How to write horror?


Well-Known Member
Feb 19, 2018
Psychology is huge in writing good horror. I've noticed often in a quality horror movie or novel the victim often suffers more during the pursuit than the kill. Anticipation of death is worse than death. One has to really beat in the point of terror and hopelessness characters suffer in their ordeal. Otherwise, it's just mindless gore and pointless violence. You an Eli Roth movie!:p
Yeah, me and psychology, water and oil. Only mix when really shaken and shocked. :ROFLMAO:


Aug 19, 2011
England, United Kingdom
The main thing I'd suggest is to make your readers love your characters, then have your characters endure horrible scenarios/circumstances.

Don't undervalue the build-up part of the book where you are introducing your readers to the characters. This is your opportunity to get your readers to care. Chances are that if they've picked up your book, they know it's a horror and know what to expect. You're not trying to surprise them or take them off guard as much as you are trying to give them empathy towards the characters. Of course, there is an element of surprise, but your readers will still be ready for "something" to happen.

There are, of course, famous writers that do less character building and are still fantastic at horror storytelling. Richard Laymon and Stephen King, for instance, are more focused on the story than the characters. It very much depends on what style of horror you are going for.

Feb 13, 2011
In your bedroom wardrobe...
Let's ask the master of horror on our forum.

Tagging @Phyrebrat as he writes it well and recommends good books too.

Vaz you bum! I just saw this. You're cracking the whip innit bro (thanks for the compliment, though) . :D

To the OP:

(please imagine I've typed "IMO" in front of every sentence that follows in which I make a claim.)

Write horror. Read horror. Whatever that might be.

It has to begin with what terrifies you, not imagining some rarefied version of it for your potential readers, because we have to write what we know. If flying radiators scare you, then write about them. Personally, I don't get why people are scared of spiders, or why gore scares people (it bores me and it's lazy), but if I see those black scorpions with the huge claws that look more like boxing gloves, or tree crabs, or even small bats (esp where the wing meets the body), I freak out. These things are deeply personal.

You will hear the oft-vaunted 'You must have an opening hook' and you mustn't get that confused with a 'pow pow pow s**ts going down' opening.

I'd argue characters are far more important in horror than any other genre-genre; in SF & F you can have the cool worlds and the McGubbins which can distract or hide poor/simple characterisation (although, SFF authors often write wonderfully deep characters). In horror your readers have to care about the characters who will later be circling the plug hole. if you've not made your characters sympathetic or likeable, even, the reader won't root (and therefore not care) for them when their arm is ripped off, or they're possessed or whatever.

There's also a fundamental difference between SFF & horror which I see unappreciated when advice is given. You have to instill a sense of creeping, escalating dread. Therefore careful foreshadowing is far more important in horror.

Sci Fi is reflective of society and what is going on in society when it's written; horror is about the individual. Societies are made up of characters; the individual is the character. Keep that in mind when writing horror, it's the thing I struggle with in mine the most.

Finally, here's a how-to book:

Sorry for being late to the party.