Spooky Story-Writing: Exploring What Scares You


I began writing a horror story, years ago, and it was going really well… like “make this into a movie” well… and then I got stuck. My creative brain just curled up into a little ball and cried in a corner, wishing to find a happy place.

My story is based in a theme park, and the main character is an employee there. The antagonists are theme park patrons who must be punished. The ones who do the punishing are where I got stuck. They seemed genius at first, and then became boring, and so I grew bored with writing it. And I’ve been trying to figure out how to revise and fix it ever since. Occasionally I go on writing sprees that last a few weeks, and then I go months without writing. I feel a spree coming on, and I feel an obligation to work on that specific story rather than starting a new one… but where do I go with it?

Tonight I Googled “how to write a scary story”, and came away with a few tips that might get the ball rolling, I hope. The first tip should have been obvious, but I found myself smacked upside the head with the duhrrr bat; Explore what scares you.

I think I was expending too much energy on attempting to scare everyone else, and it wasn’t scaring me. If it doesn’t scare me, I can’t effectively scare others? Especially if I don’t finish the damned story. I feel I need to seam-rip the entire last chapter, frog it back to where things went dull for me, yet having a difficult time determining just where that happened.

Do you write horror? Do you have tips for how to develop a horror story and keep it alive?

Here’s what I gathered:

  1. Explore what scares you (again). Is it confined spaces? Losing loved ones? Losing your mind? Ventriloquist dummies? Your own back yard? Is it a shallow fear or a deep one? Whatever it is, it’s personal, and personal can be illustrated in pretty extreme detail (sights, sounds, smells, sensation) to pull your readers in to experience your dread.
  2. Avoid cliches. Slasher slasher slasher, blah blah blah. Sleeping alone in that room where demons have been antagonizing you for weeks has been done to death. Same with stupid people who got murdered because they investigated scary rooms alone. Leave that to Friday the 13th.
  3. It doesn’t always have to be dark. Some of the most frightening and disturbing things lurk just under the surface of seemingly normal people and things (Hello, Dexter), in broad daylight. Michael Meyers was scariest when he was ducking behind hedges mid-afternoon.

That’s all I have for now. We’ll explore this more later.

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