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the "creep" factor

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Want to do some opinion polling among Blueboarders that read/write creepy stories. . . .

What gives a story the 'creep' factor in your opinion?  Atmosphere?  Things that move? Unexplained noises?  Gore?

What are some MG books that achieve a creep factor? 

Thanks!!
#1 - August 09, 2010, 03:20 PM
You're never too old to become younger. - Mae West

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WAIT TIL HELEN COMES and THE DOLL IN THE GARDEN by Mary Downing Hahn are oldies but goodies. To this day, they are the creepiest MGs I've ever read.  They are both ghost stories with no gore, but amazing atmosphere and the fact that the reader knows the something really bad could happen soon and we keep waiting to find out when.....
#2 - August 09, 2010, 03:39 PM
BLACKOUT -- available now
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SISTERS DON'T TELL -- available now
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impending doom. . . . that's a great creep factor!  anticipation.  Yes.  Absolutely!
#3 - August 09, 2010, 03:58 PM
You're never too old to become younger. - Mae West

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I would have to say that atmosphere is without a doubt #1 on my list. A little bit of tension in the setting--be it shadows you can't quite make out, or a summer day that's just a little *too* hot and still to be natural... I think establishing that edgy scene-setting is critical. A close second would be slightly creepy characters. Think Mrs. Danvers in REBECCA. Add a MC who's already on edge because of XYZ (stayed out past curfew/married a man far out of her station in life/moved cross country against her will)... and that is pretty much a perfect recipe for The Creeps (my favorite literary dish!).

If you want to soak up fabulous examples where they get everything just exactly right, here are some of my favorite recommendations:

"Rebecca" (Hitchcock's film version is stupendous)

TAMSIN, by Peter S. Beagle (great YA ghost story with astounding creep factor and a villain that makes my skin crawl, utterly without gore or overt violence)

THE WATCH HOUSE by master frightener Robert Westall (one of the scariest scenes I've ever read in a book. :werd :hiding)

THE BONE DOLL'S TWIN by Lynn Flewelling (aside from the author having The Coolest Name *Ever,* this is a traditional fantasy that is seriously high on the Creep Factor scale. Changeling children, necromancy, spells gone horribly awry... delicious.)

#4 - August 09, 2010, 05:34 PM

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I'll second Rebecca -- masterful.
#5 - August 09, 2010, 06:32 PM

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Elizabeth. . . . Sounds like I won't sleep for months!!!  Thanks for the suggestions!  

I've never read anything from the Goosebump series.  What do folks think of those books in terms of creep factor?
#6 - August 09, 2010, 06:32 PM
You're never too old to become younger. - Mae West

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Also, for younger readers, I recently read The Witches of Worm, which I believe was first published in the '70s.  Involves a cat that may or may not be evil, and a teen girl (who of course has a semi-absent mother, and lives in an apartment building atop a dangerous cliff with crashing waves and jagged rocks below) who adopts it.  While it wasn't entirely my cup of tea in the end, it had all the trappings of creepy that Elizabeth describes.  Interestingly, it was shelved in the MG section of my library.  I felt it more YA, simply because of the creep factor.

Never really read the Goosebump books. 
#7 - August 09, 2010, 06:36 PM

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I kid you all not, but since I've posed this question there have been BIZARRE noises in my house.  As if the local spirits know the question I've posed to you and are giving me a dose of what the creep factor really means.

Lovely.

I'm going to be dealing with creepy muses all night long.  And DH is gone.  Fan-freaky-tastic.
#8 - August 09, 2010, 06:48 PM
You're never too old to become younger. - Mae West

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Jenna. . . that title sounds very familiar.  I will pick it up.  Thanks!

I was also thinking about Dynamite Magazine -- anyone remember that publication??  Well, in 1980 Dynamite put out a book of ghost stories and haunted houses.  Scared the CRAP out of me as an 8/9/10 year old.  I want to get my hands on a copy of that book and figure out what it was that scared me so much!
#9 - August 09, 2010, 06:50 PM
You're never too old to become younger. - Mae West

Last night I finished Shadowed Summer by Saundra Mitchell. It had an awesome subtle creep factor as the story wore on. The main character is 14 (the cover girl looks older to me).

I think I read all the Goosebumps back they first came out (bought them for the kids, honest  :yup). I think there were some really creepy cool ones but I can't for the life of me remember which ones.
#10 - August 09, 2010, 08:01 PM

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For the longest time, the Goosebumps books were the *only* thing my nephew would read. Thankfully there are gads of them. Unfortunately, they were a little behind my time, reading-wise.

A couple of years ago, I was contracted to write a middle-grade ghost story for a Scholastic Book Clubs anthology called BONES (came out in Jan '10). Because it had been a while since I'd read any middle-grade horror (or any MG of any kind, really), I hit my library and had them pull every anthology for that age group they had, and I combed through my boxes of books from childhood and found my own copies of Scholastic book order ghost story anthologies. Ohmigosh, what a FUN FUN FUN research-reading project that was!! I think my page on Goodreads mentions some of the anthologies that were really wonderful (I think there was a Norton anthology or Penguin Book Of in there!).

Now. When I actually got my author copy and read the other stories... I kind of think mine was definitely the creepiest... and I'm not sure that's a good thing. ??? Maybe the stories I read as a kid were darker than what sells today, or maybe I'm just a creepier person than Margaret Mahy and David Levithan :dr, but mine had a darkness to it that seemed slightly out of synch with the other stories.

But I do remember loving ghost stories TO DEATH as a grade schooler, and didn't think mine seemed out of the realm of what I'd been reading as research. (shrug) And the editor certainly never said, "Do you think this might be too scary for an eight-year-old, Elizabeth?" Who knows.
#11 - August 10, 2010, 02:35 PM

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I find the The Last Apprentice series quite creepy. Particularly the first book REVENGE OF THE WITCH (I think that's the name).  It's the atmosphere, and some gore that gets me. I had to set it down with chapter one of book one to get myself ready for the rest of the book. Good stuff.
#12 - August 10, 2010, 02:42 PM

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Gore itself isn't creepy, it's just gross.

You know what I find creepiest? A fleeting glimpse of something that appears to be not quite as it should be, seen when you are alone...for example, you're going up an elevator, and just as the door opens you notice the person standing next to you has no nose.

Or how about this. Waking up in the middle of the night and seeing bright moonlight...then realizing that it's not the moon. The light is coming from something inside your room!
#13 - August 11, 2010, 12:01 AM
« Last Edit: August 11, 2010, 12:03 AM by Wonky »

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Maybe the stories I read as a kid were darker than what sells today

I definitely think this is part of the case.  I read a lot of Christopher Pike and Lois Duncan as a kid and I've picked a few of them up to re-read and they are much darker than what I'm seeing out there now. Lots of teens murdering teens and hatching elaborate murder plots and going crazy, and those are the non-paranormal ones!

Anyway, for creep factor.  If you're willing to read older books, I think Lois Duncan did it really well.  Locked In Time by Lois Duncan is one of those that slowly gets more and more scary. To me that's what creepy is. When you start to notice something isn't right, little by little. Each new thing builds onto the next and builds a sense of unease until suddenly you realize how bad things really are. The scary/horror literally creeps up on you.
#14 - August 11, 2010, 07:18 AM
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To me that's what creepy is. When you start to notice something isn't right, little by little. Each new thing builds onto the next and builds a sense of unease until suddenly you realize how bad things really are. The scary/horror literally creeps up on you.

Oooo, so true! (shivers)
#15 - August 11, 2010, 08:55 AM

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Thanks everyone!  I have a lot of fun, creepy reading to do.

But seriously, I'm the type that had major fears of things that go bump in the night. . . and I still do at times.  I'm worried I'm going to scare myself reading all these things!!!
#16 - August 11, 2010, 09:45 AM
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I think Lois Duncan did it really well.  Locked In Time by Lois Duncan is one of those that slowly gets more and more scary.

I think LOCKED IN TIME is an excellent book, all around, for the study of craft. I found it particularly helpful for understanding scene-and-sequel (or show/tell, or narration vs summary). Duncan does a fabulous job of giving you a gripping action scene... and then giving the MC a page or so to reflect on what happened, so the reader knows she's all caught up on everything going on, and what all the scary stuff means.

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Lois Duncan and Christopher Pike are YA (and brilliant!!), but I think K is thinking middle-grade. That said, in fourth/fifth/sixth grades, I absolutely devoured the Dark Forces series (remember those? Seriously dark and creepy, with real consequences in the plots), which I think were probably YA. I probably would have found Goosebumps a little babyish, maybe. But I was reading Stephen King in 7th grade, so...? Everybody's Creepiness Threshold is different--but I'll bet that most readers who like things creepy won't shy away from a good chill.
#17 - August 11, 2010, 02:56 PM

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You're right ecb. I re-read the first post after I posted and realized she wanted MG. My bad! I was reading that stuff in junior high though. I also started Stephen King in 7th grade. Either way Lois Duncan is worth the read. I'm so excited someone else knows Locked In Time! It's one of those books that always stuck with me.
#18 - August 11, 2010, 03:32 PM
DEFY THE DARK - HarperTeen June 2013
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Wow, I'm going to have to read some of these.  Especially since I am writing a story with a creep factor.  What I find creepy is when you think someone's watching you. Or when a character is just enough wacky to freak you out.  Like the guy in that movie with Julia Roberts and everthing in the house had to be perfect and he notices the hand towels out of place.  I can't remember the name of that movie but he was creepy.  Recently a new guy at work had seen a picture of me and my daughter when she was a baby, he made a comment about how much darker my hair was back then. (Yes, I highlight my hair now to hide the gray).  That creeped me out.  Guys don't usually notice that sort of thing.   :ahh
#19 - August 14, 2010, 02:51 PM
« Last Edit: August 14, 2010, 02:59 PM by Kimberly »

Sharif

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I find the The Last Apprentice series quite creepy. Particularly the first book REVENGE OF THE WITCH (I think that's the name).  It's the atmosphere, and some gore that gets me. I had to set it down with chapter one of book one to get myself ready for the rest of the book. Good stuff.

I read the first book in the series, and it's one of the creepiest books I've ever read.  I love the overall atmosphere in it. 

Darren Shan's writing is also creepy.
#20 - August 14, 2010, 03:25 PM

I'm not sure if anyone's mentioned Richard Peck's The Ghost Belonged to Me or Ghosts I Have Been.  I was never into slasher type books or movies, but ghost stories creeped me out as a kid. The (sub-par) movie version of The Ghost Belonged to Me is called "Child of Glass" and it stuck in my sister's and my head for years.

Apologies if this is a repeat but of course Coraline--the novel version and the graphic novel version.

Would The Graveyard Book count for MG?  I haven't let my 10 year old daughter read it yet, mainly because of the opening scene, but our librarian said she thought adults found that opening much more disturbing than kid readers, who were concentrating on the baby, not the gruesome crime.

Anyway, I wasn't much older than her when I read The Amityville Horror, so I should probably just hand The Graveyard Book right over.  (Can't find Eyeroll Smiley, so this will have to do) :rip
#21 - August 14, 2010, 06:05 PM

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All very great suggestions!  I had to order a bunch at our library b/c my branch didn't have several of them.  Can't wait to read.

I really like The Graveyard Book and didn't find that one too creepy at all.  More interesting than anything. 

I think the common element described by most of you is suspense and apprehension.  So, I'm really going to have to heighten the tension and sense of foreboding.  I'm going to be a freaked-out basket case if I get through all of these titles.  I'm a chicken to begin with!
#22 - August 14, 2010, 06:37 PM
You're never too old to become younger. - Mae West

ecb's mention of anthologies reminded me of this one. It was a Halloween anthology, I'm sure I picked it up at one of the Scholastic books fairs (for the kids, honest :shh).

I'm totally blanking on the title but I think the cover featured a demented pumpkin/some kind of pumpkin and the story that still creeps me out was about a group of kids who have to check out the town's legendary abandoned haunted house.

SPOILER SPACE

The creepy ending has the kids locked inside and the house as it begins turning into a pumpkin around them. A nasty rotting pumpkin if I'm not mistaken. Messing with Halloween pumpkins, especially in the days after Halloween has skeeved me out ever since.  :dr

#23 - August 14, 2010, 09:43 PM

ecb

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K, for pitch-perfect middle grade creepiness, you should rent "The Watcher in the Woods," a fabulous old Disney movie starring (?) Bette Davis. It is *marvelous*--absolutely Lois Duncan brought to life (it's not based on a Lois Duncan book, but it's the only movie I've ever seen that has the same feel as one of her books). This was a favorite of mine from about third grade on, and DH and I still watch it a couple of times a year. The creep factor is fantastic, without being over the top for younger kids.
#24 - August 14, 2010, 11:32 PM

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Holy Cats, ECB.  Watcher in the Woods -- book and movie -- scared the Beejubuz out of me as a kid.  That one and Something Wicked This Way Comes.

Totally forgot about Watcher in the Woods.  I remember reading that at night at our cabin. . . . terrifying.  Going to find it and read it again.  Awesome!!!  Thanks!!!
#25 - August 15, 2010, 11:30 AM
You're never too old to become younger. - Mae West

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I had to resurrect this thread just to say that my 5th grade teacher showed us "Watcher in the Woods". I loved it. And I am always surprised when people my age have never seen it!
#26 - May 23, 2012, 04:46 PM

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Oh, yes! Both of those were the ultimate creep factor movies for me when I was in 6th grade. I don't know how well they age--I haven't watched them in years. Methinks a movie night is in order...
#27 - May 23, 2012, 05:13 PM

The new CHRONICLES OF HARRIS BURDICK has a lot of creepiness from a lot of authors.
#28 - May 23, 2012, 06:16 PM
SWAY, 2012 from Disney-Hyperion
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I've never read anything from the Goosebump series.  What do folks think of those books in terms of creep factor?
I LOVED Goosebumps books as a kid (everyone in my class collected them and swapped them). I don't remember them as genuinely frightening, though -- they were more like fun adventure stories with "horror" thrown in for good measure.

One thing I do remember is that they often had a huge twist at the end. I think most of their atmosphere/ tension comes from waiting for that inevitable moment of "Got you!" when everything is turned upon its head.
#29 - May 23, 2012, 07:05 PM
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