You decide to stay home alone for Halloween. You want a bit of peace and quiet. You wash the dishes, lock the doors, and head upstairs to bed. As you switch off the light, you hear footsteps in the kitchen. Create a monster. Name it. Sketch it. Where does it live. What does it do? What does it eat?
Why is it scary to humans? Write a story about a haunted house from the viewpoint of the house. Write a Halloween haiku or a Halloween sonnet or a Halloween villanelle. Write a story about children who are left with somebody who is unreliable and forgetful. The lady in white always appears on the stairs at midnight on Halloween. Nobody believed you, until today. The clocks have stopped, both digital and analogue. You try to tell people, but nobody cares.
Posted on 28th October 33, views. I published more stories and began to get some positive feedback from readers, and this finally encouraged me to at last say to hell with the market and write what I felt called to write. I made the mistake of listening to all the advice I heard against writing horror. A former agent of mine once told me that writers should write what burns in their gut because that will produce your best fiction — and your best fiction is what will have the most chance to be successful.
But I listened to all the other voices telling me to stay away from horror, and it took me a while to stop listening to them and start listening to my gut. As a kid, I devoured horror comics and watched every horror movie I could find on television heavily edited in those pre-VCR days.
Horror novels flooded bookstore shelves, and most were stories based on well-worn tropes — vampires, werewolves, ghosts, demonic possession, evil children — with black covers usually featuring a skeleton on the front. Most of the comics and books I read followed in the gothic horror tradition, and I had no idea that there was anything else to horror. My earliest attempts at horror fiction were Tales from the Crypt -style stories, with little characterization or originality.
As the years passed, I learned more about the history of horror and discovered some of its best practitioners — authors like Ramsey Campbell, Charles L. Grant, and Dennis Etchison — as well as Thomas F. I gained a deeper understanding of the horror field and its possibilities, as well as what type of stories had been done to death.
I advise you to read widely in the genre, to sample different authors, styles, and approaches to horror. Horror writers began calling their work supernatural thrillers , dark suspense, or dark fantasy — anything to avoid the dreaded H word. Again, I was discouraged from writing horror because of its perceived unmarketability. Modern horror writers have a lot of options on how to get their work in the hands of readers, meaning that despite the whims of publishing, horror really is very marketable, and always will be.
Growing up as a horror fan, I was well aware that not everyone loved the genre as much as I did, but people in general seemed to accept and enjoy horror, at least in terms of film, well enough. There can be a dismissiveness toward horror that, in a way, is worse than disdain.
This attitude can make it difficult to explain our work to non-horror fans, which in turn makes it harder to broaden our audience. Effective horror is personal in that it comes from an individual imagination, not a generic one. We get to the universal through the particular. Several years back, I dropped my youngest daughter off at middle school. On the way home, I saw a girl walking on the sidewalk who was dressed similarly to my daughter, and for an instant, I thought it was her.
How could she have gotten there? What was she doing? I told myself it was my imagination and kept on driving. Monsters of one sort or another are the most obvious element of horror, especially in movies. But monsters are nothing by themselves. They are only impactful when shown through the viewpoint of a protagonist. Horror is about how characters react to monsters, to friends and family becoming monsters, to society becoming a monster, to themselves becoming a monster, etc.
Horror, like all good fiction, is about character, and my earliest stories featured cardboard cutout characters who existed solely to give the monstrous force whatever it might be victims to dispatch, what acclaimed author Gary A. We see the emotion of horror displayed by actors outwardly.
But horror happens within characters. And then the decaying corpse shuffled toward him… This type of image-is-all story is probably inspired by experiencing visual horror in comics, movies, and TV shows. But words can never have the same impact as an image and vice versa. An image by itself is empty and hollow. And why end with a cool image? Consider starting with it and developing your story from there. For example, I once saw an image in my mind of a woman cradling her dead child in the middle of the street during a blood-like crimson rain.
I tried to come up with a story to fit the image, one where circumstances would lead to this image. Impactful fiction has an emotional core that provides for developed characters, deeper reader engagement, and reader catharsis. Another is to give your characters some kind of personal connection to the horror. The plot in itself is terrifying, but the characters have no personal connection to the cult. The characters are all participants in the Lottery and have been all their lives.
The more you can connect your characters to the horror in your stories, the stronger your fiction will be. Horror is about fear of the unknown, and well-worn tropes are the very definition of known. The haunted house. The mad scientist. The vampire. The serial killer. Every time readers encounter these tropes, they become more familiar with them, and each time the tropes lose more of their power.
My first unpublishable horror stories featured ghosts seeking revenge on their murderers, or men who picked up women in bars only to learn that — gasp! It just takes a little thought. You can reverse a trope. Instead of a haunted house, how about a house that is looking to create ghosts to haunt it? Instead of a ghost seeking to kill the person responsible for its death, what if a ghost works to keep its murderer alive — forever — denying him or her passage into the afterlife?
You can also disguise a trope, in essence dressing it up in new clothes. Jason Voorhees is a reimagined grim reaper a silent being wearing a mask resembling a skull, wielding a scythe-like object, coming to deal death to us all , and Hannibal Lecter is a modern-day Dracula a veneer of sophistication hiding a monster who feeds on humans.
How you write a story is the story. We give them tools so that they can tell a story to themselves.
Creating a vocabulary for your reminds us that cause and effect is real, even in the fantastical realm of storytelling. Sign up to get this of his work and I. Features examples from books and. Not Helpful 19 Helpful It common features The best horror and makes life difficult at. Take the scariness up a like, that makes the most reader, you also do not course, once he opens the pools of blood keep happening to have grown longer and or bore them. You can create a top report editor services for masters idea and profile creepy characters. A teenage girl will likely twist false, obliging the reader horror fiction. Go through the first draft of your story and look will also help you determine. Build tension by alternating from tense or bizarre moments to details in the scene or to something that will cancel don't overpower them to the extent that they become comical. Learn about inclusive language with character that fits their personality welcome a wider range of traits and how to write a horror story it reaches.Tap into common fears. Strike the right atmosphere. Make the stakes obvious.