In the protagonist's head

A feeling of dread often starts with events that make you feel uncomfortable. Negative emotions. Poor choices. The feeling your mind is playing tricks on you. This snippet combines all of these. 

It also uses a classic horror trope—something you expect to be lifeless might not be. It can’t be alive, the protagonist thinks. That’s not possible! I must be going mad… They have doubts but, as readers, we know something’s up.

When we hear a character’s thoughts, it’s called interior monologue. In this snippet, the internal monologue is shown with italics.

Also notice how the language is very simple, like the understated example from Coraline that we first saw. 

She’s jealous, Lindy realized. Kris sees that the kids really like Slappy and that I'm getting all the attention. And she’s totally jealous.

I’m definitely keeping Slappy! Lindy told herself, secretly pleased at her little triumph.

She stared into the dummy’s bright blue painted eyes. To her surprise, the dummy seemed to be staring back at her, a twinkle of sunlight in his eyes, his grin wide and knowing.

I can format thoughts in italics, you might think.
I don’t need to add the tag at the end, though.

I can portray thoughts without formatting, you might also think. 
I can ditch the tag in this format, too.

Yes. All of these are correct.

If you want to use italics, the keyboard shortcut is ctrl+i for windows or cmd+i for mac.

Some other rules:

  • be consistent with how you stylise your interior speech
  • avoid “quotation marks”—they can make the reader think the character is speaking aloud.

A young girl in a dark forest.

Here’s an example using the picture as a starting point. Again, it starts with an uncomfortable emotion (greed). Then it adds to the discomfort by making something in the character’s surroundings act in an odd way. 

It’s mine, Lucy thought. A diamond brooch in the middle of the path. Just left there!

Serves them right, whoever dropped it, for being so careless. It’s mine, now. Too bad, so sad, she chuckled as she latched it to her dress and continued down the forest path.

As she skipped along, her eyes kept flicking to her newly acquired treasure. It might have been sleepiness after a long day, but she thought the brooch was glowing slightly. Once or twice, she could have sworn it was moving, like it was trying to escape, or pull her into the dark forest.

Time to write. 

Keep it internal and emotional. Start with an uncomfortable human emotion about an object such as envy, disgust, greed, or pride. After that, add to the emotional mix by including something supernatural. 

Use interior monologue. 

  • If you want to use italics, the keyboard shortcut is ctrl+i for windows or cmd+i for mac.
  • If you don't want to use italics, no problem. Follow the same style as the example.
Write a character’s interior monologue about an object. Then give that object a creepy characteristic. Base your writing on the picture.