It’s cinematic, really. To add power to your descriptions and even create a bit of suspense through them, ZOOM IN! Here’s how horror writer Stephen Dobyns does it in his novel, The Church of Dead Girls:
Three dead girls in three straight chairs, collapsed against the ropes, heads tilted, their skin papery, their bare feet on the wood floor looking more like paws than feet, brown and bony. Their mouths were slightly open and their lips pulled back. One could see their small teeth, imagine the dark dryness of their tongues, the darkness of their silent throats. How their teeth must have glittered in the candlelight. And their eyes, half open as if the girls were drowning, they too must have shone.
But there is something else. Their left hands were missing. Each girl had her hand severed at the wrist.
Notice here, how Dobyns moves from looking at the whole body, from a distance, to the mouth, to inside the mouth, and then slowly backs off again as he describes the missing hands. I admire the technique, but there IS something that I think can be improved in this description. He mentions the mouth first, then the eyes and finally, the hands. This is NOT how a camera would show it…in a movie, we may scroll down the body from top to bottom, eyes, mouth, chin, neck, down the arm to the missing hand. I think it would be improved if he described the look in the eyes first, and then the mouth and stumps, especially if we’re “scrolling down” the body as we’re picturing it. All in all, though, it is still a very creepy opening, and the zooming in adds to the effect.
Do the same, with horror or in another genre. Give us a look at a scene from a distance, and then get more and more descriptive as me move in to focus on one part of that scene.
Coming tomorrow: MISS YOU for mystery… Horror week #002 The Blooding!