The discussion of ‘how to create fear’ is a very complex and debated one. It embraces storytelling as a whole, directly affecting the outcomes of movies, books and - of course - games.
This feeling of anxiousness is possibly correlated with how ‘immersed’ you are in a narrative/environment - the more your senses are fooled into making you feel like in real danger, the more frightened you possibly become. A very interesting video regarding this point is an extra feature of the game ‘Until Dawn’ (PS4), in which they attempt a ‘quasi-scientific’ approach to quantify fear in gaming experience:
So, let’s be more straight to the matter here. As you might know, me and the user MahatmaDagon are developing a Lovecraftian horror/Noir game named Highlands, Deep Waters. There are other games here that also feature a horror experience. In this concern, I ask you: how can a book (textual narratives in general, actually) make you feel afraid?
A text game can’t jumpscare you or cast a shroud of darkness around you through immersive, moody soundtrack (well, at least not in many occasions - which is our case). But there may be some aspects of the text, of the writing itself that can make the player feel threatened, fearful. I recall, as a personal experience, when I first read the book Mr Mercedes by Stephen King. It is a hard-boiled detective book, but it turned me to contemplate a so far ignored possibility: anyone, really, anyone in my surroundings can be a possible serial killer. I won’t spoil the book for you, but it certainly revolves around this idea of ‘the danger can be anywhere’.
Did it make me feel afraid? Well, kind of. Not the kind of fear I would feel while playing Silent Hill or even Until Dawn itself, but it was a ‘cognitive fear’. Texts are generally good in making you think, and I guess this might be a key to create fear in readers.
The works of H.P. Lovecraft can also be interpreted this way. By creating an atmosphere of uncertainty about the everyday things, and by questioning our very position in the universe, this ‘cosmic horror’ stirs and growls in the mind of readers. It is not about colossal monsters with tentacles and dozens of mouths - it is about beings whose existence we can’t even comprehend. Again, it is not about an ‘immediate’ sense of danger or fear, but it is a kind of anxiousness originated through the re-evaluation of our ideas.
Well, I don’t know, lol. And you, how can a text make you frightened? Do you have any experiences worth sharing?