Anticipation, writers agree, is more fearful than the act.

At a New York Public Library panel entitled, “WOMEN OF MYSTERY: PEEK UNDER THE WRITER’S VEIL,” which I moderated, New York Times bestselling author Mary Jane Clark described a scene in one of her books that takes place at the Home Depot.

Picture this: A character is cruising the store´s aisles. Into the cart goes an ax. Then rope. Then plastic bags. Then a drop clothe.

I don´t know about you, but that´s scary. Chilling.

Mary Anne Kelly, author of the mystery series featuring the ever-bewildered amateur sleuth, Claire Breslinsky, agreed. Mary Anne mentioned the news story about Lisa Nowak, the astronaut charged with driving more than a thousand miles hoping to kill her romantic rival. She had duct tape in the car.

“Duct tape,” Mary Anne said. “I can´t get the duct tape out of my mind. Imagine driving all that way with duct tape. Don´t you just know that she planned to do something awful with it?”

Simple everyday products with no specific information given about how they´ll be used. As readers, we don´t need the details. Our imaginations take over and fill in the blanks.

What scares you? How about a cell phone ringing—not yours—when you think you´re alone? A knife that should be on the kitchen counter, and isn´t. A dripping sound coming from the bathtub, and when you walk in to turn off the leaking faucet, you see that the bathtub has been filled. Maybe there´s soap bubbles from an aromatic bubble bath product you´ve never seen before. Every day items and every day situations.

Note that in none of these examples has anything violent happened. It´s all in your mind, and that´s often more frightening than something that´s been spelled out.