in Horror General, Writing

How To Write A Horror Story

Want to write a horror story? Here are ten tips for you:

1. Try to be original – The more different you make your story, the more it will appeal to publishers and readers.

2. Plan your story in advance – There is nothing worse than coming to a dead end halfway through your story due to a sudden writer’s block.

3. Create strong, identifiable characters – Give them a goal and throw obstacle after obstacle at them. If you don’t care about your characters, your readers certainly won’t, and will discard your story with a weary yawn! There is nothing worse than shallow, cardboard characters in a story. Even Norman Bates, the crazed killer in Psycho, had a vulnerable human side to his character.

4. Read the masters of horror fiction to gain a good, broad idea of what works and what doesn’t – There are many outstanding horror writers you can study, artists who have mastered the craft, especially Stephen King, James Herbert and H.P. Lovecraft. And if you really want to master the essentials of writing a good ghost story, read the stories of M. R. James, who is, quite rightly, regarded as the master of the English ghost story.

5. Study the classic horror novels – Bram Stoker’s DRACULA and Mary Shelly’s FRANKENSTEIN are perfect examples of how good horror novels should be constructed. In the modern horror genre, James Herbert’s phenomenally successful debut novel, The Rats, is another great example of how a good, pacey, spine-chilling story should be presented.

6. Do your research thoroughly – If you are writing a vampire story, read EVERYTHING about them. If you are writing a ghost story, familiarise yourself with the work of paranormal investigators.

7. Do not rush your work as the urge to get published gets stronger – Remember, if your story is sloppy and rushed, your readers will soon notice it! So take your time to perfect everything before you submit your manuscript, from getting your character profiles right to creating the BEST ending you possible can.

8. Read, read, read EVERYTHING you can – Not just horror, but other books you like as well. The more you read, the more you will get a good feel and knowledge of how novels and short stories are put together. Remember: there is much more to horror fiction, you know, than just vampires and werewolves and masked killers. Sometimes romance, war, humour and other elements can be mixed in with a horror story to make it even more interesting and complex.

9. Try to pick a subject that scares you personally – If, say, spiders are your number one fear, then get all your emotions down on paper about them. Remember: the more emotional power you pack into your prose, the more the readers will become terrified with you. They will FEEL your horror as they absorb each terrifying word, and become scared to death with you!

10. Finally, make sure your masterpiece has no spelling mistakes or other grammatical failings which may dissuade a publisher or agent from taking your work on – You MUST make your story or novel as neatly and professionally presented as possible.


Alan Toner