Secrets to Write Scary Stories Based on Neuroscience
Secrets to Write Scary Stories Based on Neuroscience
People love scary things, from spooky campfire stories to true-crime TV shows and to extreme sports. As long as we have some control over a threat, we can enjoy it. This is just a weird feature of human psychology.
Although many people love to be scared, it doesn’t mean that writing scary stories is easy. Horror novels have a lot in common with other types of fiction. Different kinds of fiction stories often revolve around heroes who face threats or difficulties. Many stories are about people in dangerous situations.
At the same time, horror stories are different from other types of fiction because heroes face threats that seem impossible to overcome. Many horror stories have supernatural or superhuman elements. In scary stories, threats and danger are not just a background for other things but the main elements that make these stories interesting for readers.
Many horror writers often get stuck staring at a blank page and having no idea of what could make their story special. The truth is that all famous writers, including Shirley Jackson, Stephen King, and R.L. Stine faced the same problems and had the same questions when they were writing their very first stories.
Therefore, a great solution is to check tips from the masters of the genre. In this article, we won’t focus on the technicalities of horror writing but we will take a look at the features of human neurophysiology and psychology that you can use to make your stories especially memorable and scary.
People Like to Be Scared
Fear is an extremely strong feeling, and like any other strong feeling, it can be addictive. According to Irvin Biederman from the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Science, the main reason why people like to be scared is that when we’re scared, it’s always an unusual experience, and people like everything that makes their everyday lives more interesting.
When you get scared but everything turns out to be alright, your body releases dopamine and endorphins which activate the reward centers in your brain. Tok Thompson, a professor of anthropology and communication, notes that we start to enjoy fear in our late teens. Some scary stories or experiences may be quite enjoyable for teens yet too scary for kids who will only notice the scary element without actually enjoying a story.
The reason is that people start to enjoy fear at the same time when they develop their system of beliefs and become independent. “People like to test their limits and they want to know what scares them,” notes Sara Curtis from a writing services review platform Online Writers Rating. Therefore, if you really want to scare your readers, a great solution is to present them with a unique threat they’ve never thought of.
Unseen Threats Are Especially Scary
72% of people watch horror movies at least twice a year, and the most common reason is that they are looking for excitement. Most people say that horror stories that are based on real events and focus on psychology are especially scary, and the scariest stories are about things people have never seen before. However, you can also scare your readers by not telling them what’s going on.
When we feel that something’s not right but cannot explain it, we get scared, and you can use this feature of our psychology. “Fear of the unknown is a reason why people experience panic attacks and anxiety so there’s no surprise that it’s one of the favorite tools of horror writers,” says Kian Barr from a custom writing review website Best Writers Online.
Some Things Have Always Scared People
Although unique threats that people never heard of scare them most, there are also many things that have scared people for hundreds of years. “Most of the things we see in horror novels and movies have been present in myths and legends for centuries and became integral parts of different cultures,” notes Darcy Paul from a writing services review website Writing Judge.
For example, stories about ghosts have been popular in the U.S. from the moment this country was founded. One of the main reasons is that densely populated American cities stay on the burial grounds of thousands of Native Americans. We know what terrible things our ancestors did so fear and guilt eventually become a part of our culture.
Many monsters have existed in people’s imagination for thousands of years. For instance, stories about zombies first appeared in West African folklore, and today, zombies are one of the most popular horror topics around the world. Vampires originated in Eastern European folklore hundreds of years ago, and yet they are still relevant. Therefore, there’s nothing wrong with using proven approaches, you may just consider them from an original perspective.
Final Thoughts: The Main Secret
People love to be scared because this is the way our brains are wired. Whether it be monsters from old legends or just a feeling of suspense and the fear of the unknown, fear can be quite exciting. The main thing is to make your story not only fantastic but also as realistic as possible. Your readers should relate to your characters and care about them. Make sure that your characters have some depth so that your readers will root for them and get genuinely scared when your characters face danger.
Frank Hamilton is a blogger and translator from Manchester. He is a professional writing expert in such topics as blogging, digital marketing and self-education. He also loves traveling and speaks Spanish, French, German and English.
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The Horror Tree is a resource for horror authors which was created in 2011. The main goal when starting the site was to include all of the latest horror anthologies and publishers that are taking paying submissions. A resource useful for both new and experienced publishers alike looking for an outlet for their written material!