In contrast to its parent series, which utilizes a seasonal format, American Horror Stories is episodic in nature and features self-contained stories, but some may be thematically or directly linked to existing aspects of AHS lore. The two-part premiere, "Rubber (Wo)man", for example hinges on a callback to the infamous Rubber Man from Murder House, which was heavily used in marketing materials for that season.
As with prior entries in the franchise, Stories also features recurring cast members returning in new roles, with the likes of Matt Bomer, Billie Lourd, and John Carroll Lynch appearing in season one.
American Horror Stories contains examples of:
- A Date with Rosie Palms: In "Rubber(Wo)man 1", Scarlett masturbates while imagining herself with Maya.
- American Title: Just like its parent series, albeit plural now.
- Anyone Can Die: Even more so than its parent series, the episodic nature of Stories means just about any character can die as they're not meant to fill out an entire season of storylines.
- Bad Santa: "The Naughty List" features one, as portrayed by Danny Trejo.
- Book Ends: The first season begins and ends with episodes set in the Murder House.
- Brown Note: Similar to Stephen King's Cell, the film Rabbit Rabbit turns anyone who watches it into Ax-Crazy killers. Of course, this was the director's intent.
- Continuity Creep: Aspects established in the parent series may be spun-off into episodes of this series, as is the case with series premiere episode "Rubber (Wo)man", serving as a sequel of sorts to Murder House.
- Couch Gag: The titles change every episode. Except for the first two.
- Downer Ending: In "Drive In", Chad and Kelley celebrate their victory with Glad-to-Be-Alive Sex, but they miss the fact that Rabbit Rabbit has been released on Netflix and the episode ends with the neighborhood descending into terror.
- Genre Anthology: One of the horror genre like its parent series, but with a focus on individualized, self-contained episodes rather than season-long tales.
- Historical Domain Character: In "Drive In", Tipper Gore banned further screenings of Rabbit Rabbit years prior after the film caused the audience to massacre each other.
- Idiot Ball: In "Rubber(Wo)man Pt 1", a seemingly unposssessed Scarlett thinks nothing of putting on the S&M gimp suit, picking up a knife, and going to confront her fathers, even though they just lectured her about being into S&M porn. Then Michael finds the discarded suit and a pool of blood, and he and Troy either dismiss it as nothing or think Scarlett is in "her time of the month". Even if they're all possesssed, Grant's patients and staff haven't t noticed that she has missed her sessions and disappeared.
- Mascot Villain: The Rubber Woman is featured heavily in marketing materials for the first season.
- Recursive Canon: Game Over is set in a world where American Horror Story is an in-universe show, but where the characters, locations, and events of the show are still real...unless they're parts set within an in-universe unofficial ''AHS'' video game, except when they aren't and the events that were thought to just be part of the game really did happen, with the characters acting like it's simultaneously both real and fictional even though that contradicts which characters are alive or dead at the end.
- Spin-Off: One of American Horror Story.
- Take That!: The sequence in "The Naughty List" when the Bro House influencers film and callously comment on a man committing suicide to get more views and subscribers is a reference to a 2018 incident in which influencer Logan Paul, on a tourist trip to Japan with his entourage, filmed the body of a person who had committed suicide in Aokigahara Forest and uploaded it to YouTube, causing widespread backlash. The episode as a whole is a skewering of influencer culture in general, in particular the pursuit of money and followers at the cost of human decency.