Writing top tips: Spooky stories
21 September 2009Add to My Folder
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Excite children about writing their own spooky stories by sharing author, Lazlo Strangolov’s top tips
Feather and Bone
Visit our ‘Giveaways; section for a chance to win a copy of Feather and Bone by Lazlo Strangolov (Walker, £6.99 HB) — that is set in a cold, hungry, fearful world of dark woods and dark doings centred around an abandoned industrial poultry farm.
Plus, read author of the Pongwiffy series, Kaye Umansky’s review of Feather and Bone and some other great spooky books.
Welcome, my followers, to Lazlo Strangolov’s underground guide to conjuring tales guaranteed to give your readers the creeps. Follow my steps very carefully, and you can be responsible for your friends, family and even your teachers losing sleep at night.
1. Create a world
Yours is not an everyday tale, and the setting should reflect this. It can be a recognisable place, but if there’s something not quite right about it then your readers are likely to feel unsettled. This is a good thing. It means they’re immersed in the story. There’s no need to go into huge detail about why your world is weird. Just present it as it is, and let the reader fill in the gaps.
2. Conjure up a sense of menace
If your story is to possess a truly spooky quality, you need to stir up a sense of unease from the start. There’s no need to throw in a monster or two. You simply need to hint at their existence. Sometimes it’s best to leave your characters in the dark about the fact that their safety is in peril. They could be sleeping soundly, but if the reader knows that outside there is movement in the shadows their skin can only crawl …
3. Care for your characters – even the bad guys
Pity the poor cast in your story! You’ve brought them into this world simply to hound and harass them from start to finish! You want the reader to identify with these people when things go bump in the night. This way, everyone jumps out of their skins! Just make sure your villains aren’t pure evil. Show them to be human, doing the wrong things for what they believe to be the right reasons. It makes things so much more believable, and all the more unnerving.
4. The less said, the better
We’re writing spooky stories, right? There’s no need to go into gory details. Leave that to the horror writers. In fact, you’ll find that by keeping all the nasty business off the page, and simply hinting at a hideous turn of events, the reader will be forced to use their imagination. In many ways, what they cook up in their minds will be far creepier than any written word, so be sparing with the detail.
5. Keep the reader on the edge of their seat
A spooky story doesn’t just have to get under the skin of the reader. It needs to get into their bones. You don’t want them to walk away from the tale, so write it like a thriller! Make sure that every sentence compels them to read on. Go for short, punchy chapters and always end them on a cliffhanger!
6. Atmosphere is everything
Write to the best of your abilities, and you should see a thick mist begin to curl and twist through your story. Not literally, of course, but if you’ve laid the foundation for unseen dangers it’ll creep out in the mind’s eye of the reader.
7. Reasons to be spooky
Ultimately, if your reader reaches the end of your yarn feeling frazzled, wrung out and slightly disturbed, you can feel proud of yourself! The art of telling spooky stories goes back through history. Spinning fairytales about wolves in the forest might scare the little children, but it also serves to remind them that they’re safe and sound inside their homes. So good luck, my friends, and be sure to lock the door before you sit down to write. Concentration is critical, and you don’t want to be distracted by having to glance over your shoulder all the time.