How Do You Start a Chapter in a Horror Novel? 10 Examples

How Do You Start a Chapter in a Horror Novel? 10 Examples

Writing scary scenes is more than just picking a good horror or thriller premise. How you write your story determines how scared your readers will feel. Great horror stories rely on a mixture of proper pacing, refreshed tropes, twisty endings, and line breaks that have been placed strategically to build up the scary stuff. Whether you want to craft a small horror story or an amazing horror novel, the tips that we are going to share with you in this article will help you achieve your writing goals.

Starting a chapter is one of the hardest writing tasks to work on. Keep in mind that the first draft is yours. Therefore, you should spill out everything that comes to mind. However, after revising the draft, you’ll need to cut the entire information that you’ve put in the first chapters. Don’t delete any info. Instead, save it since you might need it later.

After this process, you’ll end up with opening chapters that are different from what you started with. And this should be it. Most of your original first chapters are the ones you’ll have to kill. To start the best first chapter in your horror history, you need to:

1. Use the surroundings

Scary televisions show and movies tend to use jump scare to scare an audience. However, writing a scary novel requires a unique method of evoking fear. You need to set up your environment in a clear way to immerse your audience into the story fully. Describing an enclosed space as clearly as you can evoke feelings of claustrophobia. 

A dark quiet house can become scary when a character hears weird sounds upstairs or in another room. Being a foreigner in a new place such as an unfamiliar town with no gadget to communicate is unsettling. This is especially true if all the people in the area know each other. By adding maliciousness in such a setting, you’ll end up enhancing the feeling of isolation and enhance anxiety among your audience.

2. Use your fears

Another great way to start a chapter in a horror novel is by writing what you experience. You can let your point of view of what’s scary enhance terror among your audience. For instance, if you are scared of getting into large water bodies, you can start by describing the feelings that a character who has woken up in the middle of a sea or ocean is feeling. If you fear flying, use this phobia to evoke fear among your audience. Don’t try to scare your readers with a bear or lion if you can’t tap into this kind of fear effectively.

3. Write long sentences

One of the best ways to heighten your readers’ fear is by writing the first chapter of your novel with long sentences. You need to keep in mind that periods provide a natural pause for readers to relax and breathe. However, when you write longer sentences, you’ll end up building anticipation. And your readers will not realize this until they reach the end of your sentence. You need to use such tactics to immerse your readers and make them feel what your characters feel thus creating a powerful connection.

4. Make your audience breathe

While long sentences can intensify your story, short, single-sentence paragraphs can make your readers take frequent breaths while following your story. Coming up with abrupt lines will build tension in your story and make the eyes of your readers move down quickly to ensure that the main characters are safe. Doing this simple exercise will make your audience anxious.

5. Use the fear of the unknown

Millions of people around the world fail to take action thanks to fear of the unknown. Since most people are affected by it, you should consider using it in your horror movies. When there is something that negatively affects you, that you cannot identify and control, it’s easy to get stressed out and panic. Teasing your audience with something that cannot be defined or something that keeps increasing their level of fear and tension will make them terrified.

6. Avoid clichés

The one thing about clichés is they are predictable. And predictable is boring in horror scenes. All the best horror movies that you’ve ever watched are unpredictable. You can copy another writer or producer when starting a chapter in your horror novel. However, your story won’t be as enticing. You should always create your own and ensure that your readers get what they least expect. Figure out how you can surprise them to evoke fear and keep them wanting more.

7. Set the tone

You don’t want to start a horror story with romance or comedy. You need to immerse your readers and evoke their emotions from your first paragraph. Since you won’t have visuals and music to set the scene, you need to use your words to convey tone. Nowadays, long descriptions of the setting or weather are not fashionable. However, broad descriptive strokes can set the mood of the story. You should consider starting your story with a sharp dialogue to convey danger or something out of the ordinary.

8. Introduce the antagonist

An antagonist is someone who prevents the protagonist from achieving their goal. Most people have a hard time mastering the concept of an antagonist. An antagonist doesn’t have to be a person. It can be a system, addiction, or society. You always need an antagonist to keep your story interesting.

9. Introduce all major characters

You shouldn’t allow minor characters to upstage the major characters when starting a chapter. Most experts recommend doing away with all minor characters in the opening scene. Readers have a lot to cram here. And they don’t have any space left for a delivery person or maid who opens the story. Introducing minor characters when starting your chapter can confuse and irritate your readers. It’s important to know all the characters and how they’ll interact but start simple with just the major characters. You can use a tool like CharacterHub to keep track of all the details.

10. Practice

If you are having a hard time starting a chapter in a horror story, the best thing you can do is practice. As the popular saying goes, practice makes perfect. Writing regularly will expand your thinking and imagination.


Writing scary scenes is not the easiest thing to do. However, if you practice consistently, you’ll not only write a good story but also manage to evoke the right emotions.  Which tip will you start using today?


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