Horror is something every writer is familiar with, whether they know it or not. There are so many variations to this genre that people don’t realize. Not everything is a gory blood-splatter fest and not everything is paranormal romance, there’s a lot going in in between! Horror is essentially a feeling and that feeling of fear is what keeps readers reading, they have to become invested in the characters and to do that, they need to fear the thought of losing them, George R. R. Martin does this particularly well, perhaps so much so that people feel actual rage towards him when a character dies!
Terror is part of life, there isn’t a single person out there who isn’t afraid of something, and writing means you must face your fears sometimes. Gulliermo Del Toro said it best “I see horror as a part of legitimate film. I don’t see it as an independent genre that has nothing to do with the rest of cinema.” This extends to writing, there is horror in everything. Horror is part of creating a story, we must be afraid to lose something in order for a story to progress, in my novels it’s a fear of losing one’s humanity, which seems to be trending in the sci-fi world right now. You only need to watch a single episode of Black Mirror to see that we’re all a little afraid of technology taking over who we are!
Speaking of trending, some of the most famous females who have written horror have never actually been labeled as horror writers. For example, J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter is everything a child who fell in love with Halloween could possibly ever want, yet labeling it horror wouldn’t be seen as “kid friendly.” I’m going to tell you something outrageous, kids love horror, and they grow up to be adults who love horror. I didn’t realize until I had my own children how much they love horror. It goes beyond Halloween, they love ghosts and vampires and witches and zombies and maybe it freaks them out a little, but they love that too!
Being one of those kids who fell in love with Halloween naturally led me to write scary stories. It started as creepy little tales I would write to scare my little brother, but when I found out he enjoyed them, we would make up other creepy tales to scare friends. Writing horror is fundamentally fun! Why else do we love rollercoasters except for that thrill of the scare, it’s really one in the same.
Besides a good scare, how does one write good horror? Well it took me awhile and honestly, I’m always working on it, but here are some steps I found to be the necessary foundation for writing horror:
1.Watch Horror Movies.
If horror movies terrify you, that’s a good thing, they should! Consider it research, write notes about how many good scares they put into the plot and how they balance it with a bit of humour. Shakespeare does this even in his most tragic plays, because horror without a bit of wit is really just too painful to be called entertainment.
- Read Horror Novels.
All writers are readers, there’s really no question about that. If you read, and read a variety of different horror stories, that’s when you find the style that suits you best as a reader and a writer. We all have those favourite authors that seem to speak to us, and there’s a reason for that, they write the way we do, it’s this strange connection that I can’t explain, it’s almost as if you’re mentally linked to certain authors, that your brains seem to flow in the same patterns, and you won’t really find that unless you read, read, read!
- Educate yourself on Mythical Beasts & Classic Horror Monsters.
If you like horror, then you need to know your monsters. Monsters are mysterious, and since they’re fake, you can have a lot of fun creating a world around them. Maybe you don’t necessarily want to work with monsters, perhaps you want to stick to something more realistic like true crimes, but in order to understand human monsters, sometimes it helps to read about the fictitious ones, because guess what, the monsters in horror stories are almost always a metaphor for human failings.
- Become Super-Superstitions.
Don’t believe in Ouija Boards or black cats and bad luck? Well, it’s time to start! Horror is deeply rooted in superstitious beliefs. In fact, horror pretty much started with things people feared because they couldn’t explain them. Coincidence or déjà vu can be completely horrifying, especially when you start to believe it’s happening for some strange reason. Writing horror is all about ritual, so light a candle, summon your writing muse and spin in your chair three times for good measure, then get writing!
- Write at Night.
As mentioned above, ritual is everything when writing. I try to write a little bit every night and keep it consistent. I choose to write at night because it’s the quietest part of my day and I find nothing more terrifying than silence! Noise makes people feel comfortable and safe, but when you watch horror movies and someone’s alone in a room or house, their first instinct is to say “hello?” It may seem like a bad move, but people are uncomfortable with silence, except for writers of course!
- Write What Scares You!
Dig into your deepest fears and then multiply them by 100! For example, say you’re afraid of spiders, create an enormous spider-like creature, or a spider epidemic. All I’m saying is that what you fear can definitely fuel a horror story, you know firsthand what it’s like to be afraid of the things that make you want to hide under your bed. Step outside of your comfort zone a bit and face those fears in your writing.
- Find other Horror Writers & Pick their Brain (Not Literally).
If you can, join a group of writers, it always helps to hear about their writing process, what inspires them and how they come up with their ideas. Unexpected inspiration can arise from a brief conversation with someone who shares the same passion for writing scary stories.
- Nightmares are Quite Useful!
Waking up in the middle of the night a sweaty mess after a horrible dream doesn’t sound like much fun, but you can turn that nightmare into something positive, like a story idea. Most of my story ideas come from dreams and nightmares, I keep a pen and notebook by my bedside at all times and if something creeps into my head I write it down, mostly because the ideas won’t leave me alone until I do!
A.Giacomi is a writer, artist, and educator from Toronto, Canada. She is the mother of two tiny humans who inspire her to create weird and wonderful works that are both giggle worthy, bizarre, and unique. When she’s not hanging out with her family she can be found slapping paint around or typing at light speed on her laptop (That is when the rest of the house is napping or sleeping).
She is the author of The Zombie Girl Saga published by CHBB Publishing, and she has also had numerous short stories published in multiple anthologies.Giacomi mainly writes in the horror genre, she also dabbles in poetry, thus gaining the nickname: THE POETIC ZOMBIE. She’s a big fan of “cute” but “creepy” which started when she was a wee one and read lots and lots of R.L Stine way past her bed time. That and she loves ZOMBIES! Perhaps a bit too much.
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