Sunday, 28 October 2012

Special Halloween Guest Post - by Author Stephanie Carroll

              Today I have author Stephanie Carroll posting on my blog. 
She has kindly written a post about putting the 'scary' into your scary stories. I found this a really enjoyable read (as I write dark paranormal romance myself) and it fits nicely seeing as Halloween is coming around the corner.

So everyone give a warm welcome to Stephanie! 


photo credit:
Stephanie Massaro via photopin cc
How to Get the Scary in Your Scary Story 

By Stephanie Carroll 

The Origins of Horror 
Most people probably have the impression that horror is a genre that reflects the extreme side of scary stories, meaning there are other genres, but as I researched this, it turns out that’s not quite the case.

According to the Horror Writer’s Association,any story meant to frighten the reader is considered horror fiction. However, in the 1980s and 1990s the horror genre became stereotyped following formulas debuted by Stephen King. In order to avoid the hype, modern day writers who technically write horror fiction label their works under another genre. For example, by the horror definition, The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold is horror fiction.

The roots of horror fiction come from ancient and folklore tales mostly dealing with religious fears, including death, the afterlife, evil, demons, and the devil. The genre of horror fiction specialized in the 18th century with Gothic Horror and continued in the 19th century with such classics as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818), Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897), Robert Louis Stevenson’s Th Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886), and Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890). Even more interesting, original horror targeted the female audience and usually included a female protagonist. Learn more at the Wikipedia Horror Entry.

photo credit: Bill McIntyre 
The classic ghost stories and other tales of death were refined within the genre of Weird Fiction, which developed in the 19th and 20th centuries and includes authors H.P. Lovecraft, Lord Dunsany, M. R. James, and Clark Ashton Smith. I did a recent post on Weird Fiction on my blog The Unhinged Historian if you’d like to learn more about this genre.

Horror and Weird Fiction are both sub-genres of Speculative Fiction, which includes any fantastical genre like fantasy and sci-fi. 

Scary Techniques
So if all scary stories are either speculative, horror, or weird, what are some of the different techniques for different types of scares?

photo credit
Once again referencing the Horror Writer’s Association, horror involves fear and as society embraces fear those anxieties lessen forcing writers to always be pushing the bounds of fear. Nevertheless, there are still some techniques that we can call upon.

Classic Gothic Horror – look into the classics, such as Bram Stroker’s Dracula and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and reuse the classic techniques. Check out this post by WritingHood for ideas.

Monsters! – Classic and new monster stories are always fun. Usually, when we think of a monster story, we think of the swamp thing or the old werewolf flicks, but modern day monsters are created all the time. Check out these awesome videos for ideas about making up all new creatures and ghoulsThe Stan Winston School of Character Arts.

Suspense – a lot of people confuse suspense and thriller. The difference is that suspense causes a sense of anxiety due to impending danger whereas a thriller causes a sense of a rush due to action. Scary Suspense stories are the ones that have you gripping your seat then flinching when something jumps out causing you to spill your soda on your date. Check out this guest blog post on the Venture Galleries Blog.

Hauntings – If you like the Weird Fiction style, then maybe you’re interested in writing a modern day ghost story. I personally love ghost stories and Weird Fiction because hauntings are great for historical fiction writers. The reason being the best ghosts are from a creepy and disturbed past. Still, haunting stories have been done, done, done, so you need to make sure you are original. This Atomic Soapbox post has some pretty good points on how the ghost story works, and the best way to come up with something original is to understand what others have done and how the genre works.

Gore – it’s what modern day horror is all about, and a lot of people absolutely love it. Horror movies are huge right now, but what a lot of people are beginning to realize is that gore is always more graphic in books. Why? Because you can push farther in the written word. Take Misery by Stephen King – in the move Annie Wilkes crushes Paul Sheldon’s feet with a sledge hammer while he is still conscious, but in the book, she sawed those little footies off! Check out this eHow Article on How To Write Gory Fiction for help.

Tapping into our Darkest Fears – this is the biggie in my book for scary stuff. I still cannot stand to think of certain stories that involved burying people alive, cutting them open while they are awake, and sewing orifices to other orifices. I tried to find a good resource for this technique and couldn’t find one. It’s made me conclude that the best technique is to go for something that is so horrifying, so gruesome, that no one has dared to go there before. Start with your own worst fears and chose the one that you absolutely positively do not want to go with. It takes a certain kind of audience to appreciate this though, and I wouldn’t recommend it unless you are writing for those individuals.

I hope you found these techniques useful, and I wish you horrific luck in scaring the skinny jeans off some unsuspecting readers. Happy Halloween!

Cover by Jenny Q
About the Author

Stephanie Carroll writes dark historical fiction with a touch of magical realism. Her debut novel, A White Room, is coming out in the Summer of 2013. She also writes a blog, The Unhinged Historian, for readers and writers of magical, Gothic-Victorian, and Weird historical fiction. Her website is

Thank you Stephanie and good luck with all your writing and future work!

Happy Halloween everyone!


  1. Great blog! (Thanks for the welcome on Book Blogs) :)

    From the Kozy Korner,
    Kimberly (Follow me? :) )

  2. Thank you so much Sienna for allowing me to do a guest post on your wonderful review blog. I had a lot of fun researching the topic and hope your readers enjoy it too.

    Happy Halloween!

    Stephanie Carroll

  3. Replies
    1. Thanks Malcolm, I appreciate you checking it out. =) Anything from it go to good use?


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