How to Write a Good Horror Story: An Ultimate Guide

How to Write a Good Horror Story: An Ultimate Guide

Most people love a good scare. From early years playing peek-a-boo to enjoying ghost stories in teenage years, scary stories have always been appealing. Gothic movies are among the most popular genres in film and television. If you’re a natural at telling chilling stories, you can turn it into an exciting career. Most successful horror movies, such as The Shining, Frankenstein, and Dracula, existed as stories before going to the screen.

Still, crafting the messaging into a horror story is challenging for many people. Many aspects of a scary story look a little different from other genres. A powerful chilling read has certain attributes that sustain it. So, how do you write a good horror story that sends a shiver down the spine? Read on to find out the ultimate horror writing tips.

Tips for Writing Horror Stories

Tap into common fears

Fear is an unavoidable part of life. Tapping into the fear factor makes for a good scary story. Readers expect to be terrorized and titillated by a story that is relatable and eerie at the same time. An intriguing horror story uses everyday fears by combining ordinary occurrences with the unnatural, weird, and shocking. Let’s see what all that is about.  

  • Monsters and supernatural characters — Myths about the existence of monsters and supernatural beings have existed for many years. Creepy is an understatement when describing the uncanny nature of the beings. People may be certain that ghosts, changelings, vampires, shapeshifters, and djinns are not real. The knowledge doesn’t mean they don’t scare people to their core. For a writer, the entities provide a space to stretch logic as you tap into the reader’s darkest fears. If you decide to venture into the realm, the plot must be very convincing.
  • Instinctive fears — Fears that relate to ordinary occurrences cause the most horror. Things that we are most afraid of are rooted in instinct. That is why occurrences that are well known arouse the most disgust, shock, and fear. Common phobias that frighten readers include snakes, darkness, heights, and disoriented environments. Unknown desires and intentions also evoke fear. Combining two or more instinctive fears adds more vigor.
  • Societal concerns and tensions — There are many emerging contemporary issues that can be transformed into tragic horror stories. Social issues like racism, domestic violence, the stigma of casual sex, privacy, and public safety can bring to light unexpected elements of surprise or disgust. Intriguing horror stories use tactics like grave missteps, character flaws, and bad choices to develop a captivating tragedy in its truest form.

If you don’t have enough time to research these incredible facets of fear because you have plenty of homework to do, use CustomWritings or any similar essay writing service. First, they can help you write any boring papers faster, and second, they have reliable experts who can help you develop fresh ideas for a good horror story.

Read widely in the genre

Reading makes better writers. Exposure can help a writer to define their style. Whether you aspire to write a psychological or paranormal horror story, reading materials by respected authors in similar genres provides inspiration and focus. Some acclaimed horror authors include Dean Koontz, Anne Rice, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and more. As you read, it is good to take notes of favorite quotes, mechanics, and stylistic devices that are common in horror stories. The notes will help you to master the horror genre and guide you when creating the setting for your narrative. You might want to check out a resource for new and experienced horror authors for more writing advice and news from the industry.

Make the stake known to the reader

A good horror story grabs the reader’s attention from the outset, and then builds suspense. The real thrill comes from knowing the stakes. The characters’ motivations and the main problem must also be clear. Let’s see some popular stakes and motivations in dreaded stories.

  • Protecting loved ones. The stakes are high when the protagonist has family or friends to protect. The more people that need saving, the higher the motivation for the main character. The threat of harm or death to loved ones is a common peak in horror stories.
  • Survival. Escaping perils is the biggest goal for characters in a horror story. Maybe the aim is to stay alive and defeat an evil supernatural character while doing it. Whatever the case, the writer should keep the reader engaged by crafting the hurdles that challenge survival.
  • Solving a mystery. Uncovering mysteries is a good way of building suspense by revealing what is at stake if the characters don’t figure it out. Cosmic mysteries about the universe are a common topic explored in horror stories.

Strike the right atmosphere

If you can creep yourself out with your story, you are on the right track. The type of horror you want to write determines the right atmosphere. Horror story writing can take the form of thrillers, gothic, gross-out, or terror. Combining subgenres throughout the story adds more thrill. Elements to consider when trying to invoke unsettling dread in readers are discussed below.  

  • Mood and tone. Mood and tone are crucial elements in a horror story. How you describe characters, setting, and plot twists affect the way a story feels. The right mood and tone are supposed to leave the reader’s heart pounding fast, shivers down the spine, ears pricking at the faintest noise, and a cold sweat dampening their hands.
  • Plot twist — Shock your readers by unpredictably changing the plot. Maybe an escape route is locked, or someone escaped in a room where the monster is. The boo factor in terrifying stories has made gothic movies a big hit in film and television.
  • Creepy characters — A good horror story has characters whose flaws feed the action of the story. The backstory, emotions, and desires of the characters give dimension to the story. Special effects like magic or a permanent physical feature flaw can also create a creepy atmosphere. The more human you make the characters, the more their bad choices or flaws will resonate with the reader.
  • Setting — The scene for a horror story must be scary. Ways in which a writer can create the right setting include isolating characters in a scary environment like a cave, desert, complete darkness, or imprisoned in an enclosed space. The situation should play into the reader’s fears.

Write Something New

A good story stands out from the crowd. Recreating the same plot or trends leaves the readers unamused by the lack of creativity. For example, the vampire romance story has become too familiar to charm readers after the hype of vampire diaries and twilight. It takes one great idea to start developing an original horror story. If you choose to borrow certain elements of existing trends, ensure that you distinguish them by spinning them into something that has not been done before. Readers appreciate creativity. 

 

Horror Tree Interview w/Erik C. Han...
Horror Tree Interview w/Erik C. Hanson

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