Another way to create fearful suspense is to describe something terrible in great detail early on, and then make the reader wait for the scary thing to appear.

Here’s a snippet in which a grandfather describes terrible monsters. Notice how much more dialed-up the writing is compared to the previous understated snippet: this description has lots of vivid adjectives and words, all crowding together, trying to hype the monsters. 

(Will the reality live up to the legend? You’d have to read to find out!)

"What kind of monsters?" I'd ask, wide-eyed. It became a sort of routine. "Awful hunched-over ones with rotting skin and black eyes," he'd say. "And they walked like this!" And he'd shamble after me like an old-time movie monster until I ran away laughing.      

Every time he described them he'd toss in some lurid new detail: they stank like putrefying trash; they were invisible except for their shadows; a pack of squirming tentacles lurked inside their mouths and could whip out in an instant and pull you into their powerful jaws. It wasn't long before I had trouble falling asleep, my hyperactive imagination transforming the hiss of tires on wet pavement into labored breathing just outside my window or shadows under the door into twisting gray-black tentacles. I was scared of the monsters but thrilled to imagine my grandfather battling them and surviving to tell the tale.

Here’s an example using the same style as the snippet, based on the picture.

"So, what do they say, exactly?" I sighed. 

"The villagers talk of a ghost girl, Liebchen," my aunt said, leaning in earnestly. "They say, you should never go into the woods late at night, for she will come up behind you, deathly silent, and grab you with her icy fingers like so - YEEEE!" She lurched a little, miming the action with her hands. I rolled my eyes and sighed. 

Over the week, my aunt had more ‘details’ from the locals: the ghost girl wore a dripping white nightgown; she only appeared on cloudless nights when the moon was a sliver in the sky; if she caught you, she’d drag you back to the lake where she was found all those years ago. I decided the only way to stop her obsession was with fact.

A quick internet found that, sure enough, in 1876 a young girl nobody knew died under mysterious circumstances. Despite being found in the lake in the heart of the woods, drowning was ruled out as the cause of death.

While the true story seemed to settle my aunt down, it lit a fire in me. I needed more. I needed to see the lake.

Your turn now.

Think of a story your protagonist could be told about the threat. Is it a warning? Is it an old legend? Dial it up, too.

Write a fearful tale, hyping the terror. Cram in vivid adjectives and words to provide great detail about whatever your threat is. Again, use the picture as a starting point.