How to write a horror story

Horror is a genre of storytelling that uses the emotion of fear to connect with the audience. When writing a horror story,  your aim is to scare, shock, terrify, and disturb the reader. 

Writing a horror story is more difficult than writing a casual story as you need a lot of creativity to horrify the reader. Now, let’s take a look at the steps. 

Plan your setting and characters

Begin to make a list of your biggest fears or the things that scare you the most. These fears could be like clowns, demons, darkness and loneliness. Writing these stuff will help you determine the horror theme. 

1. Setting

One of the most significant element is the setting. You may think of scary places like forests, abandoned towns, cemeteries, and haunted houses.

Horror story setting examples

2. Characters

After the setting, plan your characters. They could be everyday people who encounter horrifying things or simply imaginative creatures such as monsters, demons, or evil spirits. 

In any case, don’t forget to put your characters in danger to create conflict and excitement throughout the story.

Horror story character examples

Prepare an outline

Before you start writing, you need an outline to organize your ideas. As in every story, the plot structure consists of exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. 

Below, you’ll see an example outline of a horror story. 

Horror story outline example

  1. Exposition
    1. Introduce main characters (Maria, Doris, Jake, and Stephen) and the setting (The mysterious house).

  2. Rising Action
    1. Depict that Jake gradually acts weird and some anomalities (like voices) began in the house

  3. Climax
    1. You tell the reader how friends realize that Jake got possessed by the soul in the mysterious house.

  4. Falling Action
    1. Tell how Jake's friends tried to resolve/act against the situation towards to the resolution

  5. Resolution
    1. Finish the story by mentioning how the Soul left the body and if people still live or not.

Now start writing your story by following the plot’s stages in the right order with your own outline.

Start with an exciting exposition

The first sentence of a horror story should be frightening and exciting in order to hook the reader. You may introduce your protagonist and antagonist, the setting, and the tone of your story in the exposition. 

Horror Story Exposition Example

“The house was covered with moss all over. It was the strangest thing in this town, far from the lights, colors, and fancy pine trees in the city. There was a thick fog in the air and a smell of rotten meat surrounded the place. Despite this gloom, the dazzling giant chandelier at the entrance was enough to attract Maria, Doris, Stephen and Jake, who wanted to have crazy fun at Christmas, into the house. But there were also intruders, four of whom wanted to attend the Christmas party they dreamed of.”
....(Exposition continues)

Create a horrific climax

The climax of your story is where fear and suspense are at their highest. Here, the protagonist meets the antagonist or faces their greatest fear. After starting with a small problem, you can put your hero in greater danger.

Horror Story Climax Example

“They heard a constant buzzing in the house. Although they hoped it was the wind, everyone was aware that something was strange. Maria and Doris had prepared the food and drinks for the party, while Stephen and Jake had done the decorations. As they were sitting down to dinner, the table suddenly started shaking. Doris tried to leave the house in fear, but the door was also quickly locked. As they looked at each other in fear, Jake's legs suddenly turned upside down and he took off towards the ceiling. All the crosses on the wall turned upside down and all the items toppled over.”
....(Rising Action continues)

Write a shocking ending (resolution)

If you want to make your horror story memorable, plan a twist ending that will surprise the reader. The real identity of the antagonist or your protagonist’s secrets may be revealed.

For example, the reader may be shocked to learn that the murderer is your main character.

Horror Story Resolution (Ending) Example

....(Resolution continues)
“Jake was no longer just a guy who wanted to celebrate Christmas. “How could you throw a party at my house without telling me?" they realized that he was possessed by an old spirit when he gave a terrible scream. Noticing the Bible from the books that had fallen to the floor, Doris began to pray loudly, pulling Maria and Stephen to her side. They were all yelling at Jake. The soul could not stand it any longer and left the body it had entered. While Jake fell to the ground, the chandelier also fell on top of the others. That chandelier, which they fell under the spell of when they entered the house, had become the grave of all of them.”

Pro tips for horror stories