You are here:

Writing Books/Imagining scene. Fiction


OK, my question is how to make the reader really get inside the story.
I write horror stories, so I want to really frighten them. I already know that I have to describe everuthing with a lot of details, but  what else can I do?

Dear Marcos:

To put the reader inside the scene, you must give them sensory material so they can experience the scene as the character experiences it: what did the character hear, see, smell, taste (if anything) or feel? Sometimes things happen that make us feel we are standing still in time - that's what you want to strive for. Any action should be described in vivid terms - especially the verbs. Study verbs care-fully. Headlong action should be told in long rushing sentences, with vivid verbs and nouns.

You do NOT have to describe "everything with a lot of details" - that is the way to rejection. What you need are a few words or sentences that describe the important things, the things you have chosen to carry the emotional content. For example, a girl who is on the run may not feel safe until she is behind a door that is not only locked but barred. The bar represents safety to her.

It's the telling detail that counts; they are often called "one-liners." One of my very favorites is: "He was the kind of man who would spend a pleasant half hour in the bathroom, plucking the hairs out of his nose." It is the word "pleasant" that resonates in that sentence. At that point you know everything about him that you need to know. Strive for this kind of originality.

It takes a lot to actually frighten some people; I am one of them. The things that most people find frightening make me laugh. I did feel a chill reading one of Stephen King's novels, the one where the hero has those alphabet magnets on his fridge, and they keep spelling out messages to him. Reading that, I got a brief but terrifying sense of the entity that might be behind those messages. The fact that some normal, even mundane, kitchen object(s) were acting in an abnormal manner, made it truly frightening for me.

If you will remember in Psycho, when Anthony Perkins turned his mother around in her chair, that was a truly frighten-ing moment because Hitchcock, being the genius he was, set the viewer up for the shock by careful foreshadowing.

Horror is not easy to write. You can learn by reading it, watching movies, studying other authors to see how they achieve their effects.

I hope this has helped. If it has, a nice rating would be appreciated. I am proud of my "straight-10" record!

Writing Books

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Susan Rand


I can answer questions about the elements of fiction and non-fiction writing: how to get started, writing techniques, re-writing, etc. I will NOT write for you, do critiques except from my website at, or give you ideas. I will not answer home-or-schoolwork questions in any category. If English is your second language, please say so, and I will make an exception. Please submit no more than one or two questions at once, as I tend to go into detail in my answers.


I wrote my first book in 1957 and have been writing and studying writing since. I have a BA in Written Communications, and have taught writing both privately and through adult education for 15 years. Have also edited (fiction books) for an online publisher and edited/wrote more than 100 articles for a teen sex education site. Currently writing web content and mentoring beginning writers.

BA degree in Written Communication

©2017 All rights reserved.