People like scary things…unless they don’t. I am going to focus on “monsters” rather than frightening situations or events, because the latter would keep us here for a long time. Now, I’ll paint with my broad brush, and feel free to disagree.
There are two kinds of monsters (human or otherwise):
1. Monsters you can communicate with
2. Monsters you can’t communicate with
The monster you can communicate with has got a lot of potential for freaking people out.
For the purpose of creating an example, I’ll summon a blood-thirsty demon. BANG! Here’s Scrumpy the Demon, out for my blood and entrails.
He speaks English, probably better than I do. My first instinct is to communicate with him, specifically about what a bad choice of victim I am (loaded with fat, cholesterol, medications, and slow). Secondarily, I might beg him not to kill me if the first option doesn’t work.
This is pretty scary. You’d probably become pretty involved in my plight, if I were to detail my abject attempts to stay the awful claws and teeth. (And the stench. Dude smells bad.)
Scrumpy has two ways of approaching me: sympathetic, and not.
Let’s begin with an unsympathetic, demonic, Scrumpy.
He wouldn’t even notice me, much less give me time to plead for my life. He’d rend me to bite-sized pieces, and then move on to something else. Described well, my death might get a reader’s heart pumping.
On the other hand, Scrumpy and I go way back, so he’s at least willing to watch me humiliate myself, begging to be spared. The Scrump-miester retorts, explaining the long list of offenses that have earned me a bloody doom. We create immense amount of melodrama and words as we argue my fate. We get to the nitty-gritty, and there are three general possibilities.
1. Sure, he gets where I’m coming from, but he’s got a job to do. Wham! Rip! Shred! Scream! Flying chunks of fat American everywhere! The reader makes a hasty trip to the Porcelain Shrine.
2. I am so pathetic, he vanishes. There’s a lot of room here for humor, or continuing the tension. I mean, really, where there’s one huge demon, there’s another!
3. My protestations get to him, wringing a sulfurous tear from his eye. He makes me promise to be a better person, and let’s me go… or decides to help me out himself. Drama and/or hilarity ensue.
Thanks for your time Scrump-ola! Tell everyone in the Pit I said “Hi.”
Part 2 coming… there’ll be a Part 2…