How to Write Horror For Kids and Teens?
How to Write Horror For Kids and Teens?
Horror stories are supposed to be scary, entertaining, and attention-grabbing. This is a universal rule that gets the thrill and excitement going in all the readers, regarding their age. So, why make a difference between adults and kids and teens? Because kids and teens have a mindset completely different from adults and you as a writer need to recognize that.
In addition, don’t think that kids and teens are easier to scare.
So, when you’re writing horror for kids and teens, you need to understand their mindset and respect their taste. If you’re not sure how to do it, we are. Below, you’ll find a list of the ultimate tips for writing horror for kids and teens.
Make it Unreal
The first rule of writing horror for kids and teens is to always make the story unreal. That means, they need to be aware this can’t happen in real life.
So, you’re allowed to write about any supernatural or abnormal topic that inspires you :
- mythical creatures
But, avoid writing about an orphan child whose parents killed each other. You don’t want to traumatize them, but take them to a place of the supernatural and scary.
Avoid Time References
Kids and teens don’t want to think too much when reading a horror story. Including time references into the picture might confuse them and distance them from the plotline.
So, don’t mention any eras, years, or references to people from the past.
It’s best that your time setting is undefined.
Do First-Person Narration
There’s nothing scarier than experiencing all the action and tension first-hand. Writing in the first person will make the reader step into the protagonists’ shoes and experience all the actions far more actively.
Ana Mayer, a children’s writer and editor at SupremeDissertations, says: “Choose a protagonist that kids and teens can relate to and write the book from their point of view. Make sure the kids are following this character every step of the way and you’ll build up the scariness to the roof”.
Kids and teens don’t have a lot of patience when it comes to reading. Younger generations are going further away from reading as we speak, focusing more on computers, games, and social media.
This is why your story needs to open strongly, and instantly grab their attention.
To do so, you’ll need to start in the center of the action:
- open with a mysterious sentence e.g. “The final ray of sun was gone. Luke was completely lost.”
- start in the center of action e.g. “We have to run!”
- ask the readers a question e.g. “Have you ever seen a vampire rising from the darkness of the night? Mary was about to.”
You need to know how to not lose your reader and keep them engaged. If you manage to get them on board with the first sentence, you’ll have their attention for the rest of the story.
There are some topics and motives that you should never include in a horror story for kids and teens. Even if you feel like the teens could handle some things, you don’t want to push over the limits.
That’s why we strongly suggest you don’t write about:
- drugs or alcohol
- abuse of any kind
These topics are just too real and might affect some of the readers negatively. Instead, make your story scary using other horror elements, from mystery to anticipation and sudden plot twists.
Stay Away From Violence
Realistic depictions of violence should never be found in a horror story for kids and teens. Bloodshed, firearms, physical injuries, and other violent scenes are to be avoided.
It’s always a better idea to make the fights and physical struggles a part of the unreal and fantasy.
Don’t Focus on Death
Death is scary, we know that And the fear of death is present in all of us, even younger kids. But, death should not be the sole focus of your horror story or the one thing the protagonist is trying to avoid.
It’s better that you include other elements of fear:
- fear of the unknown
- adventures gone wrong
- being lost and alone
- saving a friend
- hiding from monsters
- running away
There are so many different topics you could focus on that death shouldn’t even be a part of your story. Nobody has to die, not even the antagonist, be it a monster or a horrible human being.
Just have the protagonist win and defeat this evil character for good.
Watch Your Language
If you want a story to relate to the reader, you have to speak the readers’ language. Kids and teens use a specific type of vocabulary that you should try and understand before you start writing.
You can talk to the kids and teens you know, write sample stories and have them read them, or read other kids’ and teens’ books to get the sense of it.
Writing horror for kids and teens means stepping into their shoes and thinking the way they do. Your story needs to be scary and exciting but not step over any lines that can throw the kids away or cause any trauma.
The writing tips we’ve listed above will help you craft your horror story for kids and teens and make sure they enjoy reading every line.
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The Horror Tree is a resource for horror authors which was created in 2011. The main goal when starting the site was to include all of the latest horror anthologies and publishers that are taking paying submissions. A resource useful for both new and experienced publishers alike looking for an outlet for their written material!