Horror Writing 101

As we approach the launch of our 2016 Relevant Reads contest, we will be bringing you weekly tips and prompts to help get you started with your story submissions! We look forward to providing content related to each of our five contest categories, which we'll do over six weeks, breaking horror/suspense into two separate posts so that our midnight writers may hopefully be doubly inspired!

And here is where we will begin this week, with stories that raise goosebumps along readers' arms and hair on the back of their necks. The horror genre.

Horror writing is typically thought of as synonymous with scary stories, which it is, to a point. While the intent of all horror writing is to invoke a sense of fear in the readers, horror writers often argue that "fear" is a spectrum - a wide value, and so they tend to think of the genre as divided into tiers. Specifically, three of them.

As one of the most noteworthy authors in this field says, "The best thing that you can do for the readers is terrify them. That's a head reaction.  And then there is horror, that's the next step on the ladder. It's a sort of physical reaction. And then you finally get down to the "gross out" which is probably the basest human emotion that we know. If I can't get terror, and I can't get horror, I'll be happy with a "gross out." - Stephen King

From this we can take that horror writers have three targets to choose from, none of which are mutually exclusive: the mental, the physical, and the emotional.

What we also know about the horror genre is that it is timeless, which is something writers can take solace in. Many people love to be frightened, and many people always will. While there is very little that hasn't "been done before" in terms of content: creepy basements, sounds from the attic, abandoned swing sets, and old hotels... that doesn't matter. Writers need not reinvent the wheel to partake in this genre. There is plenty of room in the classics and in the "tried and true" methods for new, original stories to take place. So don't worry about making your tale "different" - focus on telling the story your fingers are asking you to write.

To help you get started, we have rounded up 8 writing tips and prompts (8 being the number of weeks until our contest goes live!) which we'll share with you below.


Horror11. Can you tell this story?

2. Does your writing give you the creeps? If not, it may be missing something. Remember, "no tears in the writer, no tears in the reader!"


3. Where is she going? What is she looking for?


4. It's important not to censor yourself when writing, especially when writing horror. Fear is a raw emotion, so your writing must be raw as well. Edit later.


5. Suspense is the foundation of fear. Anticipation can be terrorizing, sometimes more so than the action itself.


6. Read within your genre! If you want to write great horror, you must read, study, and absorb great horror.


7. Another great and bone-chilling prompt to get your story started.


8.) Who is this? What is she doing? What is inside?

Best of luck with your writing and don't forget to submit your finished pieces to our contest, launching 8.23.16! There will be cash prizes in addition to publication in digital and paperback form, and entries are free and unlimited. We look forward to reading your work!

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