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Using Fear to Make Readers Shiver, Scream, and Vomit

horror[Image via Flickr courtesy of Moyan Breen]

Fear is used in writing to add emotional value and elicit physical responses. It makes the reader uncomfortable in the right way, immersing them and imprinting the experience deeper into memory. Not all forms of fear are equal. Stephen King once broke down fear into three different types: The Gross-Out, The Horror, and The Terror. They are distinct, powerful, and vary greatly in the responses they elicit.

The Gross-Out

The Gross-Out might be the easiest to understand and achieve. It’s the disgusting. Despite the great variety in people’s preferences, one simple thing achieves this. Show the taboo, those things which are not supposed to be seen.  Identify them and show them. It could be a public toilet overflowing with feces and urine, a corpse with organs torn out and exposed, or a bizarre fetish. Don’t pull punches. The important part is to get in close.

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