Have you ever wondered why some stories linger in your mind? Why some characters continue to haunt your quiet moments long after the book has been returned to the library? I experience that phenomenon every time I read a story by Shirley Jackson, and it’s made me a serious investigator of masterfully-written horror.

Maybe more than any other genre, horror relies on a wicked understanding of human psychology paired with storytelling prowess capable of conjuring unreal terrors much too realistically for anyone’s comfort.

In my upcoming creative writing workshop through CCC’s Life Enrichment program, we’ll dissect this intricate dance macabre between the reader’s mind and the writer’s intent.

In four classes, we’ll delve into:

  • Empathy in Horror: How does a story like Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” grip us so intensely and linger for so long? We’ll study the art of creating characters that readers can’t help but care about—amplifying the fear they feel.
  • Sensory Details & Atmosphere: Reading “The Trains,” you’ll learn how a master like Robert Aickman can transform an ordinary setting into a scene dripping with unease using four stones and a wind-washed moor.
  • Suspense & Suggestion: With Daphne Du Maurier’s “The Birds” as our guide, we’ll explore the tantalizing power of suggestion and the thrill of suspense, developing our own ability to leave readers perpetually on edge.
  • Ambiguity & Subversion: Shirley Jackson’s “The Visit” will illustrate the unsettling beauty of ambiguity and the art of upending reader expectations.

Alongside the study of these iconically eerie works, we’ll be getting down and dirty with hands-on exercises, insightful feedback, and a community of fellow horror enthusiasts eager to perfect their craft. Plus, a curated list of readings will be available to further deepen your understanding of the genre.

Whether you’re an aspiring horror writer or a reader fascinated by the mechanics behind your favorite spine-tingling tales, this course promises revelations aplenty, and at the end, you’ll be well on your way to adding your own tale of terror to local lore. Workshop participants who choose to write a short horror story set in or inspired by Carteret County have the option to read their stories live at the Carteret Writers’ October event, where I will be recording a special Halloween episode of EPIC Carteret.

Fear Factor will be held on Monday evenings from September 11 through October 2. The price for the four two-hour classes is $58 total, and you can register using Instant Enrollment online, by calling CCC’s Life Enrichment department at 252-222-6200, or by emailing boneyh@carteret.edu. The class will be held in CCC’s Wayne West building.

Between now and then, bone up on how two masters of mayhem and misery ply their treacherous craft in my post on Haunted castles and sentient planets: crafting effective settings for horror stories.