How to Write a Truly Scary Story

28 02 2015

2014-artwork-monster-fiction-writing-sketch“But what is it we are afraid of?” wrote Virginia Woolf in 1918. “We are not afraid of ruins, or moonlight, or ghosts.” Woolf was charting a sea-change in the nature of the supernatural tale, but she might as well have been asking future readers “Who will you be, and what will frighten you?”

In Woolf’s time, the gothic effects of Mrs. Radcliffe no longer frightened readers. For Woolf it was the close-to-home possession of two young children in Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw. Do the phantoms exist only in the mind of the untested twenty-year-old charged with protecting them? We never know. But the governess experiences something far more frightening than a ghost: Woolf calls it “the sudden extension of her own field of perception.”

The sudden extension of her own field of perception.

Strange. Terrifying. Something we are likely to experience in our world too. A sudden glimpse of a terrain beyond our perceived limits, and nothing is ever the same again. Isn’t this exactly what happens when a reader encounters a truly disquieting short story? You feel as if a trap-door has opened and you’ve fallen through. Everyone and everything — out there in the world — looks slightly different. The line between private and public starts to blur.

Read further @ Huffingtonpost

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