Tuesday, April 22, 2014

U is for the Unknown

The unknown is an element in many horror novels. There is nothing more terrifying than the unknown. Anyone who has had a loved one arrive late, have experienced what the mind can do with lack of information. I think most people's imaginations are good at conjuring up the worse case scenario.

Our stress levels are highest when we anticipate the worse. 

If you are struggling writing suspense it is worth while checking out the horror genre. The unknown works well with supernatural elements. But the unknown doesn't have to be used on such a dramatic scale. Think about your first day at school or starting a new job. 

Unknown checklist

Have you let your characters stew and worry?
Remeber it's not what your characters husband is doing it's what your lead character thinks he is doing that causes the suspense.
Is your character behaving in a realistic manner to stress. Think of the cheesy horror movies, would your character really walk into the haunted house for no reason? Or do you need to rewrite to make it more believable?
Think back to stressful periods in your life, exam results, medical tests, how did you deal with it? Did you comfort eat, cry, run or speak to others? Give your character a crutch in early chapters and then take it away.
Lastly, give your work to a beta reader - ask them to write their guesses in the margins - did they get it right?


  1. I like your idea of the beta reader recording his/her guesses. Thanks, Charlotte!


  2. I like the beta reader suggestions too! Hadn't thought of that!

  3. Nice. And my stress levels ramped up at the thought of someone taking my crutch away...

  4. I love your post. The Unknown is always a fascinating.

  5. Some nice ideas there - I shall go back over the rest of the month, now.

  6. These are some great suggestions for creating a realistic unknown.

    One of AJ's AtoZ wHooligans
    Tales of a Pee Dee Mama

  7. I like your idea of asking beta readers to make guesses in the margins. I may start doing that when I read for my mystery writing friends. Thanks.
    Elizabeth Hein

  8. Great tips for thinking through if we got the unknown element correct. I would add the unknown can also be a source of hope, excitement and promise--its not always negative. Think explorers--taking on the unknown in the hopes of finding something wonderful or valuable.

  9. It can be tough to know if the unknown is enough in any story - I rely on that last piece of advice, my betas to tell me if I've got it right, usually getting several views ;)
    Sophie's Thoughts & Fumbles - A to Z Ghosts
    Fantasy Boys XXX - A to Z Drabblerotic

  10. I like the idea of beta readers too. I'm avoiding horror these days. Never understood why so many victims just walk into the haunted house of horrors.

  11. I'm not a horror reader, but I think the unknown is interesting. That's why I love working in research >:)

    Cold As Heaven

  12. Very interesting, Charlotte. It almost makes me wish I wrote fiction instead of non-fiction!

  13. Very interesting tips in your posts (I read through a few). Fiction writing however is so not my strength. I marvel at those who write this genre well. Thank you for dropping by my blog. Glad to know you too.

  14. Oh, good idea about the beta readers making comments!

  15. This was a very interesting post. One thing that could also help a fiction writer is when a fictional event becomes a reality in their own life. Then, it is no longer an unknown and they can better write the fear (or whatever emotion was involved).

    Think back to the Halloween movies (specifically Halloween II) and Michael Myers and how he drained someone of their blood through the IV equipment. Then, imagine you're a 16 year old girl going in for a tonsillectomy right after seeing that movie and you wake up screaming "MICHAEL!" and the nurses, not knowing who you're talking about, are assuring you that they've called Michael and he'll be there to see you soon. Then, fast forward another 5 years, and you're pregnant and in the ER due to dehydration and they have you hooked up to an IV...and they let it run dry and your blood is backing up into it. You're 16 years old again and Michael is after you.

    That was scary stuff in my life and I don't watch horror movies any more. I am no good at fiction writing, but if I were, those events coupled with the fear the movie initially caused could make for an interesting horror story, too.

  16. We can easily frighten ourselves when we face our fears in the unknown and, as you rightly say, a good writer can put you in this place.

  17. If more writers used beta readers, people would be more positive about buying self-published books, imho.