Writers: Can You Make Fear Work For You?

We all know, the greater the emotion, the more we feel alive. It may start deep down, but as the emotion builds, it’s near impossible to ignore. I chose the emotion fear because it’s the easiest to relate to. Everyone has been afraid at least once.

Why drag you down this rabbit hole?rabbit-1

The writer’s job is to tell a story and to evoke emotion. If done just right, the story becomes larger than life and the reader has a great experience. Amazingly enough, some readers, me, want to be frightened. Even if it’s from the safety of their bed. They read horrors and hear every bump in the night. hehehe

Using fear, let’s open a window

Think back to the worst thing that ever happened to you. Imagine it and let that moment become intense. If you’re having trouble, try one of these examples:

  • you’re in a dark room and something uninvited is there with you
  • you wake up trapped in a coffin
  • alone in the wilderness and you’re being stalked by a hungry animal
  • you realize you’ve infected your family with a deadly disease
  • your doctor tells you, you’re going insane

After a moment or two, offer yourself a possible escape. Hold on to those feelings and align them with what your character faces when their story begins and their stakes if they fail.

Stakes and Suspense

Anyone can build suspends as long as they understand where the fear-1940184_1280character’s fear originates and then let it increase a degree at a time.Β  The more they hope for success; the more they may lose. If they have a natural deadline, the more they’ll push. The more they push; the more likely they’ll make a mistake and lose ground, increasing the stakes.

Do you have other techniques to enhance emotion and raise the stakes?


22 responses to “Writers: Can You Make Fear Work For You?

  1. I love when I’m reading a book, and my heart starts to pound because I’m anxious/worried/afraid for the protagonist and for what’s about to happen. I aim to do that for my readers!

  2. My favorite emotion in a book is fear. I love suspense and worrying about the characters, wondering…needing to read on.
    sherry @ fundinmental My TT

  3. Great insight Anna! I do love a good story that will strike a little fear into you, whether that be from a ghost tale or just something chilling that you can picture happening.

  4. Great post Anna. I agree, understanding the emotion is the best place to start. I also think sentence craft helps by varying sentences with short phrases to indicate the distress. πŸ™‚

  5. My family laughs at me when a scary scene is on the tv. I hide my eyes but can look through my fingers so I don t miss the whole scene. I can t not watch it. Probably cause I Want to experience the fear/emotion. You make a good point.

  6. Great post. Learning to make fear work for you makes fear a positive power.
    Juneta @ Writer’s Gambit

  7. I love the slow build of suspense, or mounting fear especially when the author makes it feel realistic.

  8. Really thought-provoking post, Anna. It’s so important to ratchet up the emotional tension in a story. I think in some ways, I’m still figuring that part out.

  9. Great tips in your post and the comments. It makes me realize how much I have to learn about creating tension that puts the reader on the edge of his/her seat.

  10. I love to work my characters’ and readers’ fears into my stories when possible.

  11. Fantastic post! I use fear all the time to up the tension. Even the littlest fears can be magnified.

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