“It was dark.”

Photo by Carolina Pimenta on Unsplash

I’ve been working on ways to up the spooky factor in my scary scenes. One way, of course, is to make it dark. That’s human-basic. As little kids, when we have nightmares, we won’t go back to sleep unless the lights are on. As adults, when our cars break down, we’d much rather it happen at noon than at midnight.

It doesn’t help to say, “It was dark.”

I want to describe the darkness, where it lies, what it’s doing. The scene has to feel dark to the reader. This may be second-nature to more experienced writers, but it’s something I’m still working on.

I’m currently reading and enjoying She Who Comes Forth, a literary paranormal novel by Audrey Driscoll. I like the way Driscoll describes a sentient darkness:

In the stillness, something stirred. Not a shape in the darkness, but the darkness itself. A vortex into which I could fall, in which I would become. All I had to do was yield my will and speak the right words. The darkness tensed, waiting.

In another scene, Driscoll relates darkness to a grave:

The door slammed shut behind me as the flashlight slipped out of my hand and went out, entombing me in utter darkness.

Here are a couple of examples from my work-in-progress in which the protagonist, Catherine, flees into the woods where an evil witch abides:

Even though it was midday, the overcast sky was heavy, and only gray gloom seeped through the cloud cover.


The trees allowed no passage of moonlight. Only a black canopy loomed above. A dark mist groped at Catherine’s feet as she made her way deeper into the hollow.

Oh dear, poor Catherine. She doesn’t know the wickedness that lies in wait . . . .

Have a peaceful Christmas.

p.s. Yes, I “won” NaNoWriMo, now what? I put the manuscript away, and I’ll look at it with fresh eyes in the first quarter of 2019.

24 thoughts on ““It was dark.”

  1. Nice passages and so illustrative of your point. Darkness is something that happens a lot in my current WIP (the characters spend some time in caves) and finding creative immersive ways to draw the reader in is essential. Thanks for the thought starters. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. haha I love how you say it “I won it, so what” I wish I could say that? I’m still jumping over the walls LOL. THIS IS AN AWESOME POST Priscilla! “darkness” is one of the most important characters in my universe and I spend a ridiculous amount of time trying to describe it and how it acts. 🙂 I should read “She Who Comes Forth”!!! sounds so good!


  3. I haven’t read Audrey Driscoll but I really liked the examples of her writing that you shared. Both of the examples from her work do set the tone. I like your examples just as much. I can imagine the dark mist groping at her feet as she moves. It sounds like the darkness is alive. Sounds awesome!


  4. Thanks for your example of descriptions, Priscilla. I struggle with showing rather than telling. If I could show more description, then I could probably get out of my 30,000-40,000 word count range, and elevate it to 50,000-60,000. Good luck with your writing.

    Keep smiling,


      1. Thank you! I was named after my mom’s favorite cousin who lives in Pittsburgh, PA. Her mother had combined two words she saw in the delivery room.

        Keep smiling,


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