Partridge Writing Tips| 5 Tips for Writing Horror Pt-2

Oct 26

Partridge India continues with 5 Tips for Writing Horror.



Tip #3- The Inevitable

This is what truly differentiates horror stories from the genres of fantasy or science-fiction. While horror might use the supernatural or science gone wrong to explain the origins of the monster or killer computer, they are not the source of horror. Horror is born when your characters are faced with some serial killer, some undead thing, or some alien beast and they cannot stop it. Slasher film icons Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers are feared and remembered for being nigh unstoppable.


Even barely defeating them or destroying them in a film’s climax will not permanently stop them (that and the demand for sequels). The single creature of Ridley Scott’s Alien is terrifying, in part because nothing the human characters do or try can stop it. How can you expect readers to be scared of something if killing or stopping it is a trivial matter for your characters? And in cases where the horror is overcome, it makes doing so an arduous struggle, a real accomplishment for your protagonist.



Tip #4- The ‘Ordinary’

A once grand home, now it is a place of fear and dread.

Another way to incite fear in your readers is to take something ordinary, something every day, and twist it into something unwanted, unwelcome, and dreaded. Edgar Allan Poe was a master of this. In the Tell-Tale Heart, the sound of a ticking clock becomes the beating heart of a murdered man, tormenting the mind of his killer.


The film Omen turns a child into the Antichrist. Take something that should be safe, such as the home, and turn it into a place where danger could leap out of every corner or any shadow. In this way you take something the reader normally takes for granted, ignores, or even sees as safe, and make it into a reminder of terror.



Tip #5- Suspense and Atmosphere

Even at their most serene, there is an eeriness to an old graveyard.

These two go together so well they might as well be talked about together. When writing horror, it is important to build your readers to a level of suspense, and to never let that level drop till the end of the story — if even that.  Show that your characters are scared, whether that is in how even the slightest sound sends them jumping or how hesitant they are to open that one door (the one every reader says to not open). In H.P. Lovecraft’s The Shadow Over Innsmouth, once the protagonist enters the titular seaside town he feels a general air that he is not welcome. Most of the locals refuse to talk to him, and they have a strange, not quite human look to them. After nightfall he is harried by forces and actors unseen but heard. And what strange sounds he hears horrify him, for they could not possibly be of human origin.




Horror as a genre has suffered heavily from modern ‘formulas’ and ‘clichés.’ This is not to say clichés have no place, after all they became clichés in the first place for a reason. But too often the spectacle of blood and gore has replaced that which is actually scary. Horror film and television are experiencing a rise in quality, a return to conventions and elements that have resulted in success for the genre in the past. Hopefully these 5 Tips will help you spook, scare, frighten, and downright terrify your readers.



Partridge India trusts this helps

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By Ian Smith

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