We all know why the phrase “on a dark and stormy night” brings on a wave of chills and terror when read. Yet, it is where you are on that stormy night that truly turns a story into the horrifying one the author’s nutty brain imagined.
The setting may be just part of the background for some writers. I have found the more I read (as a writer), the more important place becomes to the story. It’s not only the playing board on which the writer sets his/her characters, but it can bring the story to life for the reader. Besides, do you think if a horror story were set in a different place, the story would really stay the same? HELL NO!
Would The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde be the same outside of London? Or how about Dracula and Transylvania? None of these classics would hold the same power if they weren’t set in these eerie places with descriptions to match. There are a few familiar examples to follow to help explain my point. Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire would feel out of place without New Orleans casting its old world mysticism onto the modern story. Most of Stephen King’s novels take place in a fake town in Maine, allowing him to create the most fantastic horror stories of our time. Finally, I Am Legend by Richard Matheson is set in the ruins of Los Angeles leaving its main character alone with throngs of mutated humans that once populated the luxurious city.
At times, the writer will focus too much on the plot or characters to notice what makes good horror writing truly believable, but that is where the terrifying bumps in the night live. I found the inspiration for my next story not in a person or idea, but in a place. About a ten minute drive from home, sits several new developments with pretty, new houses. When I say several I mean hundreds of brand-new, huge mansion-sized houses in the forests of Western Pennsylvania–all empty. There are one or two occupied houses in each development and the rest…Well, the rest are as deserted as a Western ghost town (also another great location).
Now, I may not be an economist or real estate agent. However, building hundreds of $400,000 homes in an unlikely real estate location strikes me as odd. So odd that it becomes spine-tingling creepy if you visit them at night. My story does not have a spooky city, but a spooky house. It may seem cliche or lame, but it is the perfect place to write my new science fiction horror.
What are your favorite scary settings in novels and if you’re currently writing a horror, why did you choose the setting you did?
Happy reading and writing!!