Much like s’mores and sleeping bags, a great campfire story is something you simply can’t do without if you’re going to be spending a night out in the woods. Not all stories are equal however, and if you’re going to impress you need to learn how to properly tell one. Next time you’re huddled around the fire and want to spook your friends, keep these tips in mind.
Set the Scene
Every good horror story needs the right mood. Terror requires a somber atmosphere and a bit of uncomfortable silence, much like you might find in the forest in the middle of the night, with only the rustle of leaves and the hoot of an owl to keep you company. People are more receptive to stories when they’re tired, so wait until late into the night to start spinning your tale.
Choose Your Story
Whether you’re pulling from a tried and true local legend or plan on spinning your own yarn, it’s important that you come prepared. Know the story like the back of your hand so you don’t find yourself stumbling over important parts in the middle. Nothing ruins a good story like leaving out facts or tripping over your words. Research ahead of time and find local news stories, the more recent the better, that you can transform into something truly frightening for your friends. Remember, the truth is always more terrifying than fiction.
Use Your Surroundings
When you hear a constant rustle in the woods around you, try to incorporate it into your tale. If it fits with your story don’t be afraid to use your surroundings to enhance details as you go, but try to be subtle about it. You don’t want to pretend the story happened in your location, but throw in descriptions of things around you to remind your listeners of the area they’re sitting in. That way, they’ll feel like the horrible things going on in your story could also happen to them.
Use Your Acting Skills
Nothing kills a story faster than telling it in a monotone voice. You need to practice your acting skills ahead of time to find just the right amount of fear and anxiety in your voice without going over the top. Your listeners have to believe that you believe what you’re telling them otherwise your story will fall flat. If need be, run the story by someone who isn’t going with you on the trip so you have it down before the actual event.
The man holding the flashlight beneath his face as he tells the story is a common trope in movies for good reason; it makes the storyteller look more frightening. There’s also another reason that it’s a great prop some people tend to forget about. In a dark environment a light will draw the listener’s attention toward it, making the surrounding area not touched by the light seem even darker than before. Using the flashlight makes the woods around you appear more ominous.
Plant the Seeds
If you really want to be thorough and make your story effective, start planting the seeds a few days before the trip. Drop hints about some strange happenings going on in the area where you’re camping, like disappearances or attacks, to make them think they’re not entirely safe. You’ll sow a little fear into their hearts and make them ripe for a great tale of horror.
Keep It Close
Eye contact is essential when telling a good story. It helps keep your listener’s attention on you while also establishing a feeling of trust between you, so they’re more likely to believe what you’re telling them. It also helps to sit close together and create a sense of claustrophobia if you can. If your listener doesn’t like small spaces, try telling the story to them in the tent after you’ve already put out the fire.