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Short Thoughts on Creating Universal Fear


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Short Thoughts on Creating Universal Fear

By

Michaelbrent Collings


Unlocking fear is a personal thing - both for the reader and the writer. A few things to remember:

Fear isn't felt when you TELL how scary something is for your characters. It's only felt when your characters ACT scared in situations that are SHOWN to be scary.

The real goal isn't to make your characters feel fear, it's to make your AUDIENCE afraid. And the way you do them is to make them understand the character's terror - or better yet, by creating situations that are universally terrifying.

Example: you create sympathy for a character and who may now lose another... scary for the character, and possibly makes the reader's pulse race. But that's not really terror, that's SUSPENSE.

Now, make that same scene happen in the middle of a dark penitentiary for the criminally insane, with both a madman who loves killing children and a monster on the loose (this is, FYI, a huge part of the plot of my book THE LOON), and now you have TERROR. Because there's a chance of real loss in a situation that would terrify ANYONE.

Create situations that are universally understood, and universally terrifying. And to do that, a good place to start is: "What terrifies ME?" Because if you wouldn't crap your pants in the situation you put your characters in, you can't expect your audience to worry much, either.

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Michaelbrent Collings is an internationally bestselling novelist and screenwriter. You can find him on Facebook at facebook.com/MichaelbrentCollings, on Twitter @mbcollings, or you can sign up for his mailing list here.