Coffin Hop 2013 - Four Keys To Frightening Fiction - Pt. 3 Mining The Darkness Within

Hey, gang! I'm back for round 3 of my 4 part Coffin Hop feature on writing frightening fiction!

So what the heck is a Coffin Hop? Basically, a bunch of us writer types get together to share scary stories, do giveaways, and generally try to get the blog world into the spirit of the season. 

Being a writing blog, I've decided to cover what I think are the basics to weaving a little thrill and chill into your stories. My full hop schedule looks like this:

Monday, 10/28 - The Sinister Senses
Tuesday, 10/29 - Oh So Ordinarily Creepy
Wednesday, 10/30 - Mining The Darkness Within
Thursday,  10/31 - HAPPY HALLOWEEN - A Murderous Tension

Also want to mention that the organizers behind Coffin Hop have put together a fantastic collection of horror stories to benefit an even better cause. All proceeds from the Death By Drive-In anthology will go to to promote childhood reading.

*click the image below for more details on the anthology*

As for my giveaway, simply leave a comment on any of my Coffin Hop posts and I'll enter you into a drawing for one of the following items:

1 Digital copy of Death By Drive-In

1 Paper Copy of Death By Drive-In (US ONLY)

- 2 Digital Copies of Moonsongs, Anthology 1 AND my latest, Dragon's Game, Moonsongs Book 4 (1 set to each winner)

1 Signed paper copy of Moonsongs, Anthology 1 (US ONLY)

Lastly, I'll be highlighting one of my fellow Coffin Hoppers at the end of every post--so let's get to it!

Mining the Darkness Within

Write what you know. Popular writing advice that, frankly, I haven't always found to be true. It takes a good imagination to write fiction, and imagination by definition is basically the art of making crap up.

If I really knew how to stop a nuclear disaster, win a fight club, sweep beautiful people off of their feet, or survive a zombie apocalypse, I probably wouldn't be an author.

But I love to read about characters who do those types of things. Thus, I usually default to: Write what you love--then sprinkle in what you know.

However, when it comes to writing scary, there's some very useful knowledge lurking inside all of us. And tapping into it can really go a long way to creating a terrifying reading experience. 

I'm talking about our fears. Everyone has them. They can be highly unique, like being afraid of truck stop urinals. (Okay, that might not be just me…) Or they can be shared by lots of people. I'll boldly say that more people are freaked out by spiders than aren't.

In either case, what we're afraid of, if we can accurately bring our fears to life on the page, is going to scare other people, too. And it's one of the easier emotions to channel. After all, what's more vivid than our darkest dreams and the terrors of our minds?

The tricky part is examining fear honestly, because it isn't always a comfortable process. If you're terrified of snakes, it can make you a little squirmy to think about EXACTLY what it is about snakes that scare you.

But I bet there's something. Maybe it isn't the fangs, maybe it's the dread of feeling their slimy scales spasming over your bare skin. Maybe it's the way their cold, reptilian eyes express nothing but animal calculation. Or perhaps it's knowing that each flick of their demonic forked tongues is the equivalent of you walking along the buffet to see what looks good to eat. :)

Whatever it is, you're going to have an inside track on what makes it so damned scary, and if you can share that with your readers, they'll be scared, too. 

More importantly, if you can do it for yourself, you can start to easily imagine the deepest dreads for each of your characters.

One of the scariest movie moments for me growing up was an awesome example of sharing an inner fear--something only the character would be able to conjure or imagine--with the audience.

Via Pet Cemetery - Zelda was the sister of one of the protagonists, who she watched die of spinal meningitis as a child. The character recounts her memories in chilling fashion. 

That scene still freaks me completely out! LOL

So what are you most afraid of? Could you make a list of three very specific things about it (plausible or no--like the tormented long-dead sister coming back to live in your attic) that would frighten you the most?

Come back tomorrow as we'll finish off the hop and celebrate Halloween with a look at creating tension! Plus, a surprise for fans of serial fiction. :)


I had the pleasure of getting to talk with Michele for one of our recent NA Lit Chats. She definitely knows her scary! She's also a part of the Coffin Hop and offering a signed copy of one of her books. 

Michelle's blog is featuring some ghost stories, and generally has lots of paranormal goodness going down, so jump over and check her out!

You can check the entire hop below:


  1. Agreed, those personal psychological fears are the ones that hit the panic button hardest inside me. Jaws freaked me out for life. If I even think about swimming in murky water that I can't see through, I get heart palpitations.

    And I started The Graveyard Book again last night. Much better this time, since I'm in a graveyard sort of mood. :))

    1. We didn't have a lot of water around where I grew up in Oklahoma, so Jaws definitely messed with me, too! :D

      Graveyard is a pretty dark middle grade read--so definitely think you picked it back up at the right time. Let me know what you think when you finish it!

  2. What really scares me is the horrors of real life, and not sure I'd want to write about those.

    1. Those are the things that frighten me most, too, Alex. Real war stories, serial killers, etc. are some of the scariest things imaginable.

  3. Snakes don't scare me, but werewolves do. (And they aren't real. Go figure!) A bear attack would scare me, too. I think it's being mauled by something large and furry in the middle of the night.

    Not counting my cats, of course.

  4. I'm will Alex! I guess my top three: Toxic people, snakes and alcoholics.

    Great post! I love how gorgeous your blog looks~ I am behind-no one dares to go into the attic to get the rest of my decorations...I guess I have to treat early and trick'em ;D

    I'm going to go play catch up and read your other offerings!

  5. My fears in the past have been less tangible than things like spiders or snakes. And I've found the best way to deal with them has been head on.

  6. In Danse Macabre Stephen King says "To write horror you have to read horror". I think I would be afraid of another's story creeping into mine.

  7. I'm kind of with Alex on this -- the real life horrors. For example, here, it was been a horrific two months for sons and dogs. :-( I'm finding that being too close to so much raw emotion is actually NOT conducive to writing. I can't quite figure it out--whether it's me or it's in deference and out of respect to people in town who have been touched by so much tragedy...

    1. Too much emotion can definitely stunt your creativity, Amy! Which kind of defies logic (writing IS a business of conjuring emotion), but if I'm too angry, sad, etc. I can't focus at all. Sorry to hear so much is 'swirling' around you right now, and hope it settles down soon.

  8. Snakes definitely scare me (even reading about them in your post creeped me out) and I'm afraid of heights.

    1. I do know a few people who like snakes. (I judge them. LOL) But none who "like" spiders. I'm not overly happy to see either. :D

  9. I'm with Alex. Real life stuff scares me the most.


“Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid.” ― Fyodor Dostoyevsky

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