I was writing a story the other day and realised that I needed to put a huge amount of emotion in. I needed to build tension and make the reader feel my characters fear…
But how do you write fear?
There are the physical manifestations – sweaty palms, wide eyes, racing heart – but there are also the mental issues – the rambling, brain freeze and random thoughts. On top of that you also have to give a plausible back story… Why is the character afraid? Is it a plausible fear or an irrational one?
So I built tension in the story. I shortened sentences and used imagery to make the ‘fear’ stand out, but do the reader feel fear or do they feel the characters fear?
It is difficult to know. And who can tell which reader will feel fear and which will just empathise with the character? So I thought I’d let you decide…
This is a section from a ghost story I am working on:
…I stepped back into the light of the lamp-post, looking up to make sure I was directly under it.
For a moment the light blinded me and, as I began to see again, what I could see was strangely green and faded, like an old photograph. As before the squeaks sounded at regular intervals. They didn’t speed up or slow down, they were constant and slow. It really did sound like a record, something going around and around. Then I realised what I could hear was a wheel, a squeaky wheel. As if in answer to my revelation the squeaks began to get louder. I squinted my hazy vision toward the marsh but I couldn’t see anyone. Still, they were getting closer. I could hear them, but saw no one. I moved closer to the lamp-post, in fact I put my arms around the rough concrete, giving it a bear hug, as if the large oblivious pole would somehow protect me, its light not only physical but also spiritual.
The noise told me that the person, the thing, was almost here. I closed my eyes but that was worse. At least with them open I could see no one, with them closed my imagination filled in the blanks. The squeaks were next to me, only a few feet away. Involuntarily my eyes sprang open and I looked and saw someone. Where before there was no one, there was now a man in tweed. He was sitting rigidly upright on an old-fashioned bicycle, wearing a flat cap and jacket. Although I couldn’t see I knew that his jacket hid a waistcoat to match the tweed. I knew because I recognised him.
“Mr Lewis?” I asked in a small voice. In answer the man turned and looked at me. I wished he hadn’t. His eyes were gone. Instead, they were black nothings. As I looked into them I felt so very sad that all that kept me from falling was my concrete partner. Mr Lewis smiled and I felt my heart-break. I couldn’t look away. Then he turned back to the road, his legs turning so slowly that I didn’t know how he stayed upright…
This blog post is based on the Daily Prompt – Fear Factor.