The Horror Launchpad for Captive Writing
Today is a guest post day! Here's an article by my buddy Leo, who is an amazing writer that you should absolutely check out. Enjoy!
As an indie author with a few successful stories in the Amazon store, it's common to see requests from aspiring writers on how to start. Their questions are often follow similar themes:
What makes a story sticky, so that people come back for more? What do readers look for in a story? How do you capture the attention of fans?
My answer is simple: Evoke emotion.
When writing for others, it is crucial to direct their feelings- even the most fantastic plots, with the most imaginative scenery, and the most captivating twists will fall flat without eliciting an emotional response from a reader. This is what writers need to practice and perfect to hook audiences that will return to read more of their work. It's what makes them memorable, what gives their stories flair. And if it can be done without the reader being consciously aware of the misdirection, pulling at emotions becomes much more powerful.
And for new writers, there is an entire genre around a single emotion that is easily measured and is far more powerful when it arrives with surprise.
Horror, where the writer instills fear.
When I started writing, I used Horror as a playground for my writing because it was a self contained experiment. I learned the ways to tell a story through trial and error, finding out how much more effective showing was than telling, and discovering the impact of making readers work to understand the piece to build engagement. Each story should be used as a letter to the individual reader with the purpose of generating fear, where every aspect of the story supports that initiative.
In short story horror, fear is an isolated emotion, and it is essential to lead the audience in a way that it strikes them. If you tell an audience that they should be scared, their fist reaction is a resistance. Why should they feel fear, what authority do you have to direct them? Rather, they must make the decision on their own based upon the details provided, where their only logical conclusion is the intended result. Constrain their thoughts through a path of words, but let them walk along the road created, such that they are included and engaged in the result. If you are writing it correctly, you too should experience the intended emotion- a Horror story should give you the creeps as ink meets paper, and potentially leave you unsettled for hours after its creation.
So too should this apply to other emotions, and when expanding out to other genres those same lessons remain.
To answer the questions of aspiring writers, my advice is this: Spend some time in Horror. Learn what works and what doesn't work for captivating an audience through their emotions. Then take those lessons elsewhere to build your worlds, to affect readers with happiness, excitement, sadness, love, and all other feelings. Fill your pages will chapters that are letters to the reader persuading them that they have a reason to feel.
Write your story with this in mind and you will see success.
Written by Leonard Petracci, a Horror, Science Fiction, and Fantasy Author
Leonard started his writing career by building skills on the Nosleep subreddit through short Horror stories. He considers that subreddit to be a major reason for his success, and looks back fondly upon the time when he released weekly stories. To read them, click here. In addition, an archive of his stories is available on his blog.
Leonard recently released his novel Star Child, an Urban Fantasy tale describing a world where super powers are determined by a person's birth location. The first person has just been born in space, a crime punishable by death, as only the rich and powerful are permitted rare birth sites. But when the main character's mother is abducted by a shadowy organization, he has no choice but to unleash powers never before seen in all of history.