Most of us have seen a film that’s scared us, whether it was horror, sci-fi or even drama. To effectively create an emotion like fear in an audience takes skill. Skill in writing, directing and performances. But did you know that along with those skills there are practiced methods used to add suspense? These methods are based on your psychology, physiology and a technical understanding of film and they work every time.

If you’re looking to make your script or film more frightening here are some key tricks that you should consider incorporating:

  1. Create a bond between the audience and the protagonist. This is so that when scary things start happening to the world around the character the audience doesn’t want anything bad to happen to them because they are invested in the story. You can achieve this by making the character as relatable as possible. This also helps to build…
  2. Tension. the longer you play with the protagonist, the more you build suspense which in turn builds tension.
  3. Using silence to scare. Your first instinct may be to use lots of noises and/or soundtrack music to manipulate the audience in to feeling fear. Instead, if you use as little sound or music as possible and then play it when the danger is near it creates a contrast between the scenes that are scary and those that aren’t.
  4. Nonlinear Sounds. While silence can be deafening, the right (or wrong) sound can be used to create unease with the audience. People screaming, animals making distressed noises, the heavy noise of machinery can all be used to create nonlinear sound. Humans feel danger when they hear something like a high-pitched squeal.
  5. Use of negative space. In a film this means everything in the frame that is not the main focus and is used to give the audience’s eyes a rest. Non-genre films aim to create a perfect balance between negative and positive space because too much negative space makes the audience feel uncomfortable. Which is perfect if you’re looking to make the audience tense. [1]