How to Write a Scary Scene

6 Jun

by Susan Dennard



This post has been UPDATED

and re-posted on

Pub(lishing) Crawl!


Susan Dennard is a writer, reader, lover of animals, and eater of cookies. Her debut, SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY, is now available from HarperTeen. You can learn more about her on her blog or twitter.


21 Responses to “How to Write a Scary Scene”

  1. Heather June 6, 2011 at 2:16 PM #

    I’ve never written a scary scene before, but I definitely want to give it a try eventually, even though I’ll probably just freak myself out.

    By the way, just how scary is SS&D? I’d guess that a book about ghosts and corpses would be pretty creepy, but is it the kind of thing that cowards like me should give a miss? It sounds awesome but I’m a baby when it comes to horror.

    • Susan June 6, 2011 at 5:32 PM #

      Hahaha–it’s not *that* scary. No straight horror scenes–just some ghouls and zombies. Plus, Eleanor (the MC) is tough. She can take a little fright. 😉

  2. Ella June 6, 2011 at 3:15 PM #

    As someone writing a fantasy novel with horror elements, this is pretty relevant to my interests. :3 I think scary scenes are somewhat harder to pull off in books than in films, though, since you don’t have the benefit of that visual ‘jump scare.’ But there’s one rule that applies to both, and that’s to let the reader’s imagination do the work for them. As much as I like creepy things, I can’t stand horror movies because I /always/ think the monster/psycho killer/whatever is worse than it really is. 😛

    Also, semi-off topic but…your book has ghosts in it omg omg – *prances around in excitement*

    • Susan June 6, 2011 at 5:36 PM #

      You’re right: having the “jump scare” is not so easy in a book. We may not jolt in our seats, but our hearts still pound when the Big Scare happens. 🙂

      And YAY! I love hearing my book makes people prance. 😉

      (side note: I can’t watch any horror with psycho killers. My overactive imagination just cannot survive day-to-day life otherwise. I worry crazed men with thirst for my blood and strange basement-dungeons are around every corner. UGH. My heartbeat is racing just writing that!)

  3. Mac_V June 7, 2011 at 10:54 AM #

    Excellent breakdown. I know I’m terrible at the whole suspense thing and it is so important. This will definitely help!

    Also, the tiny hint at Something Strange and Deadly makes me want to read it even more than I already do!!!

    Mer 🙂

    • Susan June 8, 2011 at 11:58 AM #

      Ha! That was my intention, of course–to entice you to read. 😉

  4. JoSVolpe June 8, 2011 at 9:35 AM #

    As a horror nerd, I have to say…this is good advice!
    Nice post, Susan.

    • Susan June 8, 2011 at 11:59 AM #

      Thanks, Jo! That means a lot coming from you. 😀

  5. savannahjfoley June 8, 2011 at 11:53 AM #

    Brilliant, article Sooz, really. Brilliant 🙂 I love your advice, and will utilize it when I have to write a scary scene. I especially like the part about slowing time down because you’re absolutely right.

    • Susan June 8, 2011 at 11:59 AM #

      Awww, thanks. ::blushes:: What a great comment, Sav!! ❤ ❤

  6. Prathamesh April 20, 2012 at 1:20 PM #

    It awesome..
    Coolest n most brilliant advice ever..i wish you could giv some more tips and help me write my story.. 😀 *THUMPS UP!!*

    • Anna May 31, 2012 at 12:06 AM #

      Wow– “Something Strange and Deadly” sounds like a really awesome book! I’m definitely going to read it.
      I searched this because I’m writing a fantasy/ sci-fi sort of novel with my friends, and I wanted to make it scarier, more dramatic, and more suspenseful. This really helped! Thank you so much!!!!

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