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Horror Writing Prompts

Instructor: Andrea Losa
With works from authors like Bram Stoker and Stephen King, horror fiction is one of the most popular literary genres, and horror stories may be the first types of stories that developing writers aim to tell. Check out some prompts to get you started and tips to keep you writing.

Horror Writing Prompts

Horror stories appeal to many of us because we enjoy experiencing the sensation of fear in a safe, controlled way, and our minds can prove quite masterful at creating it. If you're looking to practice writing scary stories, you may find your own fears are a good place to start exploring. Here are some ideas to help you get started:

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night…

It's a bitter cold night. The rain pelts against the eaves and windows, tree branches whisper warnings as they brush against the old, drafty cabin. Suddenly, the screech of the telephone pierces through the very air I was breathing, and just as suddenly it cuts short and fades away as all of the lights go out, enveloping me in utter darkness.

We all have probably heard at least one story that includes darkness, stormy weather and creepy houses. Using specific objects and events in your writing can evoke certain emotions, leading your readers to a particular frame of mind through the use of objective correlatives.

Read about some literature from the turn of the century that use objective correlatives to elicit ominous and spine-chilling reactions.

Getting Lost in a Strange, Exotic Place

You're exploring an ancient ruin with a tour group while vacationing in South America. As you venture deeper into this massive space, you fall into a cavern and twist your ankle. Separated from the group, you find you can't walk, and no one is responding to your cries for help. Darkness creeps closer to you, and you're getting colder. A feeling of estrangement from the outside world envelops you. Just as you remember the tour guide had mentioned a legendary curse about these ruins, eerie laughter and voices in a language you don't recognize pierce the darkness.

Explore the elements of gothic and fantasy that elicit strong emotions of fear, dread, and wonder, as employed in well-known dark romantic works.

Battling Unknown Apocalyptic Forces

You open your eyes, and the world is on fire. The streets are full of chaos, overturned cars, people screaming and running frantically, and sirens blaring from every direction. You're shaken out of your state of shock by the voice of your closest friend, who is grasping your shoulder firmly and looking at you with purpose and focus: 'It's coming for us. We have to go. We have to get to the safe zone….'

Identify strong themes that explore the human condition and the state of our world through symbolism and imagery, which are often found in post-apocalyptic literature.

Horror Writing Tips

Whether you are just getting started or are far along in your attempts, reviewing the following suggestions can help you get a better idea of what approaches work best for you.

  • Recall frightening images and feelings from spooky stories you've heard or read to incorporate them into your own writing.
  • Before attempting your story, think about the images and themes you want to explore, and build the plot around them.
  • Use vivid and descriptive language to create the sensation of fear in your readers.
  • Develop characters that your readers can care about or relate to.
  • Make sure your plot contains a lot of excitement and interesting detail to keep readers hooked.
  • Start with the end. Consider what you want readers to take from this story, how you want things to come together, and what final image you want to leave readers with.
  • Read different kinds of horror fiction, such as legends, graphic novels and short stories, and draw inspiration from them.

Fundamental Writing Prep

Once you have your ideas all set, the real fun begins! The following Study.com resources will provide you with information on the writing process, creative writing tips and techniques, as well as exams and quizzes to test your knowledge:

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