5 tips for writing horror (+3 things to avoid) (2023)

The Castle of Otrantoby Horace Walpole, published in 1764, is widely regarded asthe first official horror novel🇧🇷 But horror stories, or at least ghost stories, go back as far as people do: scary folklore, folklore about death and the afterlife, and myths about hideous beasts, curses, etc., have been part of the human narrative since the beginning. .

However, that doesn't necessarily mean it got easier to write. Horror, in particular, can be extremely difficult to find.singleCorrect. It's often a fine line between creepy and cheesy, and even if you did it for one reader, it might have crossed over to others. How do you create a story that is sure to be scary without making it cheesy? How do you make a horror story both scary and believable?

How do you spell good terror?

In this article, we'll give you five tips for writing horror. We're going to talk about what horror is, cover some horror subgenres, talk about what to avoid when writing horror, and give you some tools you can use to make your next horror story great.

Contents disguise

1. What is Horror?

2. Horror subgenres

2.1. 1. Gothic fiction

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2.2. 2. Psychological terror

2.4. 4. Terror corporal

2.5. 5. Splashes

2.6. 6. Erotic horror

3. What to avoid when writing horror

3.1. 1. Violence for the sake of violence

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3.2. 2. Bad pace

3.3. 3. Lawless Paranormal Activity

4. Tips for writing horror

4.2. Have rules for paranormal events.

4.3. use suspended

4.4. use your characters

4.5. Don't forget the atmosphere and sensory detail.

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5. Next step

What is Horror?

Before we can really dive into horror writing, we need to understand what it is and how it works as a genre. Is thatesterrifying, exactly?

Wikipediaaptly sums up horror as "a genre of fiction designed to frighten, frighten, or disgust." It is "often divided into the subgenres of psychological horror and supernatural horror", with the latter subgenre falling under the umbrella of "speculative fiction".

You might have a story that includes horror elements like suspense or supernatural events.Twilight,for example. But those elements alone don't necessarily make a story horrible if the story isn't meant to scare the reader. Horror makes you feel (or is intended to make you) uncomfortable, disgusted, repulsed, and generally bad.

Since horror is based on fear, which is a very primal human emotion, it can be a fascinating place to explore people's opinions. You can learn a lot about a particular society or facet of society based on what they posted as horror at any given time.

Bram Stoker's Draculadracula,for example, it wasreally inspired by criminal anthropologists— intended to “look” like a criminal, as they thought they could create a physical profile of common criminals. This tells us a lot about society.draculacame out, what they thought of the crime and how they approached its solution.

horror subgenres

When you start writing horror, it's important to know what subgenre you're working in. Not only will this give you a place to start reading other horror novels (which you definitely should be doing, that's the first unofficial tip), but it will also give you an idea of ​​what kinds of tropes and plot points readers are interested in. will be waiting. when reading your work Researching different subgenres will also help you find the perfect niche to work in. This list is not exhaustive, but it covers the basics:

1.gothic fiction

Gothic fiction is the foundation of much of what we know as horror. This encompasses Edgar Allen Poe, Mary Shelley and, of course, Bram Stoker. Gothic fiction includes a lot of elements from romantic literature, so you'll see a lot of people venturing into the mist and finding something horrible. Nature is meant to be a revelatory force that makes people face each other; Gothic literature also usually focuses heavily on the difficulties of the individual as well.

2.psychological horror

Psychological horror is one of the two major subgenres we listed above. It includes no supernatural elements and its aim is to uncover the unsettling depths of the human psyche. You'll often see things like unreliable narrators in a psychological horror - an unreliable narrator is meant to make you question the events you're witnessing, putting you in an inherently uncomfortable and suspicious headspace where reality is. constantly questioned.

3. Supernatural/paranormal horror

Supernatural/paranormal horror was the second largest sub-genre of horror, and as you might have guessed, it's horror that uses supernatural elements. Anything with ghosts, monsters, demons, magic, cryptids or spirits will fall under this umbrella.

4. Terror corporal

BookRiot describes body horror as a subgenre focused on the mutilation or rape of the human body; you'll see it combined with slashers, monster stories, zombie stories, and the like.frankensteinis a classic example.

5. Splashes

Splatterpunk is a horror genre focused on extreme depictions of extreme violence. There's often a ton of abuse, sexual violence and things of that nature - nothing is off limits and everything has to be as excruciatingly violent and horrific as possible.

6. Erotic horror

Erotic horror is exactly what it sounds like. Where most horror is meant to scare you, erotic horror is also meant to, you know, thrill the reader. Most erotica will do so through fairly conventional means, but erotic horror uses elements of horror mixed with the commonplace to energize its readers.

What to Avoid When Writing Horror

Now that we have a basic understanding of what horror is and what types of horror there are to work with, let's cover some general don'ts when it comes to horror writing.

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1. Violence for the sake of violence

New horror writers sometimes tend to confuse 'intense' with 'scary'. When writing in a subgenre like splatterpunk you can definitely expect to see more violence taboos written in more graphic detail than you might see elsewhere, unless you're working in splatterpunk you don't always want the thing to happen. .most disgusting at every possible moment.

This is also not for prudish reasons. It's because even though you want to scare your reader, you still want to tell a good story. If you're trying to be as edgy as possible without thinking about what's driving these plot points, you're probably missing the thread of your story, and that's going to be frustrating for your reader. If the reader does not follow the story, he is not calm enough to be frightened by its extreme violence; he's probably just frustrated and trying to figure out how he fits into the narrative.

2. Bad pace

Likewise, you want to avoid keeping your fear level constant at an eleven out of ten. Again, intense doesn't mean scary, and you can't maintain a superhigh level of tensionfor a long time without touching the ceiling. You definitely want to keep the suspense simmering steadily, but you also want dramatic contrast in your stories. Failing to provide this contrast will often make it difficult for the reader to suspend disbelief, and instead of being stressed, they will become bored.

3. Lawless Paranormal Activity

If there are paranormal elements in the story, avoid making them completely random and powerful. If a ghost can do anything at any time with seemingly no limitations or reasons, it might seem cheap to the reader. Likewise, if random paranormal events occur for no clear reason other than the "wouldn't that be crazy/creepy?" story.

Tips for writing horror

If you find yourself doing some of the things we just talked about, don't worry! We'll talk about how to fix these issues (and give you a few extra tips just in case).

Be intentional with scary moments

Instead of scary things happening out of the blue, or just because they seem shocking, ask yourself what motivates these moments. If you want your character to come across a dead body, that's fine, but there has to be some kind of reason for it. That corpse should matter to the story as a whole: nothing in a novel should happen once and never again matter for the rest of the reading.

Ask yourself these questions: How did your characters get to this moment? How do they face it? How does this moment affect the rest of the plot or prepare the characters for the next move?

Have rules for paranormal events.

You don't have to explain the paranormal activity in your book to the reader, but you should understand how it works. Are there places where a ghost can't or won't go? Why or why not? How do werewolves function in your book? Having these paranormal creatures act consistently will make it easier to build suspense - it's hard to care about your characters if they seem to be in the same amount of trouble all the time and there's no telling what. a ghost or a monster is capable, this problem is difficult to measure.

use suspended

By the way!

Suspense is your absolute best friend when writing horror. Using it correctly means letting the reader know they are afraid, but not enough to know what is going to happen. It also means that smart readers will likely be able to put it together before you want it to, but ideally you'll have it written so well that they won't mind if they can guess what happens next.

Have rules for what everyone can do and define them. Let's say you have a ghost that can walk through walls, and let's say you have a climax where the main characters are trapped in a basement, finally thinking they're safe. If you haven't already shown us that the ghost can walk through walls, it will seem like it's coming out of nowhere. It can still be scary, but it won't seem like it.bed

However, if you showed us from the beginning that the ghost can walk through walls, the reader will be nervous the entire time these characters are in the basement. When will the ghost appear? We do not know! This adds an immediate layer of tension.

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use your characters

Remember how I said scary moments should be motivated? In most stories,the characters drive the plot, Not the other way around. Your characters, their specific fears, and their specific personalities should be at the center of your novel. Even if you have a horror story about an average guy facing a horrible situation, his average should matter. You also want the events of the story to be particularly frightening for your characters; It must be based on your fears.

Ask yourself these questions whendeveloping your characters: How would this specific character handle this situation? How is that particularly scary for this particular character? What does this character learn about himself as a result of this plot point?

Don't forget the atmosphere and sensory detail.

Last but not least, don't skip settings. Horror is based not only on uncomfortable events, but also on an uncomfortable atmosphere; even on breaks, we must not feel safe. Build on this by describing the configuration. Place your characters in crowded environments, smelly basements, dank hallways, etc. Describe these things using details from the senses that make the reader feel that they are involved too. This will add to the overall sense of awkwardness and prepare your reader for the next big scare you have in store for them.

Next step

Now that you know how to write a good horror story (and know what to avoid), it's time to start writing your horror book.

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