

Phobias and Suspense 
This type of horror uses a more straightforward approach to scare a reader. The most well-known novels about phobias belong to Edgar Allan Poe. The novels like:
* The Casque of Amontillado
* The Masque of the Red Death
* The Pit and the Pendulum.

These stories feature different characters and circumstances. At the same time, they utilize one common technique – the sheer fear for one’s life. The feeling of impending doom evokes horror both in the characters and in readers.

You may also search for literature dedicated to certain phobias and their application in the lives of the characters. For example, “The Hellbound Heart” by Clive Barker or “The Haunting of Hill House” by Shirley Jackson. Novels of such a type explore different phobias under unexpected angles. They may serve as good source material.

Despite the visual simplicity, it is difficult to execute fear of phobias efficiently. Try to use as few words as possible. The threat should be defined from the beginning, but its approach should be unexpected. It may take some time and practice to reflect the fear of phobias perfectly. However, the result will be worth it.

Final Words 
This classification does not stop here. There are more horror techniques and their combinations to make your prose truly unique. Nevertheless, these points may serve as a perfect starting point to develop your style.

Make sure to familiarize yourself with different kinds of horror and take notes on authors’ techniques. Analysis of literature is as important as its writing. Be sure to practice a lot. Techniques, as they are, would not make your novel better. Their constant application and training will.

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