So You Want To / Write a Horror Story

Horror evokes many emotions; dread, fear, paranoia, suspense and terror. So why not try your hand at some Nightmare Fuel evoking stories? Note that not even this can make you become the next Poe, Lovecraft or King. Try to learn a bit about writing stories first. Write a Story is a good place to start, and perhaps reading some horror stories would probably help.

To Start Off

Before and during writing, thinking these questions is a good idea.

Who are you trying to scare?

Despite horror being a known genre today, that doesn't mean all types of horror will scare everyone. If you want to scare kids, don't make it as blood-curdling as you can. If you want to scare adults, don't make it as tame as you can. Try to find a balance.

Is this just a story or is this trying to be realistic?

Again, not every horror work will scare the hell out of the reader and make them call for their brown pants. Some people may laugh at a zombie apocalypse story that tries to be scary. Do you want to fool people into thinking this was real, or stick with Zombies Everywhere Issue #14528: Electric Boogaloo? Keep in mind that both kinds can be scary, so don't go into writing describing everything in great detail, and have a paranoiac writing Madness Mantra all over the walls.

How are you trying to scare them?

This one is very important. There are many ways to disturb someone to the point of frequent nightmares. There are many things that writers use:
  • Graphic violence/Blood and gore: If you've ever read Creepypasta, you'll see blood and gore everywhere like it's a Halloween party. But most professional writers would recommend avoiding graphic violence. To the reader, it starts becoming less effective the more they read it. You could have thick gooey blood all over the floor described in a very graphic way, but people will not start squealing like girls over it. Remember that pure horror is able to not have anyone die graphically and still make people quiver in fear.
  • Pure mind-bending: Can be effective at times, but other times it can just get confusing. Especially if the reader starts losing track of what's happening. If you can pull it off, great, but for the basic writer, try not to do this.
  • Creepy atmosphere: Arguably the most effective of all the tools in horror writer's arsenal. Something is out of place. Something is wrong. It's Quiet... Too Quiet. Did we just see something, or was it just wind playing with the leaves? Nothing Is Scarier, becasue it prays on our fear of the unknown. This kind of horror leaves a lot to reader's imagination, and the reader will fill in the blanks with what scares him the most.


Turn the lights off

Supplemental Reading

Immersion and Horror by C.T. Phipps at The United Federation of Charles discusses how to get your audience prepared to be scared.