8 spooky tips for writing a horror story | StoryFlintName (2023)

Horror writing is not for the faint of heart. It takes a lot of creativity, determination, and guts to write horror, but it pays off when you succeed. Find your way to horror writing with these eight terrifying tips!

But first, what is the horror genre really about?

Horror is a narrative genre that uses fear and anxiety as a vehicle to create an emotional connection with the audience. Horror stories are intended to terrify the audience, often using suspense, fear and shock to keep people on their toes.

Some great horror stories are allegorical or symbolic, while others are more literal. But horror is not limited to a single type of story. It could be a ghost story, a horror movie or a psychological thriller.

Horror, in any form, always aims to destabilize and disturb the audience.

1. Know your audience for your horror story

When writing horror, it's important to remember your audience. Who are you trying to scare? Horror stories can be tailored to different audiences, and by knowing who your target market is, you can focus your story on what scares them the most.

When writing horror stories for adults, you can use more descriptive imagery and language. However, if you are writing for children or young people, you must be careful about the level of violence and violence you include in your story.

Remember that horror writing is all about scaring people. So make sure any fears or concerns you address resonate with your target audience.

2. Horror, like all fiction, needs an emotional core.

A good horror story needs an emotional core to be successful. This adds weight to your story and makes it feel real to your audience.

Your emotional core can be based on various fears or apprehensions, but it must be something you are passionate about. If you don't care about the emotional core of your story, your audience won't care either.

Finding the emotional core of your horror story can be difficult, but it's critical to your story's success. What kind of message are you trying to convey to the audience and what emotional journey do your characters take during the story?

3. Make the stakes obvious

When writing a horror story, the audience needs to be aware of the risks the characters are taking. If the horror elements aren't cleared up, audiences quickly lose interest.

Be sure to make it clear what danger your characters are in and what might happen to them if they don't succeed. A great horror story uses suspense techniques to keep the audience on their toes and fear for the safety of their characters.

If, as a horror writer, you can get the audience interested in the characters, you can scare them even more about what might happen to them.

“Horror movies generally work best when we're involved in the game. The more we care about the characters, the more human they are to us, the more compelling they are to us, and the more effective the horror.” – Stephen King

4. Don't forget the psychological aspect

Your horror story must be scary for more than one reason! Psychological thrillers are another common subgenre of horror writing that focuses on an ordinary character who undergoes a disturbing transformation into someone mean and confused after being exposed to stressors in his life. It's not necessarily about what's going on around them, but how they react to it and how they deal with loss or guilt.

Horror stories are often more than just entertainment - they can be a way for writers to explore the darker side of human nature.

So don't be afraid to delve into the psychology of your characters and make them as complex as possible. Good horror writers often focus on psychological terror in their stories rather than relying solely on graphic imagery and gore.

5. Write about your own fears, experiences and observations

Horror fiction need not rely on all fictional elements. Some great horror movies are about experiences the writer worked through in his own life. You can also write horror based on your own observations of the world around you.

Drawing on personal fears, experiences, and observations will make your horror story seem more real to the audience. You'll find it easier to identify with your characters and their situation.

Make sure you are honest with your writing and that it comes from a place of sincerity. Once listeners realize you're calling, they quickly lose interest.

6. If you use a trope, do something else with it

Horror refers to the fear of the unknown, and the predominant horror tropes represent the definition of knowing. A haunted house. vampires and werewolves. serial killer. You've seen them all and can guess what happens in each type of story.

As audiences begin to understand these old tropes, they become more familiar and the tropes begin to lose their effectiveness.

To counteract this, choose new themes that offer distinct twists on the original designs. If you use horror tropes in your writing, make sure you do something different with them so they don't become stale and predictable.

Discover the clichés of your particular horror subgenre and how to subvert them to keep audiences guessing.

Incorporate new and unexpected elements into your horror story to keep your audience engaged. It could be anything from a new setting to an unusual character twist.

Make sure you keep surprising the reader with something new so they never know what's going to happen next.

7. Horror is internal not external

We all know that horror literature is supposed to be scary. But what makes them truly terrifying is their fear of the unknown and the dark aspects of human nature that often remain hidden.

For this reason, many horror stories rely on thrilling techniques to create an atmosphere of fear and terror. It's not what's happening on the screen, but what might happen that makes us scream in fear.

To make your horror story more effective, focus on developing inner fears in your characters rather than relying too heavily on external threats. This makes the horror more personal to the reader and dramatically increases the suspense.

Good horror writers know how to keep the horror mostly internalized. When writing horror, make sure your characters' fears and anxieties drive them and not outside threats like monsters or serial killers.

8. Don't Forget the Basics

Horror fiction is as complex and nuanced as any other type of fiction. Just because the horror genre is unique to all other genres, it shouldn't follow the same story and plot rules as others. As a horror writer, make sure you follow the basics of storytelling, such as: B. A strong plot, well-developed characters, and an interesting setting.

Remember, horror isn't just about fear - it's also about telling a great story. Be sure to focus on creating a cohesive and overall satisfying narrative.


With these eight tips, you should be well on your way to writing horror stories that send shivers down your spine, whether you're writing a horror novel or a screenplay. So get out there, aspiring horror writer, and start exploring those dark fears and hidden fears that make horror so scary!

you might like this

8 spooky tips for writing a horror story | StoryFlintName (1)

facility builder


8 spooky tips for writing a horror story | StoryFlintName (2)

Term of step by step instructions

With this simple 9-step guide, you can create a strong premise that will serve as the foundation for your entire story. Premise Builder makes it easy for you to start writing your novel today.

Show all notion templates

you might like this

I hear

Disclosure of affiliates:This page may contain affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, you won't pay a penny more, but I get a small commission that helps keep the lights on. Thank you very much!

8 spooky tips for writing a horror story | StoryFlintName (4)

key words


keep reading

What is an antihero

An antihero is similar to a classic protagonist, but learn through examples five characteristics that make them unique!

Develop an ascending plot into a story

If you want people to read your story, it's important that you have a planned plot. Find out how to write the perfect upward action with this article.

What is personification?

We'll define and provide examples of impersonations and discuss some tips and techniques to help you make your impersonations more convincing and convincing.

show all articles


What are the 5 elements of horror? ›

The 5 elements of horror are suspense, fear, violence, gore, and the supernatural. These elements are used to create an atmosphere of horror and terror. Suspense builds tension and keeps the reader on the edge of their seat.

How do you start a creepy story? ›

To start the best first chapter in your horror history, you need to:
  1. Use the surroundings. Scary televisions show and movies tend to use jump scare to scare an audience. ...
  2. Use your fears. ...
  3. Write long sentences. ...
  4. Make your audience breathe. ...
  5. Use the fear of the unknown. ...
  6. Avoid clichés. ...
  7. Set the tone. ...
  8. Introduce the antagonist.
Oct 7, 2021

What are the 3 rules of horror? ›

Upon multiple examinations and revisits to the genre, the director came to define horror by there main rules:
  • 1 – The innocent must suffer.
  • 2 – The guilty must be punished.
  • 3 – The hero must taste blood to be a man.

What are the big 3 of horror? ›

These top three big original horror movies have been watched continuously by viewers. Halloween (1978), A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), and Scream (1996) are classics that have been popular amongst people, especially during October.

What are horror techniques? ›

Different types of horror lighting—uplighting, silhouette, spotlighting, underexposure, harsh light (hard light, chiaroscuro), prominent and projected shadows, shooting through objects (internal frames)—can distort images to create mystery, tension, and suspense.

How to write horror scripts? ›

8 Horror Screenwriting Tips from the Writer of THE BLACK PHONE and SINISTER
  1. If you want to scare, make us care. ...
  2. Write what scares YOU. ...
  3. Make sure something scary happens every ten pages or so. ...
  4. Be funny if and when you can. ...
  5. Your main character should evolve. ...
  6. Know your audience's expectations.
Aug 2, 2022

What makes horror writing scary? ›

At their heart, scary stories share the qualities of any other story, including a main character with a goal and obstacles standing in that person's way. But they have several additional factors: a scary setting, creepy character(s), and a twist or “uh-oh” moment.

How do you write a good horror twist? ›

A plot twist can take place in any scenario, but there are three very important rules a writer must follow:
  1. It must be plausible. The reader needs to be surprised by the revelation, but not shocked. ...
  2. It must be a surprise. ...
  3. It must be foreshadowed.

What is a good plot for a horror story? ›

A young girl is possessed by a demon and starts murdering people in her town. A man discovers that an alien creature has replaced his wife. A family moves into a new house and discovers that the ghosts of the previous owners haunt it. A woman is stalked by an abusive ex-boyfriend who has come back from the dead.

How do you end a horror story? ›

The hero defeats the monster, but…

You can have fun coming up with a “but” to surprise or shock your readers: The monster's big brother is still alive. The monster's mate swears vengeance. The hero regrets killing the monster. The hero metamorphoses into the monster's successor.

What are common horror themes? ›

Common themes include ghosts, ghouls, monsters, vampires, werewolves, demons, zombies, murderers, serial killers, paranormal forces, witchcraft, apocalypses, psychological fear, and gore.

What are the 6 elements of horror? ›

The Six Pillars of Horror
  • 1.The Familiar Made Strange.
  • 2.Tapping into the Reader's Darkest Fears.
  • Verisimilitude.
  • A Sense of Claustrophobia.
  • A Sense of Paranoia.
  • Violence.
Dec 8, 2018

What should not do in horror? ›

10 Things Not To Do In A Horror Movie
  • Rule #1. Never, ever, say “I'll be right back” ...
  • Rule #2. Never follow the scary voice/creepy shadow/otherwise shady looking character. ...
  • Rule #3. Never assume the bad guy is dead. ...
  • Rule #4. Never answer the phone. ...
  • Rule #5. Never put the knife/gun/cricket bat down. ...
  • Rule #6. ...
  • Rule #7. ...
  • Rule #8.
Jan 28, 2011

What is the #1 rule in Scream? ›

Randy : There are certain RULES that one must abide by in order to successfully survive a horror movie. For instance, number one: you can never have sex.

What is the formula of horror? ›

The mathematical model, which looks like this, (es+u+cs+t) squared +s+ (tl+f)/2 + (a+dr+fs)/n + sin x - 1, shows what elements of suspense, realism and gore combine to make a blood-curdling scary movie.

Who is the most popular slasher? ›

Best Slasher #1 - Michael Myers (Halloween, 1978)

Beyond John Carpenter's filmmaking, there are a few reasons why Myers is the ultimate slasher. One, he has no gimmick (he wears a William Shatner mask, but how frightening is that?). Two, he's unstoppable. Three, he has no personality.

Who was first Jason or Michael Myers? ›

Michael Myers is a fictional character from the Halloween series of slasher films. He first appears in 1978. Jason made his first cinematic appearance in the original Friday the 13th on May 9, 1980.

What are some scary settings? ›

6 Essential Spooky Settings For Horror Movies
  • Cabins. From time to time, cabins have been one of the main settings for horror films. ...
  • Dorms. This is another addition to the favorite settings for horror movies. ...
  • Amusement Parks. Anyone up for running into Pennywise? ...
  • Forests. ...
  • Cemeteries. ...
  • Abandoned / Old buildings.
Oct 2, 2020

How do you light a horror scene? ›

Lighting techniques often used in horror films to disorient the audience and create contrast between a villain and the hero can include:
  1. Uplighting.
  2. Silhouette.
  3. Spotlighting.
  4. Underexposure.
  5. Harsh light (hard light, chiaroscuro)
  6. Prominent projected shadows.
  7. Shooting through objects to create a sense of “being watched”
Aug 13, 2021

What are the 4 elements of horror? ›

The Tell-Tale Heart - Wikipedia

, most horror genres contain the elements; fear, surprise, suspense, mystery, and spoiler. These elements give the horror genre a great sense of horror because whoever reads or watches horror will have a sense of sitting on the edge of their seat.

How do horror writers create fear? ›

Here are eight techniques authors have used to invoke unsettling fear and dread within a reader.
  1. Less is More. Fear is subjective and personalised to each and every reader. ...
  2. Don't Rationalise. We all fear the unknown. ...
  3. Build Suspense. ...
  4. False Security. ...
  5. Be Original. ...
  6. Vary the Fear. ...
  7. Gradually Reveal. ...
  8. Be Believable.

What is the 3 act structure for horror? ›

Horror movies tend to follow a standard three-act movie structure. In Act One, the threat appears. In Act Two, the characters learn the meaning of the threat, and begin to fight back. And in Act Three, the characters face a final confrontation with the threat – either surviving (forever changed), or dying.

How do you write a scream in a script? ›

You can write a scream by simply writing in the action line (Character name) SCREAMS. For example, “Meg runs through the door with the birthday cake. Johnathan SCREAMS.”

What POV is best for horror? ›

While scenes of horror and suspense could work with the use of first person — the fear of the main character could certainly come through with the use of voice and interiority — actual horror imagery only works well in the third person.

What POV is best for horror writing? ›

The most visceral way you can create a scary experience for them is to make them feel like they're going through this experience themselves. This is why a first-person or a close third-person POV works best for a horror novel.

Who is the scariest horror writer? ›

From serial killers to ghosts to the eerie and unexplainable, these authors offer some of the best that the horror genre has to give.
  • Stephen King. ...
  • Stephen Graham Jones. ...
  • Jonathan Maberry. ...
  • Joe Hill. ...
  • Silvia Moreno-Garcia. ...
  • Dean Koontz. ...
  • Grady Hendrix. ...
  • Victor LaValle.
Oct 25, 2022

How do you make horror suspense? ›

Ten Ways to Create Suspense
  1. Create a promise in every chapter. ...
  2. Create a hidden identity. ...
  3. Create a puzzle. ...
  4. Open a chapter or section with a question. ...
  5. Use flashbacks to open new sources of suspense.
  6. Finish a chapter with a cliffhanger ending.
  7. Give characters complicated histories.
Sep 7, 2021

How do you write a hook for a horror story? ›

5 Tips for How to Write a Danger Hook

But there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure you've made it the best it can be. Use strong verbs and surprising actions. The danger can be inherent or implied. Always keep reader expectations and genre considerations in mind.

What is a good sentence to start a story? ›

So, whatever type of story you want to tell, you'll find great sentences to start a story in the list below! Jack hadn't meant for it to happen... The wind swirled around me and the world went black... At first, I couldn't understand why I had woken up - then I felt the icy fingers close around my wrist...

How do you write a gory scene? ›

How to Write Gore
  1. You Have to Write it Descriptively. ...
  2. Invoke Common, Relatable Imagery Alongside the Gross Part. ...
  3. You Can't Go Wrong With Food Metaphors. ...
  4. Don't Lose the Human Element. ...
  5. Choose Your Words Carefully.
  6. - Words with food connotations: Moist, glistening, steaming, smear, chunk, gobbet, ooze, etc.
Nov 20, 2017

What are some creepy sayings? ›

55 scary quotes that will make you sleep with the lights on
  • “Everybody is a book of blood; wherever we're opened, we're red.” — ...
  • “Where there is no imagination, there is no horror.” — ...
  • "Would you like to see a magic trick?" — ...
  • “Horror is like a serpent; always shedding its skin, always changing.
Oct 24, 2022

What are the words used in horror story? ›

The 13 Spookiest English Words to Instantly Put You in the Halloween Spirit
  • 1 Ghastly. The adjective “ghastly” evokes a horrifying or terrifying sentiment about the noun it's describing. ...
  • 2 Ghoulish. ...
  • 3 Macabre. ...
  • 4 Phantasm. ...
  • 5 Spine-tingling. ...
  • 6 Blood-curdling. ...
  • 7 Creaky. ...
  • 8 Howl.
Feb 25, 2022

How to make horror writing scary? ›

7 Tips for Scaring Your Readers
  1. Use the environment. ...
  2. Use your own fears. ...
  3. Write longer sentences. ...
  4. Make your readers breathe faster. ...
  5. Leverage fear of the unknown. ...
  6. Avoid clichés. ...
  7. Practice.
Sep 7, 2021

What makes the best horror? ›

The Top Ten Things That Make Horror Movies Scary
  • Fear of death. This is the ultimate fear, both existentially and psychologically. ...
  • The dark. ...
  • Creepy, crawly things. ...
  • Scary places. ...
  • Disfigurement. ...
  • Dismemberment. ...
  • Suspense (anticipation and expectations). ...
  • Spooky music.
Oct 21, 2014

How do you write a dark scene? ›

Lights-Out Techniques: 5 Ways to Build Dark Story Suspense (and Should You?)
  1. The author isn't sure where the story is going.
  2. Allowing characters to keep key information to themselves. ...
  3. Allowing characters to be unobservant. ...
  4. Ending the scene on a major cliffhanger. ...
  5. Keeping the scene dark, literally. ...
Apr 22, 2020

What do writers fear most? ›

5 Common Fears That Stop Writers (and What To Do About Them)
  1. Fear of Rejection. This is the same fear you felt the last time you chickened out on asking somebody for a date, and it's not without a grain of truth. ...
  2. Fear of Not Being Good Enough. “I'm too old to write.” ...
  3. Fear of Criticism. ...
  4. Fear of Success. ...
  5. Fear of Inadequacy.

What makes a story scary? ›

At their heart, scary stories share the qualities of any other story, including a main character with a goal and obstacles standing in that person's way. But they have several additional factors: a scary setting, creepy character(s), and a twist or “uh-oh” moment.

What is the #1 scariest horror movie? ›

The 10 Scariest Horror Movies Ever
  • The Exorcist (1973)
  • Hereditary (2018)
  • The Conjuring (2013)
  • The Shining (1980)
  • The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
  • The Ring (2002)
  • Halloween (1978)
May 20, 2022

Why is horror attractive? ›

One reason we consume horror is to experience stimulation. Exposure to terrifying acts, or even the anticipation of those acts, can stimulate us — both mentally and physically — in opposing ways: negatively (in the form of fear or anxiety) or positively (in the form of excitement or joy).


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Annamae Dooley

Last Updated: 10/01/2024

Views: 5444

Rating: 4.4 / 5 (45 voted)

Reviews: 84% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Annamae Dooley

Birthday: 2001-07-26

Address: 9687 Tambra Meadow, Bradleyhaven, TN 53219

Phone: +9316045904039

Job: Future Coordinator

Hobby: Archery, Couponing, Poi, Kite flying, Knitting, Rappelling, Baseball

Introduction: My name is Annamae Dooley, I am a witty, quaint, lovely, clever, rich, sparkling, powerful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.