How to Write a Horror Story That Will Keep Your Readers Up at Night
Horror is one of the most popular genres of fiction, but also one of the most challenging to write. How do you create a story that will scare your readers, without resorting to clichÃ©s or cheap tricks? How do you build suspense, tension, and atmosphere, while also developing your characters and plot? How do you balance horror with humor, emotion, and realism?
In this article, we will share some tips and techniques on how to write a horror story that will keep your readers up at night. Whether you are writing a short story, a novel, or a screenplay, these tips will help you craft a horror story that will haunt your readers long after they finish reading.
Tip #1: Know Your Subgenre
Horror is a broad genre that encompasses many subgenres, such as supernatural horror, psychological horror, cosmic horror, body horror, zombie horror, slasher horror, and more. Each subgenre has its own conventions, tropes, and expectations, so it is important to know what kind of horror story you are writing and who your target audience is.
For example, if you are writing a supernatural horror story, you might want to include elements such as ghosts, demons, curses, haunted houses, or exorcisms. If you are writing a psychological horror story, you might want to focus on the mental state of your protagonist, their fears, doubts, paranoia, or madness. If you are writing a cosmic horror story, you might want to explore themes such as the insignificance of humanity in the face of incomprehensible forces or entities.
Knowing your subgenre will help you choose the appropriate tone, style, setting, and plot for your horror story. It will also help you avoid clichÃ©s or inconsistencies that might alienate your readers or make your story less scary.
Tip #2: Create a Compelling Protagonist
Your protagonist is the main character of your horror story and the one who will experience the most terror and danger. Therefore, it is essential to create a compelling protagonist who will engage your readers and make them care about their fate.
A compelling protagonist should have three main qualities: relatability, vulnerability, and agency. Relatability means that your protagonist should have some traits or characteristics that your readers can identify with or empathize with. Vulnerability means that your protagonist should have some flaws or weaknesses that make them susceptible to fear or harm. Agency means that your protagonist should have some goals or motivations that drive them to act and overcome their challenges.
For example, if you are writing a zombie horror story, your protagonist might be a survivor who is trying to find their family in a post-apocalyptic world. Your readers can relate to their love for their family and their desire to survive. Your protagonist might be vulnerable because they have limited resources or skills or because they suffer from guilt or trauma. Your protagonist might have agency because they have a plan or a destination or because they encounter other survivors who need their help.
A compelling protagonist will make your readers invested in your horror story and root for them to succeed or survive.
Tip #3: Establish the Stakes
The stakes are the consequences of what will happen if your protagonist fails or succeeds in their goal. The higher the stakes, the more tension and suspense you will create in your horror story.
To establish the stakes in your horror story, you need to answer two questions: What does your protagonist want? And what will happen if they don’t get it? For example, if you are writing a slasher horror story, your protagonist might want to escape from a masked killer who is hunting them down. If they don’t get it, they will die.
The stakes should be clear and consistent throughout your horror story. They should also escalate as the story progresses. For example, if you are writing a supernatural horror story, your protagonist might want to break a curse that is plaguing them. If they don’t get it, they will suffer from nightmares or hallucinations. As the story progresses, the curse might become more severe or affect more people around them. If they still don’t get it by the end of the story, they might lose their sanity or their soul.
Establishing the stakes will make your readers feel anxious and curious about what will happen next in your horror story.