Saturday, October 27, 2012

What I learned from a movie that shouldn't have been scary but was

One of the things I think about often when I think about making a book or scene scary is the movie State of Play, which is a political thriller that stars one of my fave actors, Russell Crowe.

The thing about this movie is that it shouldn’t be scary, but I found I was frightened and tense in a lot of places. Afterwards, I was kind of interested in that, because when I thought about it, really analyzed it, I mean, the plot wasn’t scary. The main guy was in really low to medium danger. It just didn’t make sense!

It was a lot of fancy trickery. 

Of course, movies have a slight advantage, with music and lighting and so forth. In books, you can’t have music or direct visuals, but books can build atmospheric tension. You can change the weather. Have birds singing mournfully…or mysteriously not singing. Streets can seem eerie. Lighting is really powerful.  

Another thing from that movie: Russell Crowe seemed frightened a lot. Worried. Looking over his shoulder. A bit paranoid.

I’ve totally exploited that in books. You don’t want to make a character too paranoid, but readers do take their cues from characters they trust, and if a character is worried, it signals to the reader that there is something to fear. And hey, when something is legitimately scary, your character would be too stupid to live (TSTL) to not worry. 

Fear is such a powerful emotion. A little goes a long way.

Hey, Happy Halloween, everybody!

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