Read effective examples of horror and suspense stories, from classic ghost stories to contemporary horror writing. In addition, an effective horror story also includes motivation, suspense, ambiguity, foreshadowing, and a general mood of fear and/or dread.". Although written centuries apart these two horror tales are almost identical. Third-person narratives allow for a slower build to a story while still maintaining the suspense concerning the outcome for the story’s protagonist. Or, add a twist to a familiar horror trope, like a vampire who enjoys cake instead of blood, or a man trapped in a dumpster rather than a coffin. In fact, this is the best place to start. ", Unlock expert answers by supporting wikiHow, http://www.writersdigest.com/writing-articles/by-writing-goal/improve-my-writing/the_premise_of_your_story, http://www.thenoctrium.com/ghost-stories/how-to-write-ghost-story, http://teacher.scholastic.com/writewit/mystery/tips.htm, http://www.writersdigest.com/qp7-migration-conferencesevents/nine-tricks-to-writing-suspense-fiction, http://artsedge.kennedy-center.org/students/features/making-art/skeleton-of-a-scary-story#Characters, http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2011/10/11/25-things-you-should-know-about-writing-horror/, https://www.eapoe.org/works/essays/philcomp.htm, http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/6-secrets-to-creating-and-sustaining-suspense, http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/there-are-no-rules/the-horror-genre-on-writing-horror-and-avoiding-cliches, http://thewritepractice.com/7-steps-to-creating-suspense/, https://litreactor.com/columns/storyville-writing-horror-stories, http://artsedge.kennedy-center.org/students/features/making-art/skeleton-of-a-scary-story#Twists, http://xroads.virginia.edu/~hyper/POE/telltale.html, http://celestialtimepiece.com/2015/01/21/where-are-you-going-where-have-you-been/, consider supporting our work with a contribution to wikiHow. Characters: Are the characters believable? Is this OK? I'm 15, so this helped me a lot and it's really adorable! Start it off scary. Make a list of your greatest fears. This article was co-authored by Christopher Taylor, PhD. Continuity: Does the story make sense? Poe’s short story ends on a high note because the outcome of the narrator’s dilemma is revealed in the last line of the story. Keep the readers in suspense from the start. Think about what scared you as a kid, what still scares you, and what scares most people out there. The 90’s movie The Usual Suspects is a great example of the unreliable narrator at work where the climactic twist at the end reveals the real Keyser Söze. Once students have gathered together their cast of characters, they’ll need to decide on a point of view from which to tell the story. The Protection Motivation: Here the protagonist's prime motivation is the need to protect others from a threat, usually in the form of loved ones such as family or a lover. At a more advanced level, students may also consider creating a composite character that brings together various aspects of different characters (real or fictional) that they already know. This time, make the conflict feel even more serious or threatening. Maybe you could incorporate a series of brutal ways to die if the trivia questions are answered wrong. In a short story, more than ever you want to catch the reader's attention as quickly as possible in the limited space. Additionally, set up the main conflict and introduce scary … Exotic characters are common place in horror writing. One of the most common areas horror stories fall down in is that of characterization. A Spooky Story Choose what you think are the best words from each list! They needn’t be things that other people are scared of, in fact, the more personal and idiosyncratic they are, the more original the story is likely to be. Sometimes, readers may be aware of the answer or ending to the dramatic question upfront. Whether you're honing your skills to scare the pants off your friends or participating in an international writing competition, this article may help make it not only scary---convincingly, utterly, completely scary. This element of the unlikely is one of the reasons why clowns are extraordinarily creepy or why the child’s doll in the Chucky movies are so unnervingly terrifying. The purpose of this activity is to flex the students’ creativity muscles in pursuit of something original. Literacy ideas is a place for English teachers, students and parents to learn about writing and reading. Now go and write one, and be sure to read our complete guide to writing narratives if you need any further guidance on story writing. Fear the Patient Killer. You could begin a novel with a narrator/character introducing himself, like Salinger’s Holden Caufield or Dickens’ David Copperfield. Often there will be a slight hint of the macabre underlying this light opening tone just to set the … Poor characterization is the number one reason many scary stories and movies fall as flat as the characters they utilize. Now, ask the students to choose one of these fears and to make a list of reasons why they are scared of it. These are the opposite of the elements such as surprise and shock which good horror so often relies on. This is your chance to intoxicate your reader and … The setting should be painted as vividly as possible to create a picture in the mind of the reader. ", Christopher Taylor, an English professor, responds: "Like most stories, a horror story should include a clear setting, protagonist, antagonist, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. They are all in the same college dorm and they have their own bedrooms. Christopher Taylor is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of English at Austin Community College in Texas. Marty Chan reveals how to tackle the opening sentence for thrillers. Like the card game poker, it is when the stakes are highest that horror stories are at their most exhilarating. Then, amp up the tension by re-engaging the character in the conflict. Not wanting to die is something we can all relate to and needs no explanation. Be clear about what will happen if the character does not get what they want. The key to a good horror story is a strong beginning. i have to write a scary story for english class, but i don't know how to start the first sentence. However, it could also increase the suspense and fear that the reader feels, which is what every good horror writer wants to do. Try to keep your story and your audience in mind. It’s enough to make you want to skip that Sunday visit to Grandma’s entirely [shudder]. The old writer’s mantra states ‘write about what you know’. Thanks to all authors for creating a page that has been read 311,337 times. 2. What makes a good scary story? Ask your students to take the fear they identified in the first activity and come up with a setting or settings for a story based on that fear. For example, you could have the main character find a severed ear while they're out for a walk. Think about all the scary things that could happen in that situation. I write scary stories but actually, I am quite a coward. These could be anything from a fear of heights or open spaces to a fear of the doorbell ringing at night. One novel approach for deciding on a setting is to choose the place that seems least likely for a horror story. Even if they don’t know the movies, they can read the synopses and identify some of the clichés and tropes used. This article has been viewed 311,337 times. And, as legend has it, every fall equinox, the ghost wolf still returns". Scary stories, like any story, will follow a basic format that includes developing the premise, setting and characters. It’s the reason why horror movies remain big business at the box office and on streaming websites. Some writers might start in the middle of the story and move back, opening with a scene involving the scary element. Try to start your story in the middle of a scene where characters are doing something, since action is engaging. Please help us continue to provide you with our trusted how-to guides and videos for free by whitelisting wikiHow on your ad blocker. Support wikiHow by Imagine, a coven of devil-worshippers in the dead of night in that dated living room where she serves milk and cookies to her grandkids during the day. They care enough about the characters and the story to read about the events that lead to the climactic event. If they need some inspiration, the movie database at IMDb will once again serve well. This might seem obvious, but creating something that is truly terrifying (for an adult reader, at least) is harder than it sounds—and it mainly relies on the writer’s ability to build tension. The premise of the story is the underlying idea that drives your story. Anne McPeak: You want your reader to be swept up in the story— for its entirety, but especially at the beginning. unlocking this expert answer. Is there a way to make a cliche story engaging?  X Research source It's best to know what you're writing about so you won't have to worry about it when you're trying to form the words. Christopher Taylor is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of English at Austin Community College in Texas. Only a master scary story teller will be able to tell a good story in broad daylight. Last Updated: October 8, 2020 For example, if the protagonist needs to survive to defeat the monster etc, then the need to survive is emphasized beyond just the preservation of life. Writing spooky stories is a great way to get reluctant students writing not just at Halloween, but at any time of the year.  X Research source One of the best ways to come up with a premise for a scary story is to think about what scares you or revolts you the most. As an author, I disagree with some points, but it was still helpful. Denouement: This is the ending in which the characters resolve any remaining questions. 9 years ago. A wikiHow reader asked: "What are the elements of a horror story? Rising action: Continue the story, building excitement and suspense. Then, come up with your own first line that grabs the reader’s attention and raises questions about what’s to come. Exposition: Set the scene and introduce the characters. As your character goes through the bad events, come up with detailed images in your head. Don't avoid writing one down because you think it's stupid, because titles can grown on you. The second example gives the reader more of an insight into the character’s physical feelings. Scary stories need to frighten the reader. I will use this site, "I think this article was good. Any horror story by Stephen King. New and creative things attract a bigger audience than cliche things. Create a setting. Your beginning should hint at the story's central problem and introduce one or two characters that will deal with that problem. Great authors show us there are many ways to start a story. They plan to visit their parents once a month because they don’t like being away from home for too long. Clichés and overused tropes result in boring and predictable storylines. I hope this helps :) 0 0. It depends. If you really can’t stand to see another ad again, then please consider supporting our work with a contribution to wikiHow. ", has made a definite improvement in my writing. He uses the narrator’s internal struggle to keep his cool and achieve his desire of getting away with murder to create a climax. An effective strategy to help students bring characters to life on the page is to have them base them on real people. The more detailed they can write about this, the better. The reader should walk away from the story with a lingering feeling of uncertainty. We are constantly revising and add content to meet your needs as literacyideas.com continues to grow and evolve into one of the most popular sites for teachers and students to improve reading and writing skills. It will also propel your readers through the story. “The Tell-Tale Heart,” master horror writer Edgar Allen Poe’s psychologically disturbing story of suspense and murder. List the events of the story, and figure out the plot line. Remember to be creative and original, though. To start any novel, you have to have a basic idea on the storyline. This story is about three terrible wishes granted by a mystical monkey’s paw. Along the way with each question, they have to struggle through the crossroads, perhaps the crossroads are in a dark forest, or a series of plains, maybe even a desert filled with dunes. Can horror stories about clowns have twist endings? The suspense in the story is sustained until the very end. King has written over 200 short stories and uses many different techniques to scare his readers. It has a large collection of resources and tools designed to meet all age and skill levels. For this activity, students should select a scene to rewrite from a fiction book they are already familiar with. We know ads can be annoying, but they’re what allow us to make all of wikiHow available for free. Because literacy is fundamental to a person’s ability to learn at school and to engage productively in society. Often, the simplest way to do this is to change the setting or characters. My notepad is, "The words not to use, asking for feedback, foreshadowing, just everything helped! The wind howled and we knew something was wrong." My chest was tight, my stomach rotten. However, this motivation can be further enhanced by adding another layer for the character. Or, if you don't want to take the time to do that, just watch some movies. Immerse readers in the macabre. The clearer that picture, the more intense the fear created. Contemporary writer Joyce Carol Oates’ horror story, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” It uses psychological terror to great effect. You might use a prompt about an important party gone wrong or an envious friend who begins to act strangely towards you. Other supporting characters (family member, best friend, love interest, etc. Besides grabbing reader attention, you want to ground readers in a setting, establish voice, hint at theme, and introduce a protagonist readers can get behind. By using our site, you agree to our. One novel approach for deciding on a setting is to choose the place that seems least likely for a horror story. Where to start? A student has little hope of frightening the reader unless they choose to write about something they find disturbing themselves. Contain scary and/or shocking plot twists and story reveals (unlike episodes of the cartoon Scooby Doo, in which the bad guys are typically conniving realtors dressed as paranormal beings). It depends on what the cliche is. 2. I would not, I would…not…”. While it’s most unlikely that your students know any killer clowns or lunatic killers who haunt campsites frequented by teenage couples, they can still write about the things that scare them. 5 tips to help students hone their horror-writing skills and 5 activities to put that newly-gained knowledge into practice. Another way to generate story ideas is to use writing prompts. A group of friends takes on the zombie apocalypse. The more convincingly they can convey the experience, the more successful they’ll be in striking fear into the hearts of their readers later on. A truly scary story has these four essential components. They don't even have to make very much sense. You finally meet your child’s imaginary friend. To do this, you can use suspense, atmosphere and shocks! I'm definitely using some of these thoughts for my scary story for school. One of my favorite villains is the T-1000 from Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Where next? But scary stories also rely on tension that builds throughout the story to a frightening or horrific climax. Using your creativity, form words to go along with that image.Step 2, Wait for a day when there is heavy rain… When they have completed this activity, students should then look at their notes from the previous activities described above. Before you start writing your horror story, read the beginnings of other well-known horror stories, like “The Tell-Tale Heart” or “1984,” to get a sense for how to start with a jolt. Again, this is a primitive desire that we can all relate to and needs little in the way of explanation for the reader. If you're looking for a clown-related twist ending, I'd take some old killer clown cliches and turn them on their heads. There are many ways to start a scary story. Perhaps you could make the crossroads narrow and really uncomfortable, calling on a sense of confinement and claustrophobia. Organize students into small groups. it is about a girl getting trapped in a mall.i will probably write it in 3rd person/ The stakes of the story, or the consequences if the character does not achieve their desires, is what drives the story forward. As reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback reader unless they choose to write about something they find themselves... 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Especially at the bottom of the most common areas horror stories lies in the universality of these and... Foundation for the character would never leave home without, hair color, color... Worth examining include: add a mysterious ending over the embroidered cushions has an eternity to fulfill its mission,... Opposite of the movie ’ s expectations a large collection of resources and tools designed to all! Staying at a haunted hotel own bedrooms has these four essential components not achieve desires... Horror tales are almost identical and write a scary story character find a severed ear while they 're for... Scene already written that lacked tension also rely on tension that builds throughout the story first by!