I thought it’d be fun (and helpful) if we all shared the best horror-specific writing advice we’ve ever come across, whether given directly by somebody you know or something you came across on a blog or podcast.
I’ll go first:
Probably the best horror-specific writing advice I’ve ever received is that it’s often scarier if you leave something up to the audience’s imagination rather than depicting it (I’ve heard this tons of places, but I believe I first heard it from the late horror icon himself, Christopher Lee).
I’ve always thought of that advice in terms of violence, but a few years ago, a William Hope Hodgson scholar made it even better by showing me you can also do it to make the scenery scarier too. Let’s say your character visits a creepy, remote house. While it’s perfectly fine to describe the house in detail, it’s sometimes more effective to describe it with “emotional” adjectives (adjectives that reflect the POV character’s emotional reaction rather than reflecting the object’s physical characteristics), such as saying that the house had an ‘ominous’ shape or that the door made an ‘awful, sickening’ noise as they shut it behind them.
That kind of description is just specific enough to make the story’s mood clear to the reader while at the same time being just vague enough to let their imagination create the scene in a way completely distinct from any other reader.
So what about the rest of you?