How to Write a Horror Story: Professional Tips for a Beginner
Does an idea to learn how to write a horror story sound exciting for you? It is actually a project that can bring you not only good academic scores but also the personal satisfaction of a writer who can develop a bang-up story.
Although there are some people who do not like horror stories as they make them scared, most children and adults find them amazing. Their popularity is impressive and that stands for a good reason. If you make use of our effective tips for writing horror narratives, you will help your readers escape the world that is daily around them and find the joy that will not let them get bored. This is a very specific genre that gives unmatched thrill and sends goose bumps down the spine. A pounding heart, escalated breathing, and rushing blood – everybody knows what it means to read a well-written horror story. It is amazing that reading can resemble riding a roller-coaster! It may seem that composing a horror is a great challenge you cannot overcome, but with excellent horror writing tips, you can actually touch the heights and create a scary story that your readers will remember.
Horror Story: How Can You Define It?
You are almost ready to delve into a scary atmosphere, but you have to figure out what a horror story actually is. Horror is commonly defined as a TV or movie genre that is supposed to cause terror, disgust, and other nasty feelings in the viewers. What is actually expected from a horror writer is to bring a sense of suspense and make the hearts of the audience stand still.
Origin of the term "horror"
The word ‘horror’ goes back to the Old French language with its verb "orror" that can be interpreted as ‘to bristle’ or ‘to quiver.’
The roots of horror writing and filmmaking are in the religious beliefs, historical background, and local folklore around the world. This genre is not peculiar to one region only. Instead, the horror story ideas are universal as fears are common to every nation. The authors remind their audience about possible pain and dying and that makes people rattled or even terrified.
If a story contains an element of the supernatural, the project will be genuinely horror. The focus of the story should be on witchcraft, unexplainable power, dying, evil forces, afterlife experience, terrible creatures, and various awful events. One of the remarks of H.P. Lovecraft, a well-known fiction writer of the 21st century, states that the strongest emotion people have is fear. He also claims that the “strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”
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Excellent Horror Story with Its Key Components
If you want to make your horror story scary and memorable, it should contain the following four constituent parts:
Fear. Although this element seems to be an integral part of horror writing, it is complicated to create the level of tension that can make different people scared at once. The writer should have an extraordinary ability to impress the audience, both young and elderly, and impact their feelings and senses. People are afraid of different things, but the thing is to get a similar reaction from every viewer and create an unmatched atmosphere of overall fear. One of the writers whose name is a household name for horror story writing, Stephen King, created his story in 1986 to produce a perfect example of horror writing talent. Even if clowns have never caused any negative feelings in you, you will find them really creepy after reading a book or watching a film. Pennywise is the character that has turned the reputation of clowns upside down.
Disgust. People frequently feel disgusted after watching a horror story or reading a book of such genre. There is hardly anyone who has never heard about the Saw franchise, and that one definitely makes the viewers give a shudder of revulsion.
Terror. It is more than common fear as it includes disgust, being scared, and getting a surprise. It also involves the imagination of the audience to make them feel as if they were a part of the story. Everybody knows that things are never that bad as we think of them.
Surprise. Facing an idea that is new to us, we always feel certain apprehension trying to gain an insight into what effect it may cause for us. Encountering the unknown, a person typically reacts with fear. Therefore, taking the viewers by surprise, the horror story author always makes use of the principle of surprise.
Writing Horror: Tips for Writers of Scary Stories that Sell
It has probably happened to you that you have read a book and then you start entering your own room, being scared of your shadow. Some writers can find such intense words that you feel physically affected, merely reading through them. Would you like to try writing a story that your readers liked so much that they could not put the book aside until they read the last word? We will give you some hints on how you can create a horror essay that will scare everybody you know! Grab your laptop and let’s get started!
What should you do to create a perfect horror story?
✘ Think about your own fears:
It seems to be too easy, but it is really so. If you have some real fears that you cannot confront, you will not be able to cope with horror stories. You will become your own psychologist, working on a horror story, and you will find so many terrible phobias inside you that you have never imagined you have there. Daydreaming will be your new habit, and your only obsession will be remembering all kinds of frightening situations that can make you feel terrified. You can create some characters for your story, but it will be much more realistic and impressive if you focus on your own personality and turn yourself into the horror story character. We do not believe that your life has been so gray that you cannot remember any scary thing that has ever happened to you. See! You have already remembered one!
✘ Keep learning:
Your horror story essay will be much more impressive if you have extensive experience of reading horror books and watching horror movies. If you are a fan of some other genre and you have always neglected such stories, you will most probably not succeed in writing. The excellent of your writing should be based on the scope of your previous reading. Start with On Writing by Stephen King to delve into the world of horror story writing. Talk to other writers, willing to gain perfection in this genre. Make friends with experienced writers and beginners on various websites, such as Horror Writers Workshop.
✘ Mind speed and timing:
Sure, there are some typical rules for horror writing in terms of timing, but some of the authors in this genre managed to become successful, creating their own rules. Still, while you are a beginner, it will be easier for you to follow the common regulations that can bring suspense into your story effectively. First of all, you can try jumping into the needed suspense from the very beginning. Secondly, build up the scene that is supposed to be the most terrible for your audience. Grab their attention and do not let it escape. Do not start writing at once. Take your time and maintain the required creepy mood with your specially developed scenario and atmosphere. Rushing through the description, you will ruin the effect although it may seem that being fast in narration brings more benefits. Sometimes, it is better to be slower and quieter as unexpected quick moments in such a case will double their effect. Tease the audience throughout the plot of your story. Even if the scene is not going to be scary at all, try to make the viewers believe that something terrible will definitely happen. Still, the story`s climax should happen when nobody expects that. Give a detailed description of your villain or monster for the audience to involve their imagination and get scared to death.
✘ Use no clichés of typical horror:
When a couple is sitting at the campfire in the forest every noise may be a signal for a terrible creature approaching. Seeing a black cat somewhere near the highway definitely hints at a terrible event. The list of such clichés is endless, but they lose their effect on the audience owing to their previous popularity. Involving the childhood memories, they do not let the scriptwriters today create authentic fear in their viewers. There should be some original methods of making the viewers terrified. Your scenario should be new or it should include only some of the classic elements with an unexpected twist that changes everything.
✘ Try realistic writing:
Horror essay ideas may be different, but if they seem to be real they will produce an huge effect on the viewers. If they realize that things can happen in their real life, the horror events chill to the bone. Creating a setting of a local town or involving some personal experience in the plot can work really well. A single frightening aspect of a ghost or a murderer will do the rest. Sounding real, a horror story will become twice as scary.
✘ Develop writing horror habits:
Working on horror stories, you can focus on the actual effect only if you keep writing without any breaks for some other activities. Days off and holidays in between the chapters will make you lose contact with your characters and the intensity of your writing will decrease significantly. Being scared of something, you can intensify the effect of what you are writing about. Try working in complete darkness with the noises around. Open the door to the attic you have forgotten about and sit with your laptop in between the boxes with the things you do not know about. Heighten the degree of your writing with any means you can.
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Do not underestimate your audience’s intelligence: keep the level of suspense really high, but do not play with the feelings of your viewers. Hissing at the end, they will show you that all your efforts are taken in vain. If you have developed a plot focused on a woman who shares an apartment with a serial killer and she gets to know that he has been eating the hands of killed babies, and then after he gets arrested eventually after a number of drastic turns of the plot, the audience gets to know that he is an innocent person, it will not work well. It will be annoying for the audience to get to know that the author has been playing with them and they have been scared for no reason at all. Unexpected resolutions are good but they should jangle the viewers’ nerves instead of making them puzzled and offended. This is the style of writing that should be avoided.
Horror essay writing is a time-consuming activity that requires well-developed imagination and extensive practice. Only if you feel scared, writing a text, you will be able to scare the readers – this is the rule you should remember.
Warm-ups for New Horror Story Writers
In case you are looking for some prompts here, you can just skip this theoretical section and make use of the next one. Here, you can get to know which writing exercises and practical activities can be helpful for you if you would like to excel in the genre of horror
Write a detailed description of a terrible monster. Make sure that all characteristics of this creature are explained fully.
Develop a scared character and prepare a monologue for him/her. The main idea of the speech can be anything you would like to choose: reflecting over the nature of this fear, trying to comfort himself/herself, or any other.
Give a detailed description of a very old creepy house. Try to make the readers nervous with the help of bright elements in your description.
Develop a story scene with a focus on the characters’ emotions. Make them accuse each other and hurt the feelings of each other with no mercy.
Develop a paranoid character, which has to walk home late at night afraid of possible attacks. Try to portray the intense feelings of a person who has just received heart-breaking news.
Remember the last horror movie you have watched and listen to the soundtrack. Do the brainstorming activity and write down every idea you get.
Compose several letters written by two different characters to each other or to a close friend of both of them. Try to build the required mystery and make every character have his or her unique voice and intonation.
Imagine that one of the characters has found a body of a dead man. Describe the reactions of this person in full detail with a focus on every subconscious intention, fear, reaction, and idea.
50 Most Effective Horror Story Prompts and Ideas for Your Scary Horror
Horror writing can be of different types. The stories can be focused on telling about scary murders, psychopaths, ghosts, supernatural powers, or any aspect of human psychology that can give the creeps.
Among diverse ideas and prompts for scary story writing, we have decided to single out 50 of them, which can inspire writers and trigger their creative thinking in the genre of horror stories. Have a look at the list below to see which of the ideas strike a chord with you.
- It is Halloween time. The family gets a weird gift from their dying aunt. A big red box with a ribbon contains an old crystal ball and a mysterious note addressed only to the youngest daughter.
- Being on a trip, the parents have fun with their son and daughter. Through his carelessness, a five-year-old boy falls into a forest crook and disappears. His desperate father is trying to save him but he cannot escape death himself. Suddenly, the boy appears on the surface and the mother starts hugging him, crying out of misery and happiness. However, looking at his face, she realizes that it has changed. She touches his lips and realizes that her fingers are burning.
- Having discovered an old chest in her backyard, a lady in her mid-50s opens it to find three weird photographs of her grandparents. She sees that neither her grandmother nor her grandfather has a right eye.
- Nobody knows what has happened to your best school friend. The police have not found any traces, but you keep getting a letter daily from him. Suddenly you manage to see someone appear in your yard and you are terrified to recognize a T-shirt with a unique picture on it.
- A zombie apocalypse has finished, and it is time for those who have survived to get to know that the actual cause of that tragedy was the plan of the aliens.
- You start noticing that all your things are not in the places you have put them. Your family is on vacation and no one could enter without your permission. You realize that the things you believe are yours actually differ a little.
- A young and beautiful girl dies in a car accident and her brother cannot get any relief. He is a priest and blames God for the tragedy. His attempt to set the church on fire is not successful, but he realizes that there are some supernatural forces he does not understand, which start chasing him.
- A business-oriented young man marries a girl of his dream and wants to start a hotel business. He is not aware of the fact that the place he bought used to serve as a psychiatric hospital. When the first guest pays for the room, the story starts.
- A famous photographer has got a new project task from his journal. He travels to a distant place to take photos of people living according to their own laws and he sees that there are only shadows instead of people’s faces in the pictures.
- You are tired and it will take you several more hours to drive home. It is late and the country road is badly lit. Suddenly you notice someone’s face in the mirror and you turn to see that there is a young girl in your back seat.
- A priest understands that his faith is no longer as strong as it used to be and he takes interest in science instead of religion. He decides to leave the church duties but things are getting more complicated.
- You wake up at night and check your smartphone. It is about 4 a.m. and you can have some more hours of rest. You want to close your eyes, but you hear some strange noise and see a sad young man sitting in the corner of your room. You feel that you have lost your voice as he is in the costume of a clown and he has a huge knife in his hands.
- A 17-year-old girl goes to bed to wake up at midnight, lying on a huge table, naked. Weird people in yellow masks are singing quiet songs and dancing around the table. She notices that each of them has a gun and she starts crying as loudly as she can.
- Waking up, a man finds himself in a different body every morning. He lives his day to be killed by the same woman every single night.
- Checking on a haunted house not far from the village, a police officer finds a small boy who was declared missing a year ago.
- One morning the city wakes up but there is no single cat left anywhere.
- A little girl wakes up in the middle of the night from screams from her brother’s bedroom. She tries to hide in the wardrobe but she notices a huge shadow of a man in black dirty boots and she sees the body of her brother in his enormous hands.
- Dozens of passengers get to a luxurious cruise to realize that the crew members will do everything possible for them not to survive.
- ‘Do not be afraid! Everybody here is already infected.’ You realize that you are no longer sleeping when you see a man staring at you. His eyes are red.
- You have just lost your parachute and you are falling down. It is freezing and your baby is still in your hands. You feel that there is no hope at all. Still, it is not the end.
- A terrible car accident happens with no evident reason for it. A lady driver wakes up after six months in a coma but she can remember only some men in red robes behind her back.
- You have had a lot of sessions with your psychologist to get rid of annoying nightmares that have not let you sleep for years. In the middle of the night, you would sit up and just wait for the morning to come. This night you wake up from your own scream and you realize that something has changed. It is not a dream anymore.
- You feel lonely and a bit depressed, so you take the violin and start playing your favorite piece. When you finish, you suddenly hear some hissing and a round of applause. You see no one around but you understand that you are not alone in the room.
- A bachelor party has a lot of entertainments and one of them is a session at a medium. A young girl gets to a small room and realizes that she is no longer drunk. Her life changes in no time.
- All the family members keep the memory of their favorite father and grandfather who died several years ago. His watch is a family relic that suddenly starts running slower and then stops to run backward. There are a lot of elements of a horror story that can make your readers bated breath and close their eyes in fear. Try to use as many of them as you can.
- The whole city is in the trap of zombie plague and the city council has introduced a set of strict rules. Your family gets infected and they are supposed to get through extermination with no delay. You have to save the people you love, but the cure is not easy to find.
- After a raving party, you open your eyes to see a happy face of a clown in front of you and his smile does not give you any hope.
- A sushi master from Japan invites a famous French chef for a special dinner and he accepts the invitation. He falls asleep after the first bite to wake up in a huge cage with some other people in it.
- You feel that you cannot think about any other thing but your beautiful doll. You want to get to sleep, but you keep seeing her dead eyes which are driving you insane.
- Young parents carelessly give the names from the Book of the Dead to their newly-born daughters. Twenty-one years later, the dark forces come to take the young girls to the underground world.
- Reading the New Testament, a pregnant woman starts feeling some inexplicable fear. She does not stop notwithstanding her terror and pain her stomach.
- A man answers the phone to hear his own voice, warning him against an accident.
- A new neighbor in the apartment building turns the lives of all other tenants upside down. They start seeing monsters and their hallucinations get more and more real.
- A boy takes up a new hobby and he needs one more voodoo doll to get his collection complete. He breaks it accidentally to start a series of terrible murders in the town.
- People notice weird shadows in the night sky and they wonder which threat is waiting for humanity.
- The kidnapping of a boy breaks the peaceful life of the city. The parents disappear as well and they get into a terrible whirl of events that makes a child decide who of his beloved people will survive.
- A weird manuscript appears on the table of a journal editor with no signature or note with any explanations. She starts reading it and finds it amazingly exciting, but suddenly it starts burning.
- The nuclear war starts and the astronauts on the space station get the instruction to eliminate the people who can cause harm to humanity.
- A girl suddenly meets a guy who used to be his school love. She spends a night with him to realize in the morning that he died in an accident three years ago.
- An email from an anonymous sender makes a bride-to-be terrified. She gets access to ten seconds of a video about some religious ritual and she recognizes her future husband among the people in robes and masks.
- You suddenly see a carriage with two huge black horses and you cannot say ‘No’ when a stranger makes a gesture to invite you inside. You feel hypnotized.
- You wake up to know that you have no parents and no family at all. The doctors tell you that you have never had them but you still remember some people you used to love.
- A sad spirit starts talking to a beautiful girl sitting in front of an old mirror. He died a week ago, but his eyes are full of love for her. She puts his gun into her mouth and suddenly she hears his voice.
- The ocean gets more and more dangerous as there are seismic events happening there with numerous victims. A series of volcanoes and earthquakes scare people, but they still do not realize that the mission of the alien civilization is not completed yet.
- Career relocation makes a family move from the city to a far-away small town. The townspeople do not seem to be friendly and the job offer appears to be false. They start realizing the terrible truth. These people have trapped them to get their DNA and organs for a gene pool experiment.
- Finding shelter in a terrible snowstorm, a hiker is happy to get into a cave that he views as his rescue place. He has nothing to eat for weeks and he starts considering eating his own flesh to survive.
- During a theatre show, a magician wants to show a trick with a saw and he asks for volunteers from the audience. A 16-year old girl decides to get to the stage and the magician performs his trick to get the applause and disappear. The girl remains on the stage with no drop of blood left in her body.
- A happy mother welcomes her newly-born baby to life, but she gets to know that he is going to be a leader of the most terrible demonic riot ever. She has to decide what to do next.
- A man wants to do experiments with his personal experience of clinical death. He is looking for a volunteer among the doctors who could help him get into this state and then get back to life. This one minute of clinical death lasts for too long and he experiences a series of horrors he has not expected.
- Reading a random book, the girl suddenly realizes that her attention is drawn by weird pictures in the margins. She recognizes her own face and she starts seeing some connection between her own life and those images.
Writing a Horror Story: The Experience that Entertains and Teaches a Lot
A cliché is what turns horror stories into a low-quality genre that cannot get any fresh ideas. The viewers feel that they know what will happen next and they are no longer surprised or scared. Do you actually need a new story to become a good horror writer? Not really! It is possible to take a traditional plot but with new perspectives and twists of events that will not let your readers relax even for a moment. If you decide to make your characters get into a storm on a winter night, what do you think your readers will expect to happen? Now you have to eliminate this variant from your story. If you want to know how to write a horror essay and make it memorable, learn a lot and subvert the expectations!
Even if you are a creative person, you sometimes may lack ideas for your writing. We would be happy if you could make use of our prompts and ideas to create a brilliant plot that will gain well-deserved popularity.
Creepy writing will remain popular for all times. Make everybody scared!