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April 09, 2014

Horror (How to Create)

H is for Horror (How to Create)

This post is not about how to write a horror story, but how to add horror to any story. Horror is an element that can be utilized by every writer, just like romance, action, mystery, and suspense.

Here are 10 tips on how to create horror:

1.    Bring your nightmares to life on the page.

If it scares you awake with a pounding heart, and makes you not want to close your eyes again, then it’ll scare others from wanting to even turn off their lights to sleep.

2.    Get into people’s heads by using fears and phobias.

This is a sure way to scare anyone. Some of the most common fears are: 

Arachnophobia (fear of spiders)
Ophidiophobia (fear of snakes)
Achluophobia (fear of the dark)
Coulrophobia (fear of clowns)
Dentophobia (fear of dentists)
Nemophobia (fear of blood)
Nosocomephobia (fear of hospitals)

Torture your characters with these fears and your readers will cringe beneath their blankets. 

3.    Pick an eerie setting.

Or several eerie settings as your story moves forth and changes, such as a haunted house, a cemetery cloaked in fog, a dark alley or a cob-webbed basement.

Have you ever been somewhere that gave you the chills? Write about it!

4.    Write in a dark, foreboding tone.

If you were sitting at campfire or in a dark room telling a scary story, how would you manipulate your voice to heighten the fear? What words would you use to bring an extra dash of horror? Write exactly like that in your story.

5.    Write vivid descriptions.

The more vivid you are, the easier it will be to scare your readers and make the hairs on their arm stand on end. Use all five scenes: sight, taste, smell, touch and sound. If your MC sees ghosts, let him/her also smell rotting flesh, feel invisible hands, hear breathing, and even taste dirt or formaldehyde on their tongue. 

6.    Use the sixth sense.

Share your character’s sixth sense. Does he/she have a feeling something is going to happen? Does he/she think someone is following them, lurking in the shadows? Let your readers know all of this to build tension.

7.    Share your MC’s thoughts.

If your readers know what your MC is thinking and feeling, you have more opportunities to scare them, so share his/her thoughts and pain whenever possible, especially when you need to build suspense.

8.    Surprise your readers.

When your characters are at ease, so are your readers, and that is the perfect time to spring something unexpected on all of them. Let something sneak out from under the bed and grab your MC’s ankle, or whisper something in his/her ear.

9.    Get inspired by horror tales.

Urban legends, ghost stories and myths have been scaring us for centuries. If you use these tales in your novels, you’ll end up scaring many people. Think demons, possessions/exorcisms, monsters, and UFOs/aliens.

10.    Watch scary movies and read horror stories.

Study how other authors create horror and what frightens you while you’re watching a scary movie. Then use those techniques.

QUESTIONS: What’s your favorite horror movie and/or book? Have you written a horror story?

SHARE: Your tips for creating horror.

A to Z Blogging Challenge:


Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I used to love to read horror and watch scary movies. That ended when I had children and had to be the brave one. I'm sure I couldn't write it but your tips sound right on. Let's not even think about spiders.

Chrys Fey said...

I could never write a full-out horror story, but I do include elements of horror every now and then in my stories. :) I figured at least one person would mention they don't like spiders. :P

Crystal Collier said...

Nice! I would add, stretch the tension. That moment when they can hear something scraping through the blackened hallway toward them, make it last as long as possible, allowing the characters to marinade in their own fears which may be worse than the reality.

Chrys Fey said...

Nice addition, Crystal! Tension is a great tool for horror.

Nas said...

Great post Chrys! Reading when the characters are going through these emotion if done properly- is spine chilling!

River Fairchild said...

Great reminder you have here to add this element into any story, no matter the genre. It's "spice" to be sprinkled for an unexpected punch.
*wanders off to create some creepy fog and sighs in the dark*

Chrys Fey said...

Thank you! It sure is. :)

Chrys Fey said...

It is spice! That's a great way to put it, River! ;)

Brenda said...

I've not yet attempted horror, so your list is educational for me. While I love stories of witches, am a closet lover of Supernatural and other assorted spooky tales, I don't go in for the really dark stuff with excess blood and guts (coward). But I have recently written a story that dabbles in witchcraft, but it's a funny story. No one turns into a toad.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Horror is difficult to write well and obviously even harder to film well. John Carpenter's The Thing is one of my favorite.
Now I'm off to create a story about clown snakes who spit blood and invade a hospital...

Sonia Lal said...

Horror is hard to write comedy, but I think those will help add a bit of tension to any story!

Chrys Fey said...

I've only written a light horror flash fiction story, but other than that I haven't attempted a full-on horror story. I love witchcraft books, and I bet your story is great, even if no one is turned into a toad. ;)

Chrys Fey said...

Horror is very difficult to write, which is why I'd never be able to write like Stephen King. haha

That would be an epic story, Alex! ;)

Chrys Fey said...

I'm glad you think so, Sonia! :)

Stephanie Bird said...

Chrys, I am very passionate about the horror genre but the terror it causes within as I am writing it leads me to only add in elements of horror, dwelling instead more in the land of the supernatural. I am a big fan of Anne Rice, Dean Koontz, Stephen King and lately I have been loving Edgar Allan Poe's work. Joyce Carol Oates gets into some very spine-chilling territory at times as well.

Michael J. said...

I particularly enjoy reading about the "silence" - maybe a clock ticking, pulse thumping (while awaiting), a drop of sweat hitting the floor. Even though it wasn't a horror movie, I loved Hitchcock's "Vertigo" and how Jimmy Stewart was terrified.

Grammy Staffy said...

You give good advice to aspiring writers. They must love getting tips from your blog. I am not a writer but I surely admire those of you who are.
Thanks for dropping by my blog today. It is very nice to meet you.

Pat Hatt said...

Some good tips indeed, getting into people heads can be the best part. It is hard to write though

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

I've not attempted to write horror--yet.
Ray Bradbury wrote a few scary stories that had me turn on all the lights at night.

J.H. Moncrieff said...

Horror is what I write…I started out with psychological suspense but it kept getting darker.

Favorite scary movie: The Sixth Sense, because it was brilliant. Also liked that I cared about the characters. The first time I saw the big reveal, I was devastated. Never saw it coming.

Favorite scary book: Bag of Bones by Stephen King, along with about 20 others of his. :)

Yanting Gueh said...

I haven't written horror but will try a mystery one day. Horror films used to scare the daylights out of me but my sisters and I couldn't help watching on ~ The Evil Dead, Prom Night (or Prom Queen ~ Carrie, I think), Freddy Kreuger films etc.

I know Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes scared-thrilled me. I was so in awe of his imagination.

ilima said...

I've written horror short stories, but not sure I could do longer than that. Having to live and breathe something scary for months doesn't sound too fun, haha.

Sophie Duncan said...

My favourite horror story is The Woman In Black, by Susan Hill - chilling in all its forms. And yes, I've written several short horror stories and am currently serialising a ghost story on my blog for the A to Z. It's not a genre I'm that familiar with, I always swayed more towards paranormal than horror, but I enjoyed writing my ghost story, The Burning Web :)
Thanks for the tips - I'm especially with you on that last watching and reading horror stories - I love a good scare :)
Sophie's Thoughts & Fumbles - A to Z Ghosts
Fantasy Boys XXX - A to Z Drabblerotic

Tasha Duncan-Drake said...

Hmm, favourite horror, that's hard, I love so many. For scares I think it has to be Juon - The Gruge, original Japanese version. My husband and I sat curled up on the sofa watching that scared out of our wits :). I love to write horror (short stories only so far) and your point about thinking about what scares you is such a good one. That's what I try to do when I want to freak people out.
Tasha's Thinkings - AtoZ (Vampires)
FB3X - AtoZ (Erotic Drabbles)

Chrys Fey said...

I also lean more toward the supernatural. It's lighter, but also far more interesting to me. My supernatural-thriller series is where I've used these tips to add splashes of horror.

Chrys Fey said...

Thank you, Grammy! That means a lot to me. Of course, I'll be stopping by again today. :)

Chrys Fey said...

Getting into people's heads is a lot of fun, indeed. ;) But yes, you're right, it is hard to write.

Chrys Fey said...

I've only done light horror. I'm not sure I'd be able to do the kind of work that Stephen King does. I'll leave the real horror to him. ;)

Chrys Fey said...

Psychological suspense can get pretty dark. The darker the better. ;)

The Sixth Sense was pretty darn brilliant. And Stephen King is . . . well, the King! haha

Chrys Fey said...

I'm going to have to red that book! ;) Thank you for stopping by Claudine!

Chrys Fey said...

I've only written light horror short stories. I don't think I'll be able to do anything longer or scarier.

Chrys Fey said...

I've been intrigued by The Woman in Black, but I just haven't picked it up yet. Maybe this year, in October, I'll check it out at the library and give myself a good scare. ;) I've written a short story as well but it's not scary at all. haha

You're welcome, Sophie! Thank you for commenting! :)

Chrys Fey said...

Oh yes, the original Grunge is very scary. The Japanese sure know horror!

If you write what'll scare you, there's no doubt that you'll scare others. ;)

Chrys Fey said...

Oh, the silence a writer can create for a scene is always really good. Thank you for mentioning that, Mike! :)

Laura Clipson said...

The only time I've tried writing horror was for an assignment - we had to write something in traditional ghost story style. It was a lot of fun - I'll definitely be trying it again with your tips, thanks for sharing!

Chrys Fey said...

That's awesome! I hope my tips help you, Laura. :0

Kristen said...

Horror is the one area where I've always had trouble. I'm definitely going to save this and try out these tips. Thanks!

Random Musings from the KristenHead — H is for Hearts and Handmade

Chrys Fey said...

Great! I hope my tips help you to tackle this element. :)