Exaggeration (hyperbole and understatement) is a tool often used in horror fiction. Stating that things are the absolute worst (hyperbole) sends a clear message to the reader: this character doesn’t want to be here right now–and neither would YOU! Look at how Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguie use it immediately in the very first sentence of Spellbound:
The whole world was on fire. Trees exploded in showers of sparks, and bits of burning leaves fluttered toward the ground. They landed on Amanda Anderson’s shoulders as she ran, and she did not have time to snuff them out. She could smell her hair burning, but she could not stop. She was being run to ground just like a wild animal, and she felt as small and insignificant as the squirrel that raced past her and shot up a tree, fleeing the smoke and the flames.
Behind her, unearthly screams pierced the night, howls of pain that could have come from either beast or man. She didn’t turn around. People were dying, and she could not save them.
The “whole world” being on fire speaks of a desperate situation. But did you notice how the character herself is described? By using understatement–comparing this human to a squirrel. Amanda feels small with the greatest of problems weighing down on her. We feel the desperation in two ways.
Today’s “Try this” is simple: use the tools–hyperbole AND understatement, to create a character we’ll instantly care about. Write that opening scene!
Coming tomorrow: If you’re a writer, you hear other VOICES, but hopefully, not like these!