A Sense of Dread: Getting Under the Skin of Horror Screenwriting

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What are you afraid of?

A Sense of Dread features three main sections:

1) A detailed examination of the biological, psychological, and cultural bases of fear. What fears do we share with animals? What fears are uniquely human? What fears have we learned from our culture? From our families? From our experiences growing up? And what, exactly, is the difference between fear and dread?

2) A Sense of Dread then combines these ideas to explore the roots of human fear and apply them to storytelling for the screen. “The Toolbox of Dread” outlines the techniques for creating terror on the page. A wide array of horror subgenres are also explored, including why they exist, and what challenges each presents to the horror screenwriter.

3) Author Neal Marshall Stevens puts theory into practice, using examples from his own work to demonstrate how to apply his “toolbox” and the principles of “dread” to put real scares into the pages of a screenplay. Finally, we seek to answer the question many people ask: What are you afraid of?



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Meet The Author

Neal Marshall Stevens has been a working professional in the entertainment industry for over thirty years.

He began his career at Laurel Entertainment, where he wrote multiple episodes of the anthology series Monsters. Neal worked as senior story editor for Laurel’s productions of several miniseries (Stephen King’s The Stand, Stephen King’s The Langoliers, and Stephen King’s The Golden Years), and made-for-TV movies (Precious Victims, The Vernon Johns Story, and several others).

He then worked for Charles Band’s Full Moon Entertainment, specializing in direct-to-video productions. Over the course of his association with Full Moon, he worked on over 50 produced motion pictures, including six entries in the popular Puppetmaster series.

He also wrote and directed the feature Stitches, and has worked with Charles Band to produce several recent web series, including Trophy Heads and Ravenwolf Towers. Among other projects, Neal sold his original screenplay Deader to Dimension Pictures, which was subsequently produced as Hellraiser: Deader, and wrote the screenplay for Dark Castle’s feature remake of Thirteen Ghosts.

In addition to his work as a screenwriter, Neal has taught online for eight years for Script University, and is currently a professor in the MFA in Screenwriting program at the David Lynch Graduate School of Cinematic Arts at Maharishi International University.