Basic Tips To Make Scarier & Better Creepypasta & Horror Creeps
Creepypastas and horror stories are extremely popular, but those who write them frequently end up with monsters, spooks, and killers that are more ho-hum than horrific. Here are a few tips to help you make your bugbears, baddies, and monsters more effective at giving people the heebie-jeebies.
- Remember, creepypasta is at its heart horror set in our world, whether it's the recent past, the present day, or the not-too-distant future. This means that if your creep is going to use an actual weapon, something that the average person could actually find lying around somewhere (or cobble together from stuff lying around anywhere), is preferable to something like an ornate dagger or some other old-timey/fantasy weapon. If your creep wears clothes, ordinary Earth clothes are preferable to something that looks like it came out of a gothic fantasy. If your creep has hair, go for real-life hair colors rather than anime colors unless you have a really good reason for it.
- Don't forget - the creep need not be humanoid. It can be something animalistic, or even utterly alien - check out Gourmet Quality for an example. It need not even be an actual character at all. It can simply be a situation, scenario, or thing that evokes fear and dread - see The Memetic Symbol.
- Don't begin by asking yourself what might be scary to other people. Start by asking yourself what scares you. What are the earliest fears you can remember? Which ones lasted with you the longest? What are you afraid of now? Start working from there, and you're likely to come up with something scarier than otherwise.
- If your creep is supposed to be a protagonist, stop and try to imagine a story where your creep is the antagonist instead. How would your creep serve as a menace in someone else's story - and more importantly, in the story of someone we're supposed to sympathize with? Even if your creep is supposed to be the protagonist, you still need to be able to answer this question or else your creep is not a creep at all.
- The more sympathetic and tragic your make your creep, the less scary your creep is likely to be. Some would-be creepypastas feature more or less innocent girls who died horribly and then come back to take revenge on their killers, or as abused children who finally snap and kill their abusers. Trouble is, this makes them sympathetic or tragic figures, which makes us root for or pity them rather than fear them. At best, such stories can be cathartic to read. At worst, they’re blatant revenge fantasies. To be really horrifying, there needs to be an element of injustice or unfairness in who the character torments or kills. If we’re lead to believe that only bad, ignorant, or obnoxious people get killed, then that reinforces our desire for the universe to be just and ordered in the end - and that’s comforting.
- Speaking of characters who abruptly turned into cold-blooded killers, the Internet is absolutely stuffed to the gills with Jeff the Killer knockoffs - ie, children or teens who snap after something awful happens and then proceed to run wild on a bloody killing spree. If you want to be original, avoid this formula. And while we're here, that whole trope where a person abruptly snaps, "goes insane," and turns into a violent killer is complete and utter baloney, anyway.
- Hoodies, missing eyes/bloody eye sockets, bandages over eyes, Glasgow grins, mouths full of pointy teeth, whitened skin, and masks are all design elements that have become overdone - especially when two or more are used with each other on the same character. If you're going for originality, try to avoid using them as much as you possibly can.
- Likewise, creepy little girls that ask people to "play" with them (typically before disembowling or dismembering them, or luring them into some inescapable place) are way, way, way overdone.
- Don't make your creeps particularly pretty or attractive unless you have a really good reason for it. The more attractive a character is, the harder it generally is to fear xir. If your creepypasta character would be considered reasonably attractive or cute if you just washed off the blood and took away the knives, you may need to rethink your character.
- Ask yourself: Is there some part of you, however small, that wishes you could be friends with, date, or even be your creep and/or do what xe does? If the answer is yes, then alter your creep until the answer is a definite NO. Personal wish fulfillment has no business being in a creepypasta story - if your "creepypasta" character does things you wish you could do (eg, wears stylish clothes, kills bullies, and lives with a family of monsters who accepts xir "freakiness" unconditionally), you're writing a wish fulfillment/power/revenge fantasy, not a creepypasta or horror story.
- A very common problem are creeps who are supposed to be physically-normal humans easily killing people who'd be bigger and very likely stronger off in physical tussles (often by stabbing them). In reality, if people feel threatened for their safeties, their bodies start pumping out adrenaline, which temporarily increases their strength. Furthermore, if someone is physically attacking them, they will fight back with everything they've got - and when they're in an adrenaline-fueled frenzy, that's a lot. See also Things About Death, Dying, & Murder Writers Need To Know.
- Another common problem is creeps who are supposed to be physically-normal humans leaving behind large numbers of bodies (sometimes starting with a whole family, with the numbers escalating as the character continues killing as the whim strikes) without any serious effort being put into apprehending and stopping the character. In reality, bodies and missing people prompt investigations, and the worse it is the more effort will be put into catching the killer - and it's very unlikely that a teenage girl armed with a kitchen knife and a deranged smile would be any match against a squad of police officers armed with guns.
- Remember, simply killing characters off isn't particularly scary. Consider Freddy Krueger: He wasn't terrifying simply because he killed people - the terror came from the dread of being killed. A creep need not even kill anyone at all to be scary - all the character must do is make the audience dread what's coming next. There are plenty of non-lethal means to torment someone - for example, turning a character's friends and loved ones against xir one by one, or generally taking away everything a character loves and cares about, or by doing things that make the person question xir own sanity.
- Your story should not leave people asking "Yeah, but why didn't someone notice something fishy was going on and do something?" If, for example, a dozen children went missing, people would be hounding at police to do something and the disappearances would soon make the national news. If people connected to the case started mysteriously vanishing, it would only attract more attention and more investigation. If the case was mysteriously dropped, there'd be national, if not global outrage over it. (See also Tips & Ideas To Write More Believable Masquerades and Tips To Write Better & More Believable Cover Ups.) And if someone starts screaming out of fear or because xe's being attacked, you bet your buckles that anyone in the general area (EG, people in other rooms - even if they're asleep, next-door neighbors, etc.) will hear it and react.
- Never underestimate the power of the unknown. Part of Slender Man's intrigue as well as part of what makes him scary is that we never know exactly what it is he wants, let alone just what he's doing to those he stalks. Or take a look at Candle Cove. We know almost nothing about the creeps or what's really going on, and the story is pretty effective at delivering the jibblies.
- If your creep comes from/does things in a video game, it's not necessary for the spooked-out game to have super-mega-ultra-hyper-realistic graphics to be scary or disturbing. Even regular old-school graphics can scare the pants off of people with the right atmosphere - the Mysterious Lady in the 1986 game The Uninvited did exactly that. Abadox pulled off some pretty disgusting viscera using only the native graphics power of the NES. Likewise, many good video game stories that involve "glitches" or games behaving strangely in some way don't rely on weirdly realistic graphics to scare people; they take advantage of the fact that the games could do downright unsettling and disturbing things with nothing more than the graphics power they already had.
- Once you start developing your creeps into three-dimensional people, you no longer really have a proper creeps at all - you've got plain old serial killers and/or supernatural supervillains. Many of the best creeps come off or act more like malign, implacable forces than anything else.
Also, check these out:
The Pasta Creep Originality Test
Tips For Writing & Maintaining A Horror Atmosphere
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Creepypasta & Horror Creep Generator
Creepypasta & Horror Creep Origin Generator
Things Writers Get Wrong About Bladed Weapons
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Things To Know If Your Character Will Be Augmented Or Experimented Upon
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Basic Tips To Improve Your OCs & Fan Characters
Tips 'N Stuff For Better Character Design
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