You can be the life -- or death -- of the party the next time you're sitting around the campfire if you can tell a good scary story.
Step 1: Invent "what-if" scenario Invent a "what-if" scenario that seems impossible to solve and terrifying to face. Describe closed rooms, dark hallways, and sudden obstructions or tests for the hero.
Step 2: Choose characters Choose a protagonist who resembles your audience -- someone their age, belongs to the same group, or shares one of their names. Manufacture a spooky or evil villain, alien, or monster who has flaws that the hero can exploit to defeat them.
TIP: Don't make it so scary that kids are frightened to sleep alone or be in the dark.
Step 3: Try a modern twist Try a modern twist on a classic scary storyline. Use basements instead of caves or limos instead of horses and carriages. Select eerie details that convey the smell, taste, touch, sound, and vision of the story.
Step 4: Let good triumph Maintain a theme of good triumphing over evil and insert lessons throughout about universal values of kindness if you're telling your story to kids. The hero's success should come from virtue or strength.
Step 5: Bring story to life Keep the story short, well paced, and dramatic. Tell the story in a whisper, and raise the volume and intensity of your voice as the situation dictates. Act out character parts using different voices.
TIP: Get creative and prepare the story ahead of time with props like sheets, hats, sound effects, and music to bring the story to life.
Step 6: Involve them Involve your audience by asking what they suppose happens next and change direction to insert surprising and frightening reversals.
Step 7: Listen to them Listen in the days after to what they recall of the scary story, which reveals what was effective and what has to be cut, sped up, replaced, or refined. If done right, they will want to hear it over again, and again.
FACT: A quarter of British parents polled in 2009 complained that traditional fairy tales contained politically incorrect references to dwarfs or unnecessarily scary, dark, or outdated elements.