Writing Scary Stories – The Basics

By on August 28, 2019

Writing scary stories can be lots of fun, but do you really know what's involved?

Writing a horror story can be a fantastic way to explore your imagination. Doing so can exercise your creative muscles, and have your readers on the edge of their seats until the very last spine-tingling page.

Horror stories continue to be a popular genre, and there is a huge potential fan base out there. All of them eager for the next brilliant, blood-curdling story to get stuck into.

So what are the basics that every novice horror writer should know before they start their book?

Writing scary stories - our top tips!

Understand common fears

It goes without saying that if you want to write a compelling horror story, you need it to scare people. Understanding and being able to tap into common fears that people have will ensure that your story resonates with a broad audience. OK so you might have an irrational fear of cucumbers. However, the majority of people aren’t going to want to run away at the sight of one resting eerily on a chopping board. Spiders, confined spaces, creepy dolls, dark alleyways, being attacked, ghosts, graveyards, blindness and so on are all fears that many people can relate to. So it’s best to stick with one of these as the main theme in your story. 

Get the atmosphere right

Building a creepy atmosphere layer by layer is what will create tension and apprehension. Doing so will leave your readers peeping through their fingers as they read it. Your atmosphere will all depend on the type of horror story you are writing. Ghost stories, for example, are likely to have dark, spooky gardens with rotting plants and twisting trees and tumbledown houses with creaky floorboards. Creating an atmosphere that evokes a sense of dread, and never letting the reader get very comfortable will make your horror story successful.

Set the stakes

As with all good novels, you need to set the stakes, and make them high. The reader needs to care about the protagonists. The protagonists need to have something important to lose in order to make the story worth reading. Remember, however gruesome or terrifying your story is, there still needs to be interesting and believable characters. Ones with readily understood motivations that readers buy into so they care about what happens. 

Try to be unique

Before you start writing your horror story, ask yourself, ‘what am I bringing to the genre that hasn’t been done before?’ As with all types of writing, it can be challenging to be entirely original. However just because you are writing a story about vampires doesn’t mean you have to make it into a vampire romance aka Twilight, and just because you are writing about zombies doesn’t mean you have to make them groaning shuffling human-eating ones that will end all of humanity. By thinking outside the box and providing something truly unique, you are more likely to intrigue readers and be celebrated for the brilliant, original work you have provided.

Writing a horror story can be a challenge, and writing one that is different and exceptional even more so. However, by following the above tips, you can begin to plot out a horror story unlike any other - so just have fun with it and see where it takes you!

So now you know all about writing scary stories, why not discover some more horror writing tips?

bethany cadman

Bethany Cadman - bethanycadman.co.uk

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