My goals when writing for my audience are simple on one level, yet strategic and complex on another. One goal is to provide the audience with a scare, that creepy feeling that brings about a chill that runs down the spine. A second goal is to make the reader feel comfortable and familiar with the characters and setting so they can relate to them, especially on an emotional level. A third goal is to offer them a taste of something different than they may have experienced before, and a final goal is to build suspense that keeps the reader wanting to read more.
The first goal of generating a creepy feeling that scares the reader seems simple on the surface, but not all readers are afraid of the same things. The author has to weave multiple elements of fear together to create that “chill down the spine” effect. Those elements of fear include common phobias, the unknown, the painful, the supernaturally powerful, and things that are unpleasant to the eyes, ears, nose and touch. Combining these elements into a scene creates the ultimate scare.
Making the reader comfortable with the characters so they can relate to them is another one of my writing goals. Characters who are somewhat predictable, only in that they are relatable to each other and the reader, are important to a storyline. Characters who are dynamic and by their nature, unpredictable, can be what makes the difference between what is mediocre writing and what sets the bar. A dynamic character is an ever-changing, ever-learning, ever-responding figure in the various situations in which he/she faces in the storyline. The way they change, what they learn and how they respond should make sense and be believable to the reader. This connection to the character draws-in the reader, making his/her experience relatable and thus, more enjoyable.
In addition to creating characters that make the reading experience more enjoyable, one of my goals is to give the reader a taste of what they haven’t experienced before. This is adding “flavor” to your writing. You strive to deliver something that tastes fresh to your readers. You can combine things that have not been combined in a creative manner before, or you can change what is a common theme by simply manipulating a single factor, adding flavor to your writing. Making your writing fresh is difficult to do, but there is no doubt that flavor makes your writing more interesting and appealing to your readers.
And finally, a great horror novel must build suspense. Readers must feel they are just a page away from absolute death, disaster, or dismemberment. As a writer, one must layer several attributes that cause the suspense to build over pages, and ultimately, throughout the novel. For example, you may start with a description of the setting, and then, you focus on the description and actions of the person or people. You might finish with a description of the actions of the evil entity or central antagonist. At each step, you must make the reader feel your words. Each layer builds on top of each other to create the suspense one would expect from a chiller, supernatural thriller, or horror novel.