Bruh. I got you. Ish. this isn’t my genre exactly but it certainly is @smolkitsuneposts and she’s been tormenting me for weeks.
(i swore a lot in this tutorial. forgive me)
Basically the trick is to keep things feeling just on the edge of too normal- my favourite trick is to use too many fucking adverbs, and to give just a little too much descriptions- this makes everything feel hyperaware, like the characters are taking in too much stimulus from the outside world so they can react to something.
You ever notice in horror movies, especially old hitchcock films, that they’ll zoom in close on something, or linger just a little too fucking long on some inane detail? Do that. The Lottery (you know, the short story where someone is stoned to death to appease a farming god?) Opens up with an absolutely excessive amount of detail on how nice a day it is. My english prof was like “This? This here, where the author is telling you everything is fine? Never, ever trust that.”
Make sure all the inane details you really leave your focus on are relevant later- spend three pages describing a bland cafe that’s just on this wrong side of uncanny valley? That cafe is later where someone gets murdered. Loud gasp! Or something. All of a sudden that shiny chrome countertop is stained and ugly.
Speaking of which- since you’re doing a third person narrative, the speaker can foreshadow shit. X had a habit of leaving xir car keys in odd places, and Y was forever warning xir about losing them under the fridge, beneath the counter, or some other hard-to-reach spot.
Later on, of course, the car keys are absent and hard to find just as X needs them. Have you ever read The Fall of the House of Usher? Fucking Poe spends a good page and a half describing an unseen fissure in the house, and then at the end has the house completely destroyed.
Don’t name characters- leave everyone but the most absolutely essential characters unnamed and undescribed. It’ll leave your main characters feeling isolated and alone even in like a supermarket or some shit. That said, make sure there are other characters around, they’re just empty and background (again, in the lottery very few characters are given a first and last name. One of them is the unlucky winner, of course)
I like to use the counting crows rhyme right before big events in my stories- right before a key scene my main character notices crows, and the number corresponds to this old poem. People who know the poem get a hint, but those who don’t can still pick up on the fact that something’s going to happen. The Godfather movie does the same thing if I remember correctly- whenever you see oranges, someone is either about to die, or about to almost die. Pick a thing and have your characters talk about it right before an event.