It's finally spooky season, which means that it's time to get into the mood by marathoning some horror movies and binge-read horror novels and short horror stories!
Alternatively... perhaps you might want to try your hand at writing a short horror story of your own! What better way to get into and contribute to the spooky vibes of Halloween?
Whether you're interested in writing a short horror story the likes of those on the No Sleep subreddit (a place for reddit users to write and post their own scary short stories), or to share with your friends around a campfire, here are some tips on how you can write a blood-chilling short horror story.
Tips for writing an amazing short horror story
1. Invoke the 3 types of terror
According to Stephen King, the veritable king of horror fiction, there are 3 types of terror that can invoke fear in readers. Here are what they are, in King's own words:
- The Gross-Out
"The sight of a severed head tumbling down a flight of stairs, it's when the lights go out and something green and slimy splatters against your arm."
- The Horror
"The unnatural, spiders the size of bears, the dead waking up and walking around, it's when the lights go out and something with claws grabs you by the arm."
"When you come home and notice everything you own had been taken away and replaced by an exact substitute. It's when the lights go out and you feel something behind you, you hear it, you feel its breath against your ear, but when you turn around, there's nothing there..."
As you write your short horror stories, do come back to these 3 types of terror frequently. They can help you know what kinds of horrors to invoke for any intended effect on your readers.
2. Make us of the familiar
Why are horror stories and movies scary? It's because it takes what we are familiar with — our day-to-day lives, our common experiences — and adds a twist to it. This makes us believe that these horrors could one day happen to us, and this makes us fearful.
When we see a perfectly normal family suffer from supernatural occurrences in their own house, it's terrifying to us because we can see ourselves experiencing the same horrors.
When you take perfectly normal experiences and add a supernatural twist to them, that's when you can truly scare your audience!
3. Play with common fears and phobias
What better way to invoke fear with your short horror stories than with common fears and phobias? When written well, common fears and phobias can truly bring out the most visceral fear in people.
In fact, many successful stories use common fears and phobias! Stephen King's It, for instance, plays off of the fairly common fear of clowns. Other common fears often invoked in horror stories and films are that of the dark, dolls, zombies, and most importantly, the unknown.
4. Tap into your reader's imagination
It's said that you shouldn't reveal the monster too soon in a horror story . The power of your reader's imagination will be more than enough to fuel their fear. In fact, the fear of the unknown may even make the monster feel scarier than it actually is!
A great example of this would be the Blair Witch Project. Lauded as one of the best horror films in the found footage genre, the film never once shows the audience what the Blair Witch looks like. It taps into our imagination and uses the unknown to enhance the horror of the story.
Since you're writing a short story, you have the luxury of being able to keep your monster unknown and unrevealed, even till the very end, so make use of it!
5. Add foreshadowing
Adding foreshadowing is a great way to amp up the tension, suspense and horror of your short horror stories!
Whether it be a suspicious-looking locked door in the house or a strange man that your character walks past in the street, foreshadowing makes your reader speculate and keeps them on the edge of your seat.
It makes them wait with bated breath to see what's going to happen next, and builds up a sense of dread until the grand reveal.
6. Read other horror short stories
Perhaps the best way to learn how to write horror short stories is to read more horror short stories! That is how you can get a better idea of how to built atmosphere, tension and fear in just a few pages.
Consider reading famous horror short story collections like Scary Stories to tell in the Dark, The Dollmaster and Other Tales of Terror. You may even want to peruse horror short story forums like reddit and look up famous Creepypastas for some inspiration!
But don't just read passively – try to take notes as you read! Download a digital writing app like JotterPad on your mobile device so that you can jot down important notes as you read through these horror short stories.
With JotterPad, you can save your notes onto a cloud service of your choice. This way, you can open up your notes on your laptop when you're actually ready to get started on writing your horror short stories.
Writing horror short stories can be a pretty fun experience, especially if horror is a genre that you've never dabbled in before. Take this chance to make your first foray into the world of horror, and have a spooky scary Halloween!