Note from Joe: Just a reminder. Today is the last day to sign up for the Story Cartel Course, the eight-week writing and publishing class I’m teaching. You can learn more and sign up here. Thanks!

We all experience fear from time to time. But what about those things that truly terrify us, those situations that may not even ever happen? Our fear may not always be rational, but this deep-rooted emotion is a powerful tension to insert into our writing.

Because fear is not something we enjoy feeling, it is also often uncomfortable to write about—which is what makes the end result fascinating.

Here are some things to keep in mind when writing about fear:

haunted house

Photo by Robb North

Scary Stories

Though there are many common fears that people share, why something scares us and how we react are personal to each of us.

If you choose to write about a fear coming true, something you haven’t experienced or may never face, you have the opportunity to let your imagination run wild. After all, isn’t that a large part of fear—your mind imagining the worst? (Hmm, sounds like a great practice, doesn’t it?)

The challenge is making others who don’t share your fear still feel what you feel.

In order to put your emotion into words and clearly communicate it, tap into your physical senses, your thoughts, and your actions. And now is the time to avoid clichés—they don’t pack the punch you need and won’t cause any reaction in the reader.

Write through the whole scary experience.

I actually did this exercise in a class once and my professor pointed out that I had skipped over the exact moment when my fear came true—and I hadn’t even realized it. Don’t leave out the worst part. It may feel like when you’re watching a horror movie and you know something is coming and all you want to do is shut your eyes. Don’t do it—write through it and make it clear.

The best part of writing about something that scares you is seeing what happens.

As writers, we are challenged to create an interesting conclusion to each of our stories. How does the story of your fear end? How do you react in the situation? Does everything fall apart, or in a surprising twist, do you conquer that fear?

How do you convey fear in your writing?

PRACTICE

Write for fifteen minutes about something you’re afraid of that you haven’t actually experienced. See where the story leads you!

When you’re finished, please share your practice in the comments section. And if you post, please respond to some of the other comments too.

Melissa Tydell
Melissa Tydell

Melissa Tydell is a freelance writer, content consultant, and blogger who enjoys sharing her love of the written word with others. You can connect with Melissa through her website, blog, or Twitter.