As an aspiring horror author, you try to unsettle your readers and make them want to read your book from the start to the end. Some of that skill comes from natural talent, but most important is experience.
So, here is a list of experienced-based tips that will help you write spine-chilling horror.
Tap into Your Deepest Fears
If you are confused about the plot, you might want to tap into your own fears and life experiences. Obviously, this sounds like the most cliché writing tip as one shouldn’t only write about their life experiences and what happened to them personally.
But – if you think about it, you can get in front of your audience an authentic horror story while tapping into your emotions and your approach to things, which will help you draw the emotional depths of the story from a place that is true to you.
So, even if you are fighting a demon in your book, you can draw an emotional depth from your personal experience of fear in different life situations.
Ideally, while writing horror, you should be at least a little bit unsettled by what you are writing – so you will want to think about the deeper fears that you may have. Writing horror is ideally at its best when there is that undercurrent of existential dread.
For instance, you aren’t afraid of a ghost but certainly afraid of the unknown.
Do Your Research
Sometimes, newbie fiction writers don’t do extensive research because they think they are making up the story, so it is unnecessary to do one’s research.
Suppose you are including gore in your horror fiction; you should be mindful about how you are letting the characters die. For instance, it wouldn’t make sense if the characters died because of something that just wouldn’t be following the real-life medical world.
So, if you do anything medical, you will want to know what is what. You will want to separate the real from some misconception that you might have from something randomly that you saw on the internet or the television.
If you include medical-adjacent things while writing gory, and the description or consequences within the story aren’t accurate, it might throw off your readers and make them lose interest.
Also, suppose your horror has something to do with a ghost or demon and other entities that people believe truly exist. In that case, you will want to look up true encounters, irrespective of whether or not you believe in their validity.
Believe us – some of the best horror writing you can find is in those encounters that you can look up online. Once you successfully jot the experiences down in your version of the horror story, the horror illustrator will better depict the scene on the page using their skill and unsettling the readers even more, which is kind of the goal of writing horror fiction.
Avoid Excessive Violence
Another tip you might want to follow is not to get excessive with violence and gore. Now unless you are going for that whole “Final Destination” theme, which is essentially over the top – almost to the point of ridicule – you also risk desensitizing readers to what is going on.
Smaller acts of violence are far more shocking than someone getting split in half. Instead of someone decapitating, you might want to focus on someone ripping their fingernails out, which is so much worse than the bigger thing.
You get the point – the small things are really effective. The grand gestures of violence have their respective time and place – but – those should be sort of like your grand dramatic moments instead of what you are basing your horror experience off of.
Don’t Use an Omniscient Perspective
Another great way to write horror is to put your perspective close, creating a delimited view of what is going on in the story, thus keeping your readers on edge.
You will want to put the readers into the character’s shoes and make their horror fiction experience exclusively scary. Most human beings are sensory and visual, so they experience things better if they see things and hear things while immersing themselves in that particular moment through all their senses.
This aspect is a lot better to do with film and games because one doesn’t have to imagine a situation based on the words on a page.
As a horror fiction writer, you will be challenged to create an immersive experience using words alone. This way, the reader will experience true fear and suspense, which is quite tricky.
But the tip to this is to pull the perspective as close as possible. This aspect perfectly exemplifies why most horror protagonists and main characters are basic and tend not to have a lot going on for them as characters.
In the horror genre, the characters are strategically designed to be mediums for the readers to draw themselves onto.
Use the Fear of the Unknown
As a horror writer, you shouldn’t only be tapping into your own fears and a common fear that nearly all humans share –the fear of the unknown.
Have you ever wondered why people are scared of ghost encounters? The answer is that, to date, most people aren’t sure whether they are real. There is also the unsettling fear of the dark because people don’t know what is in there.
While writing the story, you will want to avoid over-explaining, as it will take away a massive chunk of the fear that your readers should be experiencing. So, as a writer, you will want to take advantage of your innate fear of the unknown and integrate it artfully into your story.
Integrate the Power of Pacing
You can make your reader paranoid with the power of pacing. Using the power of pacing, you will make your readers unsure about what will happen next. With the right pacing, you will integrate suspense and keep the readers on edge.
You will want to bust out the scary thing when they least expect it. You can also use cliffhangers as a potent pacing tool to make the readers linger to know what exactly happened after you cut a scene that could have ended terribly – and perhaps will –depending on your storyline.
With the power of pacing, you can make your readers fear what is coming next without actually doing anything.