Surely you know the story of Little Red Riding Hood and the big bad wolf or Hansel and Gretel. They are stories that we have seen over and over again on television, represented in series and cartoons, they have been told to us since childhood and we have accepted them as part of our childhood. Those stories, which are told to children, are actually horror stories, with their moral and their dangers, with tension and mystery.
The horror story differs from the story, mainly because of its vocation as a story. In other words, the stories have a more marked fictional nature than the stories. Short stories can be descriptive, narrative, travel, or memoir.
Actually, it is almost a matter of terminology. The word story has been used since ancient times to refer to this type of fantastic narrative, while the word story began to be used – in Spanish – from the end of the sixties. According to the professor at the University of Barcelona Fernando Valls, the term “short story” appeared to differentiate between the “serious” short stories of children’s stories and hoax stories.
Horror Tales In Popular Culture
In his book on horror literature Dance Macabre, Stephen King tells us that the purest horror tale there is is that of The Hook Man. It is a well-known urban legend in the United States and that has a variant in every country in the world.
The story tells us about a couple of lovers, locked in their car, in one of those secluded places where teenagers go to get their hands on. While they are “at work” a radio bulletin launches the news that a madman has escaped from a psychiatric hospital. This guy was known as “the hook killer.”
Surely you already know how this story ends. They are dipped in flour up to the eyebrows, she hears a strange noise outside, he tells her it’s nothing, she insists, he goes out to see what happens … And the next thing is a drip of blood and a madman with a hook.
These types of urban legends exist in all cultures of the world. In Japan, the woman with the ragged mouth, of whom movies have been made, or the Daruma-San is very famous. In Valencia, for example, we have our own Sweeney Todd, a barber who worked on Calle Cerrajeros and is supposed to have killed and robbed many clients.
Today these horror stories have evolved, along with new technologies and have given rise to the famous creepy pastas. These horror stories have their own rules and structures, such as the fact that they are told in first person, with spelling mistakes and always by someone who knew someone else … Many of these stories have given rise to characters that are already part of the culture popular like Slenderman, Jeff the Killer or Momo.
How to Write a Horror Story
I have repeated it a million times on this blog, but I love writing short stories. In fact, I infinitely enjoy a story more than a novel. Since I started I have written more than 500 stories and it is impossible to do it without finding out what works and what doesn’t. Articles about short stories.
- How to start writing horror.
- How to write horror will make you a better writer.
- 10 tricks to write terror.
- Why forget about novels and write stories .If you are not very knowledgeable in short stories, I advise you to go through David Generoso’s blog, it has a whole encyclopedia on how to face and write a short story.
4 Characteristics Every Horror Tale Needs
Whether you are new to horror stories, as if it happens to you like me and you have burned a bit from the novels, writing stories and stories can be a good exercise to re-engage or to find new ideas.
Be that as it may, all horror stories need these 4 characteristics to work:
In a horror story you need to hook the reader from the first sentence. The best way to do it is through mystery. Open the narrative by asking a question, creating a mystery that needs to be solved.
- It is real?
- What will happen next?
- Why would someone write a story about this?
- How could you survive a story like this?
These are some of the questions that make me keep reading a horror story beyond the first few paragraphs. If the first paragraph of your story can be read alone, without having to go any further, then you are doing something wrong and you need to change something.
This is the evil twin of the mystery and is always in its shadow. Do you know what happens if you put suspense before mystery? That your first paragraphs are out of context and are nothing more than exposition.
Tip: Exposure and descriptive storytelling kill stories.
Once you’ve given the reader a reason to keep reading, you should take it away. It is like playing with a cat, if you remove the thread too many times it will tire and it will run away, you have to let it catch it from time to time.
Give the reader something to hook on in the first few paragraphs, then take it off and try not to give it back for as long as possible. When you have their attention you can stop and introduce the characters, describe the situation and the setting a bit.
The suspense is the anticipation. The anticipation is what creates the true terror, it is the excitement of knowing what will happen next, when the terror will reveal itself.
For example, in my story Lucesy Sombras I used suspense to keep the reader attentive. The protagonist sees something in the corner of her room, a shadow, a person or a strange being. She stays like this throughout the story, tense on the bed watching that corner.
The suspense builds as we approach the end and climax. Dedicating an entire paragraph to a kid coming home can be boring, but if the reader knows that something awaits them at home, every step of that paragraph is an adventure.
Urgency, action and the big reveal.
It’s that simple to finish a story. No “the day after.” Here you have to show the face of the monster and the murderer must take a new life. You’ve put all the meat on the grill to get to this point and now the reader is tense, on the edge of the chair.
At this point avoid complex and compound sentences. The narration should be fast, with short sentences and action verbs. Add a lot of action and avoid dialogue as much as possible. If you want to show the reader that there is an apple on the table, have someone pick it up and throw it at the monster.
4. A twist
Remember that phrase: “I would have gotten away with it if not for these nosy kids” that was repeated at the end of every episode of Scooby Doo? That was the “unexpected” twist, the monsters were always real estate speculators.
Readers are smart people. Remember that you cannot leave questions unresolved or poorly resolved. If a reader is left with the feeling that you cheated, they will never read you again. In the same way, a clue that is too obvious can lead to a predictable ending, and the result will be the same.
Try to put a final twist on the story, something that left the reader impressed.
Make the narrator the real killer or give him a good reason to kill people. The twist does not have to affect the central plot, it can be something as simple as a cowardly character who sacrifices himself for others. The goal is to offer something different to the reader, something that satisfies them and shows that it was worth going to the end.
Writing a horror story
I usually keep these four characteristics in mind when I plan my stories and I start ghost writing when I have an idea of each one of them. Some stories show their teeth from the title, showing the mystery and creating suspense until the last sentence. Others are all climaxes and action with a surprising ending.
These features do not have to appear in order. They don’t even have to appear in each of your stories. You can make infinite combinations. The rules are to be broken and it is when we break them, when we most enjoy what we write.
As you write more and more short stories, you will find that you can play with the structure.
How do I write a horror story?
I am going to show you how I write my stories and stories.
1. The idea and the theme
Sometimes the story just comes to me as a complete idea. Other times I have to resort to the notes that I keep in notebooks and applications. Sometimes, when none of them convince me, I go to Google or search the news.
Once I am clear about what I am going to write. I start by doing a rundown. The first draft of the rundown is a very simple outline:
- What happens?
- Who does it happen to?
- Who is the antagonist?
- Single scenes or scene ideas.
Next, using the four characteristics of the horror story that I have described to you, I write a scene-by-scene rundown, developing the characters and the settings. At this point, dialogues and scenes come to mind, which I usually write down as well, to use during writing.
This part, honestly, is the one I like the most about writing. I guess I love everything about planning – I also do with my marketing work. If you are like me, you will have a great time creating the skeleton of your story.
3. Ask yourself questions until you fill in all the blanks
If you’ve done a full rundown, like the one in step 2, you won’t have to put too much effort at this point. Most of the gaps will be filled.
Surely you will lack a bit of characterization and some detail in the scenarios. You shouldn’t worry too much, since a short story doesn’t need as much detail as a novel. However, it offers stitches of reality, details that make your settings and characters appear real.
A Tale of the Undead
Let’s see, let’s write a horror story about zombies. I guess it’s very hackneyed, right? Let’s get to point 3 and start asking ourselves questions:
- Where does the mystery lie in a zombie tale?
- Where do those zombies come from?
- The story begins with the zombies, but there is no news of open graves or missing bodies, who are these undead?
- And the suspense?
Do you remember Peter and the Wolf? What if we give it a touch up? Imagine the story of a child, fond of horror comics – this already gives us the setting, which could be a little American from the 1950s, in which this type of comic is stigmatized. The child has a very lively imagination and often plays in the nearby forest. So he sees something and runs home to tell his parents.
What happens? That nobody believes him, of course. The boy keeps seeing strange things, dead people getting up and attacking people, but as an unreliable witness, nobody believes him. The suspense will grow as the zombies get closer and closer to the town and the anticipation will grow as the reader wants to know how people will deal with this threat.
And the climax? Well … Someone will have to find out what’s going on. Maybe the boy tricks a zombie into following him to the basement of the house, his mother sees him and finally believes him. Then the zombie escapes and they follow him to a secret government base.
And the twist? What if the zombie was actually the victim? What if he retained consciousness and just wanted to escape the lab? Perhaps the boy could understand what is happening at the last minute and help him escape.
As you have seen, writing a horror story is not as complicated as it seems. It is true that horror is a complicated genre, but with a little experience, the process will be easier for you.
Now it’s your turn, write your own horror story and if you have more tips to write them, please leave a comment and share this article with your friends.