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Supernatural means anything unexplainable, for example magic powers, wizards, witches, wishes, beasts, monsters, the living dead; all resolving around the idea of, ying – yang, good and evil, dark and light. As the great saying goes, “We fear what we do not understand. ” To me the world of the supernatural seems a clichi?? , I mean, for example, it’s always at midnight that evil comes out, bad things tend to happen in three and of course, curses and bad luck.
To make a good story, there are techniques or patterns that they must be followed, first there has to be an introduction to the environment, characters and lifestyle, following this there has to be a complication, be it death, love / fear, etc. then finally a solution to bind everything together. But some writers attempt to mix this up, to grab the readers’ attention to the utmost limit, e. g. cliff hangers, sections left to the readers imagination, change in order of a story or a basic twist to the tale.
To construct the complication, specifically in supernatural stories, writers tend to use tension; this creates a mix of emotions and engages the reader further. As this paper regards the build up of tension, I have devised a list of ways to do so in narratives: – An Ominous opening – The spooky Setting – Reference to evil past events (“bad deeds”) – Building up of supernatural events – Varying the pace of writing. (more description, shorter sentences, extra paragraphs and more punctuation) – Change in language type, (accents, sounds etc) – Change in tone, when being reading aloud – Missing descriptions, (e.
g. leaving the ghost to the readers imagination) – Short finale/ Cliff hangers All these and more can build up tension in any narratives. I will explain examples of these points through the stories that I studied, written by various famous writers from the Victorian and Edwardian period; I personally enjoyed them because I knew that this was a tale told many years ago and they still entertain with their rich descriptions and settings. The stories which I have read are as follows: – ‘The Signalman’ – Charles Dickens (1850) – ‘The Monkeys Paw’ – W. W. Jacobs (1870) – ‘Man-size In Marble’ – E. Nesbit (1900)
– ‘A School Story’ – M. R. James (1910) – ‘The Red Room’ – H. G. Wells (1914) The Signalman The Signalman is set in a railway, which in Victorian times was very modern, (the evolution of the railway was a major breakthrough in engineering, it had only been invented 20 years ago) but in this narrative, Charles Dickens describes the railway as if it were old and in a gothic fashion, which in turn makes it scarier, the deep cutting is described as a frightening and “Dismal” place, turning it gradually into a supernatural medieval dungeon. As quoted “Dripping wet wall of jagged stone… great dungeon…
as if I had left the natural world” It Is ironic how in those ages, the revolution started and still people regard them in the past tense after experiencing them, as if they were old. This setting really gave me an image of a very daunting location, partly because of the gothic descriptions, but mostly because I know that in the Victorian ages, they did not have light bulbs and electricity like we have, but the idea of complete darkness, the idea of not being able to see through the blinding black in the long deep tunnels and not knowing what is inside, it is as if the darkness was trying to swallow you, mentally.
From the very first line of the story, Dickens tries to engage the reader, “Halloa, below there! ” it seems as if the story is addressing the reader and pulls them into the story as it unfolds. The first page is very descriptive which I personally found overwhelming but the use of punctuation and paragraphing eased the read/ understanding rate. The story contains reference to the past but the sighting of the Sceptre was a signal proclaiming a future event, mostly warnings.
This following quote was taken when the signalman explains his first meeting with the Sceptre and the tragedy that prevailed shortly, “Within six hours after the Appearance, the memorable accident on the line happened… ” this story is a clever mix of past and present, this mix is one of the main reasons why I like the narrative. To me, this built up tension as I prefer an insight explanation from the past events to understand the present; it makes it scarier when things are not what they seem.
The Signalman, by Charles Dickens, is a masterpiece in building up of events until “wham” the finale, which strikes the reader to the utmost limit; I know this because I’ve experienced it, I don’t mean that I was once a signalman, I mean that I have experienced the attention grabbing finale. The story builds up in events through repetition via the Spectre, the first appearance brought death, and so did the second and then to finish, the third. As quoted “… Six or seven months passed, and I had recovered … when one morning …
And saw the spectre again. ” This is an example of “Bad things happen in Threes” Clichi?? , which is an excellent example of a way to build up events; I think that using this method makes the reader think that it is a predictable tale, but those who read on will find that just because it is a clichi?? of building up events doesn’t mean the stories a clichi?? as we find out there are different aspects that you can introduce to make it more interesting. Charles Dickens, in all his novels, is very descriptive and imaginative in every aspect.
In this story especially, the description is a way of building up tension and events, the gradual change from description to dialogue is the outcome of the tension. Verily overall this is altering the pace through more description, shorter sentences, extra paragraphs and more punctuation. Towards the end of the story the paragraphs shorten, there are more verbs and more quotes, this is also an example of building up of events, but this effect is, I think the best way of building up tension.
The language used in this story is formal and while the signalman seems a little informal as he is at a lower status, as quoted “a student of natural philosophy… but he had run wild, misused his opportunities, gone down, and never risen again. ” The use of informal language makes the story seem rugged and scarier and in some ways, when used in speech with the correct punctuation can build up tension rather than a formal quote. Nearing the end of story, the train driver shouts: “Below there!
Look out… for God’s Sake Clear the Way! ” this sounds formal and to me, and more interesting because the man would want to express his thoughts at an outburst but time is a foe. I am fond of the shouting involved in the story; primarily because it creates tension and awakens the reader from the drowsy continuous alter in imagery by the descriptions, the shouting creates a larger atmosphere and can also effect the readers reflexes, creating more tension.