I don’t get horror stories. Who chooses to be scared stupid? Is that uplifting or do you learn to solve life’s problems better by doing it while your hair’s on fire? I’ll read chick lit over horror any day of the week.
But lots of people disagree with me. I went in search of why people subject themselves to a plot that destroys any sense of security that the world will continue to spin nicely on its axis and found one overwhelming reason: Because it’s there (thank you, Johnny Compton, for making this clear). The world is not a nice place. Bad things happen. Horrifying events are out there.
If you are one of those who aspires to write horror, here are tips to help you be the best at that:
- Start scared and stay scared throughout your story. If life calms down, fix it.
- Everything’s scary. That includes the plot (of course), characters, setting, motivations, themes, subplots–you name it.
- Put lots of people in danger, not just the main character.
- People like to be frightened. Give them what they like.
- Flesh out your characters before you place them in a horrific circumstance or readers won’t care about their fate.
- Constantly have readers asking, ‘What happens next?’
- Horror is about fear, tragedy, and whether the character can prevail. It is NOT about understanding the human condition, the meaning of life, saving the world, love found and lost and repeat. Sure those can be included, but they aren’t central to the plot.
- The subplot of every horror story is that bad things are coming. That drum beat starts softly, but gets louder the closer you get. It never goes away.
- Know which type of horror you are writing–gross out, horror, or terror.
BTW, as I was searching for an answer to why the h*** people write this mind-numbing fear-inducing, terror petri dish stuff, Ivan Ewert offered another excellent reason: Because agents and publishers are looking for it. Yeah, I get that. For more on writing horror, visit the
More on writing horror
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and Born in a Treacherous Time, first in the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice, a columnist for TeachHUB and NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Survival of the Fittest, Spring 2019. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning