Developing feelings of foreboding and fear
I have reached a point in my story, where I want to elicit a feeling of foreboding, perhaps even fear from my reader. How can I do it? How can I bring out that feeling? Some authors or writers might suggest that I am using a foreshadowing technique. All creative writers who want to introduce some kind of conflict within the boundaries of their story approach this differently. I for example, am one of those writers who would rather slap you in the face with that fear or foreboding.
My answer to resolve this dilemma (for now), is to blatantly slap you in the face with an emotional tag that states, “Look! My character is in fear!” Sometimes, allowing the character to feel and speak a bit can give you a resulting chill down your back.
* * *
Pyridee shivered. Her voice a bare whisper.
“I’ve a feeling that this place just waits for bad dreams to give life to spirits that haunt the path before us.”
Rosenet looked to her, his eyes rolling a bit as he snorted and whinnied.
“By the Gods, I’ve had the same feeling since we entered this tunnel,” the pitch of the unicorn’s voice echoing among craggy walls.
Humbalt had the same feeling as the unicorn…as if they were being watched…something slipping past them again and again. Dark whispers seemed to echo from the walls of the cave as the four progressed further and further into the endless depths.
* * *
Notice how I am using positive words like “progress” that rail against a prevailing stronger negative prose. The use of an ellipsis can also bring about feelings of hesitation or doubt, adding to the effect.
* * *
“Things are finally beginning to look…”
A cracking sound interrupted Pyridee from the right—a dim shadow that seemed to waver to the left. Rosenet’s neck hairs rose a bit, as fright crept into his bones, leaving a shiver that coursed through his body.
* * *
This break in the tone of my characters now allows me to introduce a new character into the story. Now, in my story, I have one major protagonist, named “Sahame”. However, I am interspersing each chapter with what I call a sub-protagonist, a character to challenge my group.
* * *
“Heh! Heh! Heh!”
A chuckle issued forth from the shadow, a grim raspy sort of sound, more akin to Egarot’s rumble.
“Welcome to the Land of Eternal Night,” the voice grated ruefully.
“Where the blind lead the blind and nothing seems right.”
“W-well, wh-who are you?”
Humbalt’s voice quavered with fear, the syllables barely a discernable whimper.
“I am the king of all you cannot see,” the voice grated.
“Those who fear me, call me Golendor. And those who revere me know that I am the Lord of Loneil-Aveness.”
A form emerged from the shadows. Small, yet rangy and tough, the group looked upon the withered silhouette of a dwarf.
“Who are you, daring to break the boundaries of my domain?”
The dwarf stepped forward a bit closer into the light.
“We only seek a way around the walls of fire to the east, the desert to the west, and the high mountains of glass to the north.”
Egarot’s voice grated as roughly as the dwarf, the griffon craning his head forward a bit, straining to make out the minute features of the dwarf’s face.
“We are passers-by, nothing more. We only seek shelter from the evil magic of Sahame.”
A chuckle welled up from deep within Golendor’s throat.
“Sahame, eh?” he said with mirth.
“And how long has he been chasing the four of you? I understood that his only prize was you, unicorn. Your kind has been his bane for what seems…ever.”
Pyridee gave Rosenet a quick prod in his side.
“He only took interest in us the past few moons,” she replied.
Golendor’s eyes seemed to light with glee.
“You know, the last unicorn he chased had a price on his head…one that many would consider worthy of the opportunity to hand it over to Sahame. Why should this time not be so different?”
Pyridee stepped between Golendor and Rosenet.
“We do not know why Sahame pursues us, Lord Golendor. All we ask is to rest this night, and leave when day breaks.”
Golendor brought his full form in view.
“Have ye not noticed lass?” he rumbled. “
Dawn does not break here in Loneil-Aveness; only the dark awaits any who venture forth here. It would take a misstep from one of you in one of these caverns to fall to your doom.”
Pyridee took a moment to look more closely at the dwarf while he spoke. His face was neither smudged nor dirty like most dwarves she’d seen in the past. He was dressed in elfin-blue, looking more like an elf of the land of faerie. But strangely, his head was too big for its frame. Puzzlement now entered her mind. What kind of creature was Golendor?
“Very well, good travelers,” he rasped.
“I will shelter you from the unseen horrors this night as you ask. But what I demand in return is that you dine with us in my great banquet hall. It is but a small penance to pay in return for my offer of hospitality.”
Pyridee did not know what it was about the dwarf, but there was something about him that she just did not trust. Feeling Egarot’s head brushing her waistcoat, she felt glad that the griffon was next to her.
* * *
Here is where I will break from the new character introduction to bounce back to the feeling of foreboding and fear that I introduced in the beginning of my chapter. I have now given you something to fear. Nothing bad has happened to my characters yet. But you are feeling that there is something inherently wrong, something inherently dark and dangerous about this new character. My last step in my process is to close up the introduction with…a cliffhanger.
* * *
Something felt very wrong. Pyridee could not deduce what the problem was, but could feel that there was something amiss, a kind of feeling down in the pit of her gut, a wariness that refused to leave her. Even knowing that Egarot was next to her, she felt that he was in fact, not next to her. She felt alone…very alone.