Petrified …the books that scared me most

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serialkiller-WellsIn October, my fellow authors and I are telling you about the scariest books we’ve read. I’m going to tell you about a book that scared me, and why the most frightening monsters aren’t always hairy, slobbery, and seven-feet-all.

The book I’m talking about is I Am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells. You might be thinking, “Okay. Serial killer. Scary enough.”

Oh no, people. That’s not all. The main character—in fact, the very hero of the book—is the scary thing here. Dan Wells writes a protagonist with sociopathic tendencies. The kid is always thinking about how he’d kill someone, how he’d like to kill someone, even the girl of his dreams. The killer in the book is scary, no doubt (I won’t give that monster away), but to be perfectly honest, no one scared me like the kid who had to battle his own need to kill (as well as his obsession and adoration of famous American serial killers).

Here are the three main reasons I was so freaked out…

Real people are scarier than fake things. I’m sorry…ghosts don’t really do it for me. Maybe you’ve had a real-life experience with ghosts, and therefore, your fears are valid. But for most of us, a human killer is the biggest threat (just check out homicide statistics), and that mean anyone with the word psychopath attached is someone who can really give me the heebie jeebies.

Your worst fears are all in the mind. If you are creating a monster in your novel, remember not to introduce the sight of the creature too early. Readers will get sensitized too fast! The fear of the unknown is sometimes the greatest fear of all. Anticipation is key! Even when Wells finally introduces his real “monster,” our anxiety is high (because the real culprit is a twist). Nothing says scary like expectation followed by surprise. If you’re writing a scary story, enjoy leading up to the moment of revealing your true monster.

The possibility of being disappointed by the main character is terrifying. Throughout Wells’ book, I had to keep reading. Why? Not so much to find out the ending, as to find out if the main character would finally give way to the monster within. He scared me. He could disappoint me and make me angry by becoming the “bad” guy. I didn’t know how far he’d go, and somehow, I still was rooting for him.

A sociopath you root for? Now folks, that’s scary.

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