Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Anticipation Versus The Bang

There's a famous Alfred Hitchcock quote that sticks with me every time I write a horror story: "There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it." The man could not have been more right, especially when it comes to dark fantasy when it mixes with horror. Obviously this applies to the horror genre, building up the atmosphere until the scary monster leaps out from the shadows onto their victim, but with dark fantasy there always seems to be more in the way of atmospheric scares than splatterfest gore.

Think of any scary story you've ever read. Imagine reading it alone at home one night. You're unable to go outside because there's a huge thunderstorm crashing around your house. Thunder and roaring winds make the windows rattle and the blinding lightning is making you blink, your eyes seeing the shadows take new, towering shapes.

You shift on your couch and try to make yourself more comfortable, wrapping your blanket around you as though it will protect you from whatever tricks your mind is playing. You tell yourself that it's just a stupid storm, and go back to your book. In it, the main character is moving toward the attic to find out what they heard. Their hand is shaking on their flashlight, their footsteps creaking the on the attic stairs. Past the wooden groans and their pounding heart, they hear the raspy breathing coming from the attic. Your own pulse begins to quicken. You know something is up there, and you want to tell them to turn around. But they won't. The storm rages beyond you. 

The character enters the attic. They step onto the floorboards and see nothing, but the tortured breathing is louder than ever. It's coming quicker, moving from shadow to shadow. Your mind is telling the character to run back down, but they take another step. The trap door slams shut behind them. They spin around, choking on their scream, and lift their flashlight when they see–

The door of your house slams open. You jump and scream, the book flying out of your hands as you whirl around–

And see your husband standing there with a bewildered look on his face.

Not a true story, but I had you going, didn't I?

While I was writing my latest Mocha Memoir novella, Hotel Hell, I focused on heightening the tension. The story revolves around a young man named Milo who searches for his missing fiancee, only to come across a hotel with dark, disturbing secrets. Concentrating on the creepiness of the hotel was key. Adding in little situations where Milo and the readers know something isn't right, but they can't figure out what. Even when I was planning the story, I knew I had to write it as though the hotel itself was a character with a mystery, and that its employees were just as terrifying as the building itself. Creating the horrors inside the hotel was the funnest part, and I think it made the impact of the climax so much more frightening. It's amazing what you can imagine if you take an ordinary object, and twist it into something that Neil Gaiman would create.

For me, dark fantasy and horror tend to go hand in hand, as they both concentrate on the anticipation of the danger. Both genres want to set off warning bells in your head, even though you're dying to turn the page and see what lurks behind that corner. They feed each other, one building on fear in the readers heart through romantically twisted scenarios while horror weaves itself into the cracks, like glowing red eyes through the slits of your closet. Don't worry– I'll save that story for another time. 

Happy Halloween! 

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Amy Braun is an aspiring urban fantasy and horror author addicted to monsters and mythology. When she isn't writing, she's reading, watching movies, taking photos, or gaming. She was the recipient of April Moon Books Editor Award for "author voice, world-building and general bad-assery" in 2014.

Her current work includes the novellas Call From The Grave, Needfire, and Hotel Hell, and has short stories in the Lost In The Witching Hour anthology (Charlatan Charade) and AMOK! (Dark Intentions And Blood). She also has two more short stories that will be featured in two different anthologies, as well as her first full length novel releases in 2015. More information on these releases and Amy can be found online through her blog, Literary Braun, or followed on Amazon, Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
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