Unease is a result of the atmosphere. Think about the houses in your area. The house pedestrians avoid crossing the street for is the one you know. High school students are allowed to spend the night there, beyond the creaking doors and to explore the bizarre whimpers that lie within its indefinable shadows. Your characters fear even though nothing has happened. Atmosphere is what causes fear in your characters and in your house. The atmosphere is what sets the mood and should stay with your readers well after the story is finished.
Where do you start? It can be daunting and frightening to create a haunted story. You can make it easier by establishing the date and the time at the beginning of your story. In a prologue, you should start the story with the date and time. Or, at least, hint to the decade. Your character might be listening to Disco Inferno right before a psychopath sets fire to the house. Your character might be shaking in the shadows. Her bonnet may be covered with sweat and she is praying that her lantern will stay lit enough to rescue her. This will establish your setting and give you an opportunity to add dimension and foreshadowing into your story.
Make Your Readers Haunted by the Correct Word Using the correct word can help you establish the setting for your haunted house story. This sentence is an example:
Beverly Harris entered the house.
It’s not very original. The setting is very sparse and the action is not very descriptive. Let’s look at another set of words.
Beverly was overcome by incipient danger and slipped through the doorway.
Better. Crept is a better description than walked. This description is acceptable and readers will more likely like it. Could we not write this sentence with fewer, more sinister words? We can, I believe.
She was consumed by the house.
Simple, descriptive, and ominous. This makes the reader feel uncomfortable. Therefore, empathy should be your goal. Your readers should feel the same emotions as your characters.
Location, Position, Location
Your haunted home is just like your other cast members. It should be unique. It should attract your characters to it, just as a protagonist would hunt for a villain. It should have a personality. Your house is your protagonist. What kind of personality does your home have? Think about the place. You could have a mansion in a bayou decorated in French-Creole or a simple cabin in Washington State, like in Stephen King’s Alan Wake. Or it might be more traditional such as a castle built on top of a sheer rock above a small village. Each house should reflect its geographic location and the protagonist should view it from their perspective. Would your house have an accent if it could talk? What would you do to show it? How would you show that? Architecture? Your haunted home’s location is what defines its personality. Let it speak. Let it seduce your protagonist into its swampy tendrils.
You can also give your home a personality by changing the environment to reflect the local language. People from the Deep South talk differently to one another in Miami, and people in Miami speak differently to people in Montana. People gossip about one another and each person has a different view of life. This principle can be applied to your haunted home. Your house, no matter where it is located, has a back story and people will talk about it. Your house’s personality can be revealed by what they say and how it is said. Your character’s perspective changes every time he or she hears a story. Some characters who stay at the Nightmare House, for example, see it as an ordinary house. The paranoia sets in once they hear the strange stories and the house soon takes on a sinister appearance. It doesn’t change physically. The perception of the house by the character changes. Talk about your house! Everybody has secrets, and your haunted home is no exception.
Originality Is Vital
Many haunted house films and books exist that are set in different environments around the globe. Many horror stories are set in haunted cabins in the woods. Your horror story must stand out from the rest in order to be successful in this fierce competition. You must add something to an existing concept. Your story will survive if it is unique. Flexibility is essential for creative writers. Perhaps your story is not about a haunted cabin nestled in the Canadian mountains. Instead, it could be about a floating haunted home located in Puget Sound. Perhaps you could move your southern plantation to Africa’s sunny tropics, where there are monkeys, palm trees and deadly spiders. You don’t need to be crazy. Your setting may be in Colonial American suburbs in Massachusetts, but the architecture is modern. Scariest haunted house in Ohio
Lighting and atmosphere are important factors to consider when setting up your haunted house story. The closer your house is from the Equator, the more extreme your night- and daytime hours will be. For example, a haunted house in the lowest regions of South America will spend at most a month in complete darkness during winter and full daylight during summer.
Enter if You Dare
H.P. H.P. To give the reader an uneasy feeling, Lovecraft used descriptions of landscapes and neighbourhoods to create that atmosphere long before the character ever enters the house. This is The Picture in the House.
… They ascend to the moonlit towers at ruined Rhine castles, and then they flutter down the black-cobwebbed stairs beneath scattered stones from forgotten cities. They linger on the sinister monoliths of uninhabited island islands and haunted wood, as well as the desolate mountain and haunted wood. The true epicure of the unutterable horrors, however, is found in the haunted wood and the desolate mountains. They linger around the sinister monoliths of uninhabited islands.
It presents a sophisticated picture by using carefully selected adjectives and a forward-looking approach. H.P. Although H.P.
… It was plain, narrow and sparse, with a concrete floor and smooth black walls. The walls didn’t appear to have been painted, but were made of natural black material, which literally absorbs light. There were no windows or doors. Although it appeared straight, the passageway had a bend and a winding quality that was visible just outside the light.
These two excellent examples of haunted houses describe it using different atmospheres and settings. These descriptions work because they use strong words and vivid, unnatural descriptions that go above and beyond what a normal person would describe a house. Joe Schreiber did not just say “The room was rectangular.” He painted a vivid picture that gave the impression that this was an unnatural room and that no one would ever enter it, even if they had a lighter.