Screenwriting : Question for Horror Writers by Nick Assunto - Stage 32 Script Services Coordinator

Nick Assunto - Stage 32 Script Services Coordinator

Question for Horror Writers

Curious if horror writers scare themselves when they're writing the same way comedy writers might make themselves laugh or drama writers cry. I've never written a full on horror before, just horror comedy, so most of the time I'm buttoning the tension with a punchline release as oppose to a full on scare.

Craig D Griffiths

I have two I am in the middle of writing. I think the scary comes from the, either slow unfolding of an event or the shock of an event. Both of which I can’t experience since I am ahead of the writing.

Do sometimes get “disturb” by an image I am creating.

Kiril Maksimoski

Last month finished & posted short story of a guy in a stalled elevator with a ghost inside....let's just say I never use elevator rides from my office late PM any more...

Matthew Parvin

Whenever I write horror, I always go to subjects that make me uncomfortable. When I set up scenes, I'm trying to scare/creep out myself. You can always find sequences or visual cues, even ominous dialogue that gets to you. If it doesn't affect you, it won't affect anyone else. For that reason, I always try to tap into fears or scary/uncomfortable memories to draw inspiration from. In my most recent screenplay "Masks", I went for details or aspects from a real life crime that viscerally affected me (claustrophobia, not knowing people you think you know, body horror, etc.) so that I can describe them in ways that are scary to me, and hopefully, the audience.

Cherie Grant

I find it impossible to scare myself sitting at my desk during the day. Thought I do have scary thoughts, lol, the worst come from old nightmares. I'm used to it. Plus as Craig said, I'm ahead in the story so it's hard to build tension or shock me lol.

Barry John Terblanche

I like what Matthew said; When I set up scenes, I'm trying to scare/creep out myself. ~ If you can't do that to yourself? How will you do it to the reader? Me, when I write a sad drama scene that does not make me cry - I dump it!

Rachel Thomas-Medwid

I don't usually scare myself while writing since it's during the editing where I can dig enough to determine what's working (or not) to make readers/viewers uncomfortable. Weirdly I listen to upbeat music while writing horror so maybe that helps too, lol. Since horror shorts are my new fun projects I've also been talking to people about what really frightens them...of course it's different for everyone but think it's helpful to tap into universal fears and then try to create something original.

Aray Brown

I’m not scared by anything I write. Or either I’m not doing it right

Tully Archer

Well I can't jump scare myself but I do try to stick to things that creep me out pretty good

Debbie Croysdale

Never scared. Enjoy building layers of dread, suspense, twists, switches, surprises and revelations. Forget about "ME" totally cos I'm so absorbed in the characters ride. None of it's happening for real anyway and it's my goal to change a passive observer into a nervous wreck, not weird myself out. There are some things I won't write because they disgust me, namely over done gore for shock effect but that's not same emotion as fear, ( I would be sick writing about a bull fight or re watching Tarrantino's Hostel.) I don't think it's necessary for a horror writer to freak themselves out in order to scare others, although I don't disagree it may help. Often it's the anticipation itself, the subtext or something audience knows but character doesn't that's more scary than actual physical attack when it happens EG knife attack, zombie rampage, murder etc. We are all different, some have to be scared themselves, other's don't but it's the end story that speaks. Maybe I'm the odd one out in that writing horror "relaxes" me. Happy New Year @All

Marty Howe

yeah, sometimes, after a re-read the next day or something, I will pass over a pasage "yeah this is scary"" or ""woah, that is brutal" etc etc. Like you revisit the script (after taking a break and distancing from it) and can get those reactions.

Martin Reese

I've written some scenes where I definitely wouldn't want to suffer the fate of the character.

Erick Freitas

Yes, you totally should be scaring yourself while writing your horror script. Turn off all your lights, light some candles, etc.

Debbie Croysdale

@Happy new year @Aray and thread!

Karen "Kay" Ross

When I've written for others, I think I sense the tension or anticipation, but not the scare (or release of tension). Then again, I prefer suspense, so maybe I'm not writing anything scary enough LOL!

William Martell

I have written a few Horror screenplays and been hired to write a few more - including the remake of a hit 80s Horror flick that makes everyone's Best Lists.

I think this goes to that Frank Capra quote.

I write about what scares me, but writing it means that I control it. My job is to scare the reader, and it's difficult to do that if I am not in control - if I am scared myself. Though I have written things that disturbed me keep my after I have handed in the draft and collected the check. But while I am writing - I want to use storytelling techniques to scare the reader and hopefully later the audience.

Cynthia Garbutt

For the horror and film noir projects that I've done, thus far. They make me feel very dark and evil inside. Not depressed. I just feel more of my dark side, like a Darth Vader.

Renate Morley

Just finished a supernatural/horror screenplay. I wanted my evil doll to be possessed by something. Research showed that they can be cursed and haunted by a Voodoo spirit. During my search, my computer crushed. I was also given a warning on screen. Well, that was scary and I am glad I completed the scene.

Catherine Martin

This is such an interesting thread, thank you for posting Nick! I have never written horror but I have a few ideas I wanted to investigate in coming months. It's interesting to read so many different perspectives; I imagine, at each different stage of my writing process, I would use a different piece of advice from this thread. Thank you!

Eoin O'Sullivan

Scared, no. I concentrate on creating characters people care about and then putting them in situations that evoke emotions in the reader; suspense, dread, tension and fear. If you don't feel those, neither will your reader. Scary, is subjective and it tips people in to the realm of gore at the expense of character.

Xaviera Iglesias

I'm too chicken to write horror, for now, but I imagine I'd be scaring the living shit out of me. And the thing is, I do have some experience with the paranormal. So I know how it actually feels to be down right terrified. Maybe someday I'll write that down... maybe.

Doug Nelson

Xaviera, I write a lot of non horror paranormal scripts (mostly theme driven comedic). You're in Toronto...I got a group for you.

Kacee Diehl DeMasi

I would believe this would be true no matter what genre you are writing as when I write I take on the character traits for my characters and when I write someone who is fearful especially with regards to the children I too get scared. I think this is the best kind of writing as if you can make an emotional connection with your characters and the audience will know it is genuine. But with that being said, I write to produce my content not to sell my content. So the more in tune you are with your characters the better your script will be. I believe. Thanks for the questions.

Gerry Barrett

I had a terrifying paranormal experience about 10 years ago and I've just finished writing a feature, horror script based on that night.. Yes, as I wrote and relived the scary events of that evening I certainly was spooked all over again. Probably doesn't help that I write at 3 am, LOL.

Nick Assunto - Stage 32 Script Services Coordinator

Fascinating spectrum of answers here. I do wonder if belief in the paranormal constitutes a more emotional factor in the storytelling vs. academic atheism (so to speak) in the writing of it. I always feel like I'm a more mathematically inclined writer, hitting important beats, focusing on timing and structure, then I fill in character journeys and emotions last to make sure they then match the situations I've put them in (in comedic ways usually). That's ultimately what makes me laugh, using the characters to create commentary on my own writing, almost. So for those of you who are in it and really believe that there are things out there, I can see that as being a scarier experience.

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