Scare Me

I’m currently writing a semi-scary short involving ghosts and seances and all around creepiness, and I have more frightful works planned for later this month (stay tuned!).

‘Tis the season, after all.


And it occurs to me, now that I’ve started my ghosty short story, that I know not the first thing about writing horror or ghost stories or scary works generally. I don’t watch many horror films, I’ve read maybe three horror books in my life. I just don’t go there very often.

If I stretch, I can say it’s because horror movies and books upset me more than they do others. I stayed awake nearly all night after watching The Ring. I saw The Shining as a semi-youngster, and it didn’t bother me, but when I saw it again in college, it troubled me so much I turned it off. I still get a little weirded out if I see a random pile of rocks in the woods, and I’d never laugh at a myth of a creepy New England murderer-witch.

It’s definitely something that came with age. I liked being frightened by Scary Stories to Read in the Dark as a kid, but it was fun-fright, not genuine. Eventually, I grew out of those, and as a teenager, I fell asleep in horror movies. Something about the long silences and dark scenes: they just knocked me unconscious. But for some reason I got jumpier as I got older, and I haven’t seen a new horror movie in ages.

I did see The Grudge last year, and it didn’t frighten me.

I have no idea: my fright-factor is completely hit or miss.

And since I have no idea how to frighten myself, I don’t know how to frighten others, either. So tell me: what makes a story or a movie scary to you? What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever read or seen? Do you have any good horror-writing tips?

3 thoughts on “Scare Me

  1. The scariest movie I’ve ever seen was “The Haunting of Hill House” the original 1960’s version. The scariest book was Stephen King’s “The Shining”. I had to have all the lights on in the house while I read that one,

    What both of these had was imminent danger, and the suspense kept building, keeping the horrific just out of view. We’d see the results of what “it” did but not it. That left our imaginations to concoct something even more horrible. Two classic rules of horror: 1) atmosphere is everything 2) What can’t be seen (itself) is the scariest of all.

  2. In my opinion the scariest stories are always the suspensful ones with the darkened rooms and the ‘what if’ factor always gets me – especially if it’s something that could actually happen in ‘real life.’ Not like Final Destination, but rather like Saw (Installment 1, the rest were horrible).

    In order to write a good horror there has to be an element of mystery to it. There are three basic horror mysteries – man vs. man, man vs. monster or man vs. himself. Pick one and you’ll be golden. I normally like doing the man vs. man, because then you can really dive into what humans are capable of doing to one another if given the chance or given the motive.

  3. Ah, I used to try to scare you all the time. Had that one “Chainsaw Story” that was ultimately childish, and not even an application of my true powers.

    That said, the unknown is terror. Seeing something out of the corner of your eye that’s not there when you look again? That’s good stuff. Sounds that come from nowhere, that you’ve never heard in a familiar place? Superb. Voices off the edge of your perception? What! You always wonder if it’s real, or are you going crazy? Was that a hallucination? Oh, that guy’s behind me– there’s nobody there. Figures in a field that shouldn’t be there. I actually always wanted to put up scarecrows on the side of the road on long stretches of highway that you’ll only see at night.

    But that’s my personal scary thing. Horror works in many ways, and for other people. Poe isn’t Lovecraft, but The Masque of the Red Death is as entertaining as the Dunwich Horror. King isn’t Barker, but The Shining can stand up right next to The Damnation Game.

    Movies as well. John Carpenter’s The Thing is pure terror for me (not trusting anyone around you, nobody coming to save you), but it’s a completely different beast than I Spit on Your Grave (Oh god why would you do that!!!). So horror has many faces and many paths to glory. Choose what makes your heart beat faster, makes you irrationally check behind you and look in the backseat of your car in the dark. And have fun.

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