A knowledgeable speaker, Mortenson referred to a number of films among them Jaws, Nightmare on Elm Street, Lizzie's Story, Carrie, Fatal Attraction, The Good Son, Psycho, Hostel, Pet Cemetery, Silence of the Lambs and The Stepford Wives.
Here are some of his tips for wannabe horror writers...
- Readers are afraid of death and losing control. In your writing, play with the illusion of control and make the reader confront the unknown.
- Fear inspires the most action.
- Take the everyday and turn it diabolical. For example, in Stephen King's novel, Kujo, a dog gets rabies and starts attacking people. Keep in mind that any animal can turn.
- Great horror is built on anticipation. In Jaws, the music played whenever the shark was approaching.
- When you limit what the reader knows, he/she will fell helpless.
- Anyone is capable of murder.
- Effective horror tries to bring out lessons.
- Play with...How much do we take for granted?...How much can go wrong?
- To make an even greater impact, have no definite conclusion or closure. For example, in Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal is not caught. The unknown makes everyone uncomfortable.
- If you are looking for a topic, ask yourself: What scares you? What do you fear?
- Play with the idea of science going bad. For example, what could be put in food? How terrifying would it be to lose all consciousness?