Hi, gang! Craig here again, and it’s about that time. October is my favorite month of the year, and the Halloween vibe is a big part of that. When it comes to stories, there are three genres that seem to get the most attention here:
Let’s tackle them in order. Mystery involves revealing a story that has already happened, e.g. who killed the fashion model? Sure, the timeline will converge, and the main character will face his/her own deadly threat later on. It’s the solving of something unknown that makes it a mystery.
Horror puts the reader into the room when it happens. The reader gets to see, hear, smell, taste, etc all of the terrible things that are happening to the victim.
Suspense involves something that will, or might, happen later on. The reader knows all about it, but the hero has to act to prevent it from happening. Imagine showing the missile launch, and the target city. Then move to the target city and put your reader there. They know and anticipate what is going to happen very soon.
These are nutshell explanations of complex matters. Honestly, the best Halloween type stories use all three of these styles to relate the tale. Think of your monster going off leash and eating co-eds. We don’t have to see the first few, giving it an element of mystery. As we chase clues, we get a refresher course by attending the monster’s next meal, giving it an element of horror. If we don’t act, another co-ed is going to get eaten, giving that element of suspense.
I confess that suspense might be my favorite of the bunch, because it creates a level of tension that works for me. I started off with the idea of writing about suspense techniques, then realized I’d already done that about two years ago. Here is the link to that one.
So what kind of tips can we share today? (Knowing I already made the suspense post.) This is the audience participation part of the post. I’ll share a few opinions, and open the floor to you guys.
Cut down on the gore. Readers get over exposed to it, and it loses its value quickly. I remember a movie promo from the 1970’s that promised to crash over 100 cars. This drew out everyone I knew in the cowboy-centric town I grew up in. Ten minutes into the film we were all looking for the door. Over exposure removed all the value from the crashes. Blood and guts will provide a gut reaction, but overdoing it gets boring. Diamonds are valuable because they are rare.
Make it personal. Those missiles aren’t going to fall on the target city, they’re going to fall on Mom’s house.
Use uncomfortable settings to ramp up the creepiness. Walking across the manicured golf course at night to the crime scene could easily become stumbling through thorny blackberry thickets, deep in the forest, while swatting at swarms of mosquitos.
Handicap your main character. We want him/her to be the underdog in the story. This could be a physical handicap, like putting Jimmy Stewart in a wheelchair in Rear Window. Audry Hepburn portrayed a blind girl in Wait Until Dark. Maybe it’s more of a phobia, a superstition, or internal creed that holds the hero back. Even something as simple as no cellular service in that thorny, mosquito-infested forest can help.
Those are a few that didn’t appear in my older post. Now it’s your turn. What can you add to the list? Do you think a few of these techniques might be useful to you in your own paranormal tales?
Keep in mind that other genres can benefit from these techniques too. Science Fiction is one that regularly uses these techniques.
I mentioned at the beginning that October is my favorite month. Part of this involves my birthday, which is when this will post. I’ll be at a seminar in San Antonio when this goes live. I promise to participate in the comments, but might not be Johnny on the Spot. In the mean time, other Story Empire hosts will be around. They’re nice, talk to them. I’ll be along as soon as I can.
Since we’re deep into the October festivities, I’m going to mention that all of us at Story Empire have some great Halloween oriented books available. You’ll find some with romance elements, some science fiction, urban legends, monsters, and more. They come in all lengths from collections of short stories to series of novels. Since today is my birthday, my wish is that you will check out one of the Story Empire authors for your next Halloween read.
Here are their Amazon Pages, for your shopping convenience, if you’re so inclined: