M.A. Wohl

Writer on a Quest

writing fear can be very hard, but looking at how some authors do it, a writer is almost inclined to think it's easy, which would be a disastrous misconception

While binge-reading a bunch of novels last week-end, I find out that:

  • I use the same term used in a super-famous bestseller to describe a similar character gift and therefore, have to come up with something new
  • I have trouble writing fear convincingly
  • The way I describe light is pretty boring

Sooo, I’m thinking I’ve got some work to do!

Let’s start with fear.

In my creative writing class in university (you say college in the US), the teacher use to say writers were the great thieves.

They would steal the sound of a laughter, the shape of a nose, the colors of a pair of eyes.
I do steal those kinds of things. But stealing the way a writer writes fear… well, it’s something else

One writing skill, I guess, I’ve been working on improving lately is describing fear.
It is not so much in the choice of words to describe the experience of fear by the character, but more so the way to create the right atmosphere to terrify the reader.

Many authors do this very well, Stephen King, David Sénéchal and cie of course. But I’m thinking, authors of MG and YA and Adult fiction and yes, genre fiction, but not horror or gore thriller. In my humble opinion, some authors of MG and YA are simply master at creating the atmosphere, describing fear oh so acutely.

Like…

Luis Carlos Zafon is particularly good at both inspiring and describing fear. He is the master of creating atmospheres, without making a big fuss, or exaggerating. In the original language, it probably reads even better. It is captivating to read Zafon period. He is able to reveal the beauty in the most mundane or glorious moments. But when it’s time to make that weird statue in the garden move ever so slightly, oh dear, oh dear, the only thing left to do is yelled « run » to the main character who just keeps looking. Why don’t you run already, you fool?!?!!!

Or

Neil Gaiman has several amazing but-how, but-why, but-how can it be so, but-how qualities. Still, in my mind, fear is one of his strengths. Reading « Coraline », even in the middle of the day still put me in such a state, I yield when my roommate cat’s strolled by. Those buttons eyes, and the feeling of it all. It’s the first and only time I physically shivered just because I was reading a book.

How to get better at writing fear?

The work I intend to do to get better with writing fear is fairly simple: read and re-read, take notes (not copy-paste sentences I like, no-no) and do some writing exercises.

It’s fun to do, plus it gets me out of my writing project comfort zone, forcing me to write in a different voice, tense, angle.

Sometimes, I do miss those creative writing classes. It was fun. The classroom smelled like tea, sometimes like rain. It would took place at night, during fall and winter, and I would run to the bus or the car, tired and cold. But happy.
Always happy, somehow.

Fellow writers, thanks for reading !

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