Writing a horror script is about focusing on itthree main things:
audience terrorinstilling fear and terror and bringing to life the public's worst nightmares.
be entertained -through thought-provoking themes, drama, horror scenarios, groundbreaking genres and more.
Meanwhile, do the other two.exploring the inner psychology of great peoplewith thestrong narrative impulses to overcome their fears.
Writing horror for terror's sake is not enough. In the current scenario, you have to do the sameentertaining, memorable, and exploring timeless and unexplored themes in a way we've never seen before.
But don't worry, it's not that hard. As a movie buff and avid writer of horror movies and concepts, I came up with aDAMN LIST OF 12 TIPSto make sure his horror script kills his audience. Let's get started, okay?
Before you write, think of 10 or 20 "horror concepts."OfMeetReallyTerrible.
WhyellaDo you want to write a horror script? What excites me personally about horror movies or TV shows?ella? WhyellaDo you want to join the pantheon of terror and add your unique touch?
When it comes to horror and what it evokes in audiences, two things come to mind:
1) Anguish– the fear of the unknown, of death, of being hurt, more.
2) Adrenaline– the biological result of feeling nervous, feeling a rush of dopamine, and the subsequent emotional relaxation.
Have you ever wondered why some people are addicted to roller coasters or death defying sports? Not because it's scary, it is. but it isAlsothe feeling offacing and overcoming a primary sense of fear it… and the resulting high afterwards. So in that sense...
When I know I'm writing a horror story, the first thing I do is look inside myself and write it.10-20 things that scare me personally.
It can be derived from movies, memories, nightmares, or even actual events. It's my "nightmare fuel" to channel into my script and it's invaluable.Because if your ideas don't scare you, no one else will.
Waking up, looking out the window and seeing an unavoidable threat coming my way, e.g. a tsunami wave, an alien ship, a tornado, a nuclear bomb, a gigantic chewing jaws.
Having loved ones killed by a quick and unavoidable event.
Voices of Scared Children / Masked Children
Being dragged down a deep dark hole
Running from something I can't see in total darkness.
forget who i am
Not being able to control my body or my actions.
Growing to hate who I am
Recognizing an evil presence affects the people around me.
A grinding, screeching, mechanical failure of some sort, e.g. Elevator, escalator, car.
Record them with your phone. Write freely and explore thewhy. Now apply some of these to your script.
Does a fear have to be literal in real life? Of course not. But the point is to investigate them.anxiety potential.Because if it scares you, maybe someone else too.
for example the number six: go blindIt scares me. I shudder at the thought of never seeing the faces of my loved ones.So what if I tap into that fear and create a moment where my character's vision is disturbed in a terrifying way?What if a malevolent force forced my character to lose his sight for an hour, and in that hour he had no idea what was terrorizing his family? And maybe, just maybecouldbe the...
Do you see the potential now?I don't use a copy-paste clichéd horror image: I take what scares me personally, apply it to a simple situation, and make it unique and authentic to me.
Your horror voice is as important as the story itself (just ask Jordan Peele).No need to grab straws. You don't even have to copy.
terror is inella.
2. Set the tone for the first 5-10 pages.
When it comes to scripts, it's important to set the tone in just a few pages.. On those first few pages, you basically pull back the curtain and announce to your audience:"That comes now. Getting ready."And all this process in generalappears in the first 5-10 pages.
But why is it important?
If a reader/producer/agent doesn't know it's a horror movie by the first 5 pages, they throw it out. You failed to captivate the reader.
If you haven't wowed your audience in 5-10 pages, people will move on to something else. This is the new death for all content.
A writer really only has thosefirst 5-10 pages to really impress someone.
So work on perfecting the first 5-10 pages as much as possible by establishing the following:
gender and toneWhat kind of movie are you making? horror with blood? Horror with the supernatural? Horror with real effects? A horror comedy is very different from a horror comedy. So be sure to set those expectations simply by sight and sound. You don't have to show all your cards. The hints and subtle rhythms are more than enough. You want to whisper to your audience"Is that the kind of journey you are embarking on? Do you dare to continue?" (More is explored in my article onWrite the television bible.)
Period -Year, country, social, economic - present this clearly and visually. Don't overload opening scenes with dialogue and illustrations. Show it in accessories, clothing, technology, language, or other visual media.
His main character and the first victim -With your main character or hero you want to hintthat before. What is your job? Why are they stuck? Is there a secret in her past that haunts her? Can you point that out without being too obvious or direct? Remember, great horror scripts save the best for later. Just put theYour character's life pivots and what they want.. And youlittle secret...
He -as mentioned inprevious articlesyvideosRemember that your topic is what you as a writer really want to say, and it is a specific point of view. It's also a real argument and something to debate. What is your opinion about love? Is love a curse? What about the role of women in society? It's awoman a weapon of mass destruction? eslove a war? It's up to you.But remember to whisper, not yell.
A memorable opening scene that builds the fear to come.torsion convention. It starts in an unexpected place. Turn the ordinary into extraordinary.Plus examples below.
DO NOT try to enter dream sequences, nightmares and visions yet.Keep your story in the real world to create real bets. While it can be tempting to set up your hero's nightmares, you can get there later. In the early stages, try to set the overall tone without revealing all your cards. Past trauma must be hinted at for further emotional impact. For more information you can read mineArticle on dream sequences.
All of this can be accomplished in one or more scenes; You just have to condense it into a concrete and chilling idea. First, try to put it in one place and don't overdo it. Your first 5-10 pages should be set upfear in the air, aa certain idiosyncrasy in your main character(or a sacrifice) andthe main threat.
Can you burn it slow? Of course. Let these 10 pages end with a scream (or at least a feeling of fear)!
Here's an example from the classic horror movie.Scream (full script to be continued). The opening scene accomplishes these goals in several ways:
set the tone
It captivates the reader and the audience with the central concept of terror.
and here is anotherLeave. Control of tone, tracking shots, and the use of foreground and background elements are excellent. Check out Jordan Peele's full script below.
3. Hide the terror/monster/killer/threat as much as possible
What makes something creepy? Is it because we can see it in front of us? Or can we hear it... smell it... andfeelingcrawls on our skin? What is more effective?
The best movie monsters, menaces, or killers are rarely seen right away.. Why? Because by revealing it right away, you dispel the buildup in our minds, which is often much worse.
Upon discovering the threat too early, your brain will immediately begin to rationalize,"Well that's not as bad as I thought it would be."
So take the advice of horror master Ridley Scott:
"You don't show the monster too much because you're going to get used to it and you'll never want to get used to it, ever. That was always my thesis. The best projection room in the world is the space between your ears, which is your brain. So he's learning to tapping into the human brain to show so much. Let the brain do most of the work. That's when you start tapping into people's fears." -Ridley Scott
As the Master said, it is about actively engaging the part of our brain that jumps to the worst possible scenario. And that's great because we all have very different active aspirations. For the public, this creates a feeling of fear and, above all,psychological and emotional commitment.
Here are other benefits ofintentionally hiding the horroras much as possible:
You keep your audience in a constant state of anticipation. And that means a creeping feeling of tension and anxiety that builds and builds.
They limit the complexity and budget of your script.Less visible action scenes and CGI mean less money spent. Your producer will love you.
You build a sense of mystery and "myth" around your world and your characters.What is not seen or said is thought.
The characters are left in the dark and learn along with the audience.More questions, psychological commitment and terror for everyone.
You can use shadows, sound design, reactions, and static shots to more effectively convey the threat.. This makes the creature or threat appear more insidious, powerful, and petrifying. Seeing the bloody consequences of the threat, we can ask ourselves"What the hell is that thing?!"
Hiding horror elements.- eg excessive blood, the monster itself, gore, carnage scenes - allow the actual elements of violence/supernatural/skin crawling to be more powerfulyo. It's a timing game: use the best performing scenes and page counts when you really need them.
Here are some monsters/threats/killers that aren't revealed for the MOST of the screen.j. Watch each movie and see what you can learn.
The hide rule should apply to me.65%> of script, reserving the climax to show the whole.
Xenomorphs (aliens, aliens, sequels)
The aliens (characters)
the thing (the thing)
Sadako Yamamura (Der Ring)
Babadook (Der Babadook)
Die Hexe (The Blair Witch Project)
This is one of my favorite revelations from this sci-fi horror thriller.Signs by M.Night Shyamalan. At this point, well into Act 2, both the audience and the characters have seen the looming threat. This leads to an emotional buildup and leads to afiestaMoment of the cry of the crowd. (By the way, this movie isn't about aliens, it's about FAITH. See below for more tips.)
4. Let the silence speak for itself
Sometimes silence can do more for your script than a demon nun. Like hiding the monster, carefully managed doses of silence can build tension, heighten tension, and send audiences squirming.
It's almost evolutionary; Our senses are suddenly at 3000 when there is no input. So use it!
You can specify this on the page as periods or spaces. This is enough to convey the beat of silence and I'm sure your reader will be pleasantly surprised at how creatively white space is used.
Example of using silence in script format:
Examples of scenes where silence is used effectively:
From 00.20 especially
5. Investigate your character's worst nightmares and make them do horrible things (THAT is really horror).
The central concept of almost all horror movies is that the characters learn to face it.horrors in their lives. This horror is usually embodied by an external threat (a ghost, a monster, an alien, a house, a murderer) and represents what the hero must overcome throughout the story. The horrors are only an essential part of this journey, but you must not forget the POINT of it all.
Really give it to your characters physically, mentally, emotionally, and psychologically!do not give up. The more horrible you can make life for them, the more you will urge them to do something about it.
And that is the basis of every great story: change.
If you can, force your hero to do terrible things to survive, e.g. lie, cheat, backstab, poison, kill, maim, dismember. The worse the better. The worse, the more unforgettable.
The best horror movies force characters to change by delving deeply into their personal source of fear, and thenOh nolet them breathe.
6. Lock up your characters (contains the horror)
Another great way to invoke a feeling of claustrophobia, fear, and tension is to limit your script to one place.. Yes, that's right: lock up your hero and the others on purpose.
Simple - it works. By locking your character in a specific location, you force him to master the elements around him to defend himself against your terrifying threat. They also imply that there is no escape. They imply that they will die or survive. You involve your hero, and horror itself will come face to face.
This is the primitive mouse in a snake cage effect you want.This strategy also offers many other advantages:
Lock your hero in one placetension riseswhile forcing your character to act. She feels like the walls are closing in.
You can get over the plot hole"Why didn't they run away?"
They can turn places into surprises.For example, maybe this app company is really a military cover for something more sinister.
Base the script in an identifiable place, a place the audience can see, smell and touch.For example, a sushi restaurant.
The cabin in the woodsmade him famous, turning teen slasher anticipation into total romp! (Spoilers ahead!)
Containing your location also forces you to unleash your creativity. This is the true test of a writer -achieve more with less. And when he does, his script will really stand out.
Most horror scripts by new writers are short (around 100 pages) and have a smaller budget. make budgets1 to 10 million dollars maximum.
Including the venue already positions you as a producer-friendly writer who can write with constraints in mind and still make it work. You're a dream come true.
Important note: Not an Industry Secret:Horror scripts can be sold only with the idea of "high concept".
Your movie idea doesn't necessarily need bankable blockbuster stars: it's all about the IDEA. Keeping your script in one place makes it cheaper to produce and positions the concept to shine.
Here are some horror locations included and some successful examples:
A speakeasy for the rich
A military installation that no one knew was there.
a zoo at night
A closed theatre/cinema.
A business campus of applications/social networks.
A remote private school
The dilapidated mansion of a dead billionaire
A sewage treatment plant
An isolated climate change monitoring station
A high-tech apartment block with several floors.
House (Don't Breathe, The Exorcist)
Nave espacial (Alien, Aliens, Event Horizon)
Mansion (Done or not, go away)
6. Discovering horrible secrets (taking in the horror)
For every great horror movie, there is an equally terrifying secret that the main character must face.. It may be something from their past, a mistake, a family sin, or just an intrinsic part of themselves that has yet to be acknowledged.
What a character is forced to faceinternallywill be more powerful to your audience than thatOf coursemonster slayer Actually theMonster or killer is often a symbolic representation of your main character's theme or sin.
The best way to show this is to have your supposed "hero" keep a deep, dark secret that will come to light as the story progresses. Whether it's from past trauma or a terrible mistake, remember not to make your characters all good or all bad. Make them gray, complicated, and sometimes contradictory.
Horror movies are almost always about a character facing their own personal nightmare, not just about physical survival, but facing a reckoning that lives deep within them.
Here are some examples of characters, their secrets, and the "true horror" they encounter in the film:
Character: Chris Washington (Leave)
Secret:Guilt over his mother's hit-and-run.
The "real horror" he faces:The terror of racial objectification, inequality and subjugation.
Character:Grace Le Domas (Ready or not?)
Secret:His mysterious foster care upbringing (implied trauma)
The "real horror" he faces:The terror of the in-laws, the chains of marriage and the emptiness of the rich.
Characters:Father Graham Hess and family (sign)
Secret:Trauma from death of wife/mother six months earlier (probably caused by Father Hess)
The "real horror" they face:a world withoutBelieve— the foundation on which the family has built its entire life. They once believed that God had a plan, but that reality has been shattered. They are lost and must find their faith again.
7. Create a metaphorical monster that represents your hero's "sin" (externalizes the horror)
Continuing from the point above, when it comes to monsters (supernaturals, aliens, assassins, ghosts), make sure your threat is more than just your run-of-the-mill villain. you know them. Don't do that.
In fact, you would have to dig deeper to have that.The monsters present a strong theme: greed, revenge, misery, death, sin, love, guilt, the melancholy of parenthood.
This technique is also used at Snyder'ssave the cat. In essence, the monsters are usually a symbol of the "sin" of the main character or someone associated with the main antagonistic force.
It's even more obvious in horror movies. For example,the xenomorphs outaliencould be summed up as Weyland-Yutani Corporation arrogance and greed (IMHO). Ash the Android reveals the plot to Ripley during the movie, and that's what got him into his horrible situation in the first place.
AmHereditary,The demon Paimon attempts to kidnap the souls of the Graham family, manipulating them like literal dolls in a doll's house, which becomes symbolic in the film..This represents thehereditaryfear orf mental deterioration of relatives, depression and fall into the abyss of madness. All the characters deal with these horrors in disturbing ways throughout the film.
In themWhat Babadook,the creature represents theFear of pain and denial ofAmelia Wanek,a young widow.This is represented by the fact that Amelia denies that a creature is after her for most of the movie. She until she reveals herself in a shocking revelation and she must act to protect her son.
So when you create your monster, what does it do?Yes reallyrepresent?
It can't just be a random assassin or a supernatural entity. Bored. think big go deeper Turn what you know into something new. Horror is the perfect genre for your audience to scream too.think.
What is the "sin" of the hero or the villain? What is revealed during the story?
It reflects "sin" with elements of the monster/slayer. For example, when sin affects a group of businessmen who have plagued a small town for centuries, their calculus seems to be the opposite: quick, deadly, bloody, and cutting. It doesn't have to be this way, but showing some visual "echoes" will help your theme stand out even more.
Now let your hero confront and uncover the sin by overthinking the murderer/monster in surprising and innovative ways. Eastesthe history.
8. Squeeze the tension like a rubber band until it snaps!
This element, like the use of silence, is about when and where it is used. And with a horror concept, suspense is a natural bedfellow.
So how do you create suspense to really get under your audience's skin?
Let your audience know something the characters don't.A time bomb under the table? A child hiding under the floorboards? The threat is coming, the audience knows it, but the characters don't.
Create an inability for the audience or characters to change anything.that's about to happen.
Magnify the scene when the threat is obvious and make every pause, word and moment count. It inspires the feeling that death can come at any moment.
enlarge the scene– The longer the scene, the more the tension stretches. But do it in moderation and with the other elements of the game.
And as Quentin Tarantino says, think of tension like a rubber band. Minute after minute, he keeps pulling and stretching until you feel like he's about to snap. And then... do it.
9. Keep your script short but scary (90-115 pages)
Is there room to go shorter or longer? Sure! Keep in mind, however, that most horror movies are specifically designed to build, unleash, and get out of hell. You don't write a 2.5 hour drama. You don't write fancy comedy.
If you meet these general requirements, you'll rank your horror script well against industry standards. A bit more and it looks free (and shows that it can't be edited). Anything shorter and you risk not fully exploring your characters.
So build your story, build tension and suspense, terrify the audience, and lose yourself.
There's no need to reinvent the wheel with a three-hour horror movie. Be smart. Sell the concept first, then suggest changes to the rewriters.
10. Gory/Thriller/Disturbing Images – Serve in different sizes at different times
Look, there's nothing wrong with the occasional scare, screeching sound effect, or head-blow-off. Really.But too much of anything becomes repetitive, expected, and worse, boring.
Whatever flavor you have in mind for your horror, make sure to serve it at different times and in different measures.. Serve up too much blood too soon and you risk making everything else pale in comparison.
Forget building suspense and you risk disengaging your audience and turning them off. Literally.
The best horror movies use ahealthy distribution of horror elements.. These writers and filmmakers understand that's what you want.build a terror. Here are some tips for doing just that.
After your first swallow, also known as the vomit swallow, go back andRedistribute horror elementsSo you have a gradual increase in anxiety. Understand that by postponing your most graphic scenes until later, you are getting the audience to lean forward in their seats with anticipation.that's the danceYou have to get involved. Force your audience to lean forward, surprise them...then step back for another round. It's all about rhythm.
Brainstorm 5-10 horror scenes or images that fit the type of horror you are writing about.(eg Supernatural, Slasher, Gore, Action, Psychological Thriller). After your first draft, you'll have a clearer idea of the images and symbols that need further development and planting. Now go back and make them as mysterious and heartbreaking as possible.
Save the best for... middle.That's right. Remember, the audience has the option to walk away.So why not tackle the climax (the scariest sequence you have) and make it the focal point?Then show the ramifications of that moment for the rest of the movie. Not only will it change expectations, but you've just ignited a nightmare fuel storm that will propel you forward.Your characters, your game plan to change. It's interesting, it's captivating. I am exploring this effective concept in myprevious post How to write a screenplay in six weeks.
11. Have your character face his ultimate fear at the end
All horror movies are about characters facing their fears.. Yes, there are deviations from that, and some movies follow a more experimental structure, but these characters still face their darkest and most paralyzing fears.
You can definitely hide the threat 99% of the time, but in the end your hero (and maybe other characters as well) must find a way to innovate, counterattack, and win or succumb.
Then what is? With many movies, building on this idea can lead to unique and satisfying results.
Can your character outrun the monster/threat/killer and still succumb to its long-term effects?
Can the threat win and not win?
Can the hero twist the motives of the monster/threat/killer and turn the hero into the horror itself?
For your first draft, try to pick one. But rememberAudiences are usually motivated when they see a character overcome incredible obstacles and defeat the overwhelming threat..
If your hero just dies at the end, leave a message for the audience:
Now while this may be a strong statement orhimBy the way, you can't use this as a crutch. Instead, your hero must...
Check. Does. Battle. Hunt. browse. Battle. To return. outwit. Rethink. Realize. Move. To kill. Get away. All the verbs.
There's nothing more satisfying in a story than a character who starts out naive and ill-prepared, but then seizes the opportunity to overcome whatever obstacle comes his way. This is the meat of a great horror script.
12. Don't exaggerate the story. Focus on telling a GOOD story with AWESOME scares.
I am guilty of overwriting and adding too many elements when writing my horror projects. So when all else fails and you're lost,Eliminate the horror elements and try to focus on a simple story line that allows this story to speak to you..
It does not mean to dilute it; It's all about simplifying your story so you know WHEN to add more horror elements and when to focus on character moments.
Some of the best horror scripts of all time have very simple plots. These stories revolve around a basic premise, such as a woman trying to survive against an ex; or a family trying to run away from home.
So when in doubt, simplify.
If you must, make the plot and story work, and then dress it up with horror and horror elements that you find interesting and scary. You can always go back and improve it. Remember that the premise of every great horror movie is:
So deliver. You are forgiven for everything else.But there is no lack of HORROR.
So search your soul, find what scares you, and then expand it to terrify your audience for a long time. It's not sadistic, it's your job.
Thank you very much! Share and comment if you found it useful! As a bonus, I've included a variety of horror scripts to learn. Remember, a great writer is a great reader!
Out (written by Jordan Peele)
Alien (escrito by Dan O'Bannon, Ronald Shusett, Walter Hill, David Giler)
The Conjuring (written by the Hayes brothers)
Saw (written by Leigh Whannel and James Wan)
Scream (written by Kevin Williamson)
A Nightmare on Elm Street (written by Wes Craven)
28 Days Later (written by Alex Garland)
The Shining (written by Diane Johnson)
The Babadook (written by Jennifer Kent)
The Evil Dead 2 (written by Sam Raimi and Scott Spiegel)
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