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How To Write Horror Fiction

Horror fiction can creating haunting tales that can stick with a person for life. Whether it’s invading aliens that are turning people into plants or a serial killer who is hunting down specific people in a community, knowing how to write horror fiction correctly can help you avoid the many clichés that this genre tends to have.

People like to be frightened. What is different about this genre, however, is that the horror people like to experience is inside their heads. You’ll still find slasher stories and gory novels with descriptions that will make you want to vomit, but good horror today asks one question: “What would you do?” Answer that and you’ll be ready to start following these additional tips.

#1. Outline your scenario of events before you start writing.

This is one of the most important aspects of the horror genre. Because you might be moving back and forth throughout the narrative, it is important to make sure that you get your time lines right. If they’re off by just a fraction, it is going to make your fiction seem awkward and distant. This is very much like the A-B-C story elements that are taught in elementary school today.

#2. Expand your outline to include narration events.

This is where you can begin to fill in the details of each scenario that you plan to include within your story. You’ll see where each event will take place within the novel, allowing you to be able to add some fullness to the experience. Start adding in some of the details that will enhance the fright a reader is going to experience. Take notes here about any changing perspectives, stresses, or outside factors that could further enhance the reader’s experience. The goal is to develop a climax that will be both scary and satisfying.

#3. Write a fast first rough draft.

When writing horror fiction, it is important for the writer to not be overly critical of their first draft. You want to get the ideas out without over-thinking them very much. Even though you’ve creative scenarios and outlines, you might find that some circumstances call for change. It’s okay to make these changes. You are not bound by any previous outline or design you’ve created. Write down your ideas, let them flow, and then come back and change them if necessary.

#4. Use the second draft to pay attention to the fine details.

Once you’ve gotten the general ideas down in a first draft of your horror fiction, you’re ready to begin fleshing the story out. Focus particularly on the narrative tone that you’re using. Does it seem realistic? Is it too harsh in places, taking readers away from the events that are taking place? Have you put in transitions that make sense for your characters so they can adapt to changing circumstances?

You’ll also need to focus on the rhythm of what you’ve written and your syntax. If you take a reader out of the rhythm of a story, it won’t seem frightening. It will feel to them that you’re trying to hard. Make it as natural as possible, be willing to include moments of grace, but be convincing about the reality of the situation.

#5. You’re not done drafting yet.

Your third draft is the neat copy that you’ll be presenting as part of a novel pitch. This is the place where you can make the final revisions necessary to perfect your story. Many writers try to pound out the third draft as their first draft – this doesn’t work when writing horror fiction. You must address these scenarios in a series of steps in order for the authenticity of the story to be developed. At some level, the horror must be believable if the reader is going to keep reading it.

#6. Don’t be afraid of your imagination.

Anything can become the foundation of a horror story. There might be a natural phenomenon that mysteriously develops in space. The military might be developing a special weapon that leaks out of a top-secret facility. Zombies are always a popular bad guy in horror, though finding something unique in that sub-genre might be a little difficult. Use your imagination, push your boundaries, and don’t feel like you have to follow a certain direction. There is no one way to write a good horror story.

Knowing how to write horror fiction means taking a personal approach to your story, using your imagination, and coming up with new impressions that will leave a frightening effect when read by your audience. Weave a plot through your story, come up with a conclusion that is satisfying for your events [not necessarily for your readers], and you’ll have a tight story that people will want to read.

Melissa G Wilson

Melissa has been a leader in the book writing, publishing and marketing arena for the past two decades. To date, she has helped more than 100 thought leaders write, publish and market their books. Her clients include executives such as Dan Weinfurter a seven-time Inc 500 winner and Orlando Ashford, President of Holland Cruise Lines.

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