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I don't want to scare the reader, but I would like to produce a dark and nostalgic feeling.

Pretty much the feeling that gives you this video (both image and music).

The setting of my novel is a psychiatric clinic (always at night).

Any suggestions?

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1  
You do not want to scare the reader? Stop writing, now! –  John Smithers Mar 16 '11 at 9:11
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More to the point: your novel is set in a scary place at a scary time. Of course you're going to scare the reader. If you don't want to frighten your reader, write about rainbows and kittens which don't smell like corpses. –  Lauren Ipsum Mar 16 '11 at 12:53
    
@Lauren Ipsum was that irony coming from my previous post (it was a good one)? –  Alexandro Chen Mar 16 '11 at 13:15
    
yep. ;) –  Lauren Ipsum Mar 16 '11 at 15:13

4 Answers 4

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Place emphasis on uncomfortable things. Depending on the level of realism you're aiming at, you might want to imagine some upsetting situations that "could" happen, and let the people "see" them.

Also, make sure to give a long space to angsty thoughts, and only a fleeting space to happy thoughts or situations.

If you're ever going to talk from the perspective of someone in there, you may want to use particular techniques according to whether they are right or wrong in the head. It is very easy to portray bleakness through the eyes of a crazy person, as well as sadness through the eyes of a sane person dealing with insane people.

Try several techniques, read out loud and read to others. Ask them what they think to know what works best.

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not a scary feeling but maybe a depressing feeling. It should be a love story if you don't want to scare readers, like Warm Bodies.

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I simply believe that there is no technique to follow to achieve the goal you say you're aiming for, provided that you really want to convey such an emotion.

The mere fact of thinking about a 'how to' shows that it is likely that your approach to the story could appear as too deterministic and cold, hence very likely not to produce the expected result.

Even in genre / 'pop' literature (quite silly distinction, btw), some areas are best left coming freely to your writing rather than issued by some rules.

There are some otherwise very dry list / descriptions of mundane infos in gifted writers (i.e. David Forster Wallace comes now to my mind) that convey precisely nostalgia, the sense of how time is past etc ... while other less gifted writers induce boredom at best, hilarity at worst, while trying to be 'intense'.

Sincerity above all, as well as reading a lot of good literary examples can make wonders, while precooked schemes tend to fail.

PS

I do not see precisely the connection between fear and nostalgia, but scaring the reader is a higly commendable task, really difficult to achieve ! :-)

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Focus on descriptions. Describe the setting vividly so that the reader feels like they're there. If you were in a psychiatric ward at night, what would you be scared of? Try and put those things into your novel.

Humans are naturally fearful and cautious creatures. You can easily prey upon those natural fears to make the novel seem dark. If you'd really like to scare the reader, don't be too specific. What their imaginations add to fill in the blanks can often be more terrifying than anything you can write.

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