Feb 21, 2013

Blog Tour Review: Writing Scary Scenes by Rayne Hall

Non Fiction - Writing Craft
Title: Writing Scary Scenese
Author: Rayne Hall
Date Published: 7/06/12
Are your frightening scenes scary enough? Learn practical tricks to turn up the suspense. Make your readers' hearts hammer with suspense, their breaths quicken with excitement, and their skins tingle with goosebumps of delicious fright. 
This book contains practical suggestions how to structure a scary scene, increase the suspense, make the climax more terrifying, make the reader feel the character's fear. It includes techniques for manipulating the readers' subconscious and creating powerful emotional effects. 
Use this book to write a new scene, or to add tension and excitement to a draft.
You will learn tricks of the trade for "black moment" and "climax" scenes, describing monsters and villains, writing harrowing captivity sections and breathtaking escapes, as well as how to make sure that your hero doesn't come across as a wimp... and much more.
This book is recommended for writers of all genres, especially thriller, horror, paranormal romance and urban fantasy.


Rayne Hall has published more than forty books under different pen names with different publishers in different genres, mostly fantasy, horror and non-fiction. Recent books include Storm Dancer (dark epic fantasy novel), Six Historical Tales Vol 1, Six Scary Tales Vol 1, 2 and 3 (mild horror stories), Six Historical Tales (short stories), Six Quirky Tales (humorous fantasy stories), Writing Fight Scenes and Writing Scary Scenes (instructions for authors).

She holds a college degree in publishing management and a masters degree in creative writing. Currently, she edits the Ten Tales series of multi-author short story anthologies: Bites: Ten Tales of Vampires, Haunted: Ten Tales of Ghosts, Scared: Ten Tales of Horror, Cutlass: Ten Tales of Pirates, Beltane: Ten Tales of Witchcraft, Spells: Ten Tales of Magic, Undead: Ten Tales of Zombies and more.


I've read this book twice, first when I received the review copy and now closer to the blog tour. Since the book is rather a short one (80 pages) and simple, I'll also keep my review short and sweet.

While some of the techniques that Rayne Hall writes about were not new to me, there were some new things that this book introduced me to. If you haven't read too much about the craft yet, it's simplicity will work for you: there is no beating about the bush, just plain explanation, example of use (and fair warnings of overuse and abuse in different genres). I mostly feel that the advice Rayne Hall offers would be excellent for writing shorter pieces of fiction.

I wish there were more examples, or a chapter where she takes a scary scene and breaks it down to the elements and techniques she writes about, especially for the various "flavors" of fear. Rayne Hall makes a note that she cannot provide larger paragraphs due to copyright issues, but why not provide a short paragraph of her own to demonstrate the effect of each of them? At the end she includes three of her short stories that I really liked, but in which I was able to detect only a few techniques on my own.

by Rayne Hall

If you're writing a novel, is there a scene where the heroine is imprisoned or locked up against her will?

Here are some techniques to make this scene powerful.

1. If possible, make the room dark or semi-dark. Perhaps she's locked up in a lightless cellar, in a dungeon where only the flames of the torches flicker in the gloom,  or in a chamber where the villain has cut off the power supply. Maybe there's a single window is so high up and narrow that it lets in scarce light.

2. Solitary confinement is scariest. If your heroine is alone in that room, with nobody to talk to, the reader worries for her. She may shout “Is anyone out there? Can you hear me?” and get no reply. Alternatively, she may have a companion in her captivity – until that person gets led away for execution.

3. Let it be cold. The place is unheated, the protagonist is not wearing many clothes, the air is chilly, the concrete floor is cold, and if a blanket is provided at all it is much too thin.

4. Use sounds. Sounds create unease and fear in the reader's subconscious - perfect for this type of scene. Here are some ideas:

Rodents' feet
Shuffling straw
Fellow captive's sobs and snores
Agonised screams from another cell
Clanking door
Rattling keys
Screeching lock
Guard's boots thudding outside

5. Mention an unpleasant smell or two:

Sour stench of urine
Excrement from previous prisoners
Old sweat
Rodent excrement
Rotten straw

6. Mention how something feels to the touch. This works especially well if the place is dark.

The fetters/handcuffs/bonds chafing at the wrists/ankles
Pain from bruises
The texture of the wall
Texture of the door
Cold hard floor
Rough blanket
Sodden straw
Chilly air

7. Perhaps you can involve the sense of taste as well. However, this may not be appropriate for all captivity scenes.

If the villain has gagged her, you can describe how that gag tastes. If she's in a dungeon or prison, describe the flavour of the food. The food quality is probably appalling, but if she's hungry, it won't taste too bad.

8. While she's imprisoned, she can't do much beyond explore her surroundings in search of a way out. She will probably think more than she does during fast-paced action scenes. When sharing her thoughts and feelings, make sure she doesn't wallow in despair. Although she may feel dejected, she keeps searching a way out. Create a tiny hope, let her plan. Later, this plan will fail, but it's important to show some hope in order to create suspense.


If you're planning or revising a captivity scene for your novel and have questions, leave a comment. I'll be around for a week and will reply. I love answering questions.


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