Thoughts on Writing Horror Well

in Articles On Writing/Featured/Horror Articles

We all love to be afraid from time to time. That is why we listen to ghost stories with rapt attention from a very young age. It thrills us, makes us look over our shoulders, but we always come
back for more.

Hook your reader with conflict and tension right in your first sentence. Have a good setting for your story; an reader on edge. The more on edge your reader is, the quicker he will turn the pages to see what is coming next.Any good horror story is based on anticipation. You have to find the things that scare you, then surprise and scare your readers. Plot twists are good ways to do that. Never let your readers or characters see what is coming. As the king of horror writing says;

“I’ll try to terrify you first, and if that doesn’t work, I’ll horrify you, and if I can’t make it there, I’ll try to gross you out. I’m not proud.”- Stephen King

Know what your character fears,then put him into the worst possible situation. Any kind of fear can have a powerful reaction if you set the scenario well. Why does the character have that particular fear? How does he react to that situation? Up the stakes all the time. That will increase the tension.

“Thinking will not overcome fear, but action will.” — W. Clement Stone

Ask yourself the following questions. What will happen if your character fails? What is the worst that can happen in a bad situation? How can I make the situation worse? Don’t help your character out of the situation, create it, sit back, and see what he does to survive it. The best way to scare others is to be intimate with that fear. Write about your dark place, your fear. Create odd, unknown and unreal situations. Take the readers out of their safe, comfortable lives. Ask “What if?” Revisit the dark places in your life. It can be uncomfortable, but it helps you to remember what the real feelings were at the time. Then reflect those feelings in your writing.

“I lost my mother when I was 14. My daughter died at the age of 6. I lost my faith as a Catholic. When I’m writing, the darkness is always there. I go where the
pain is.” -Anne Rice

Readers expect to be afraid. Make it impossible for them to put down your story, let it haunt them after it is done. Make them uncomfortable, create their nightmares. I love it when I have written a story and someone says; “I battled to sleep after reading it.” That is the kind of reaction you want to elicit from your reader.

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” – H.P. Lovecraft

Show don’t tell. Make them feel the character’s fear. Make them experience the pounding heart, the perspiring hands. Show them the negative consequences of failure. Show them the worst case scenario if your character fails. Make them care whether your character will survive or not. Now go and scare your readers, and have fun doing
it.

I am a South African writer with a passion for horror. I have written several short stories and novellas in different genres, and I am thrilled to be a part of this site!

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