Master the Art of Horror Writing
The best horror stories create a world in which everything we accept as given is taken away and where the only things that remain are those that haunt us.
There are things in life that we believe to be certain; things like the setting and rising of the sun, and our notions of security and our health. If you take these away, it creates fear. Most horrors play on our notions of security; remove security and you create uncertainty for the characters and your readers.
We might also reasonably expect to see our loved ones at the end of the day, to reach work in one piece and to wake up and find our world is still as we left it. Take out the expected and substitute it with the unexpected! These are basically scary surprises that come up to shock the reader.
Elements of a good horror story
One feature that is common in most horror stories is the characters’ unwillingness to suspend disbelief. They stubbornly refuse to believe that there’s something wrong at first, which usually leads to their demise.
A good horror story can explore the prevalent fear of adults or make adults re-experience a fear from our childhood. We all have inner fears which we cannot overcome. Horror stories will usually expand on this fear in the story.
The villains or monsters in a horror story are supposed to be scary. If they were easy to defeat they would lose that element of fear. We all understand that there are things in our lives which will inevitably end. Having a villain/monster then that comes on relentlessly becomes a truly fearful aspect in your horror story.
The best horror stories features characters that are unable to help themselves. All humans can connect with that on some level because we have all felt helpless at some stage in our lives. When the characters are in a situation in which they cannot help themselves, we share their anguish. We also share their joy when they find ways to help themselves. The trick is to bring it into the story at the right time. Leave your characters helpless until readers ache for them to escape the situation and then open the way for the characters to overcome their situation.
Every good horror story has a sense of urgency in the story line. The main characters cannot simply walk away from the problem, because they know it will escalate if they do nothing or it will follow them until they deal with it. This adds pressure to the story, leaving readers desperate for a resolution. When we as readers connect with the main characters on this level, we may find we’re unable to put the book down!
The overall effect with horror is that it makes you appreciate what you have in your life, like your stability, your health and the safety of yourself and those who are close to you.
When you get down to writing that horror story, keep these things in mind. Remember that it won’t be much of a horror if you can’t scare and fascinate your audience, so concentrate on bringing on the chills.
Written by David Hendricks
Image credit: Microsoft Images