Halloween might be over, but that doesn't mean you can't use it to help inspire your writing. Yewande, Creative Intern at Random House, gives us her top tips on writing a good horror story!
Remember it’s not just about killing people. It’s good to have a plan.
Sure, readers of horror fiction like a kill here or a kill there, but that isn’t the main reason they keep coming back. Horror is about building anticipation and suspense, playing on the fears of the characters as well as the readers, and introducing the occasional dead body now and again. A good horror fiction writer needs to have a vague idea or direction of where all this terror is leading to. The reader needs to understand why people are murdered left, right and centre – what is the purpose of it all. Find your big idea and explore it in detail.
Flesh out your characters
A well-drawn plan is powerless without good, well-developed characters.
For the readers to be drawn into your work of fiction and to ask why bad things keep on happening to the main protagonists, they need to be believable and resonate with the readers. Your characters should have flaws, vices, emotions and fears similar to yourself and the readers. By having these human qualities the readers are more likely to give in to the general outline of your story and place themselves within it, experiencing the horror alongside the characters.
Establish your setting
A good writer establishes their settings. Whether the story is set in your average English countryside village or a paranormal realm, the readers need to have a sense of the place. If your setting doesn’t feel real or concrete enough, the reader will find plot holes within your story.
Be consistent. Readers notice details
Nothing is worse than reading a story that has too many plot holes. If you want your readers to stay hooked and believe such terrifying events can happen, you have to remain consistent. If you’ve devised a plan (which if you haven’t, please read the top of this post), by all means build on it, develop it, but don’t get so carried away with development that you forget the basic structures you originally put in place, e.g. if a character supposed to be deaf throughout the novel, make sure all their actions reflect that of a deaf person.
Do your research
If you’re going to put specific concepts, real places and maybe even myths into your work, please do your research. One, it can help you develop your ideas, and two; it adds an element of realism to the story. The second point is reason enough to do it, especially if you want to leave the readers thinking about the authenticity of your story after the last page.
“And then suddenly...” Building suspense is a must
The readers want you to catch them off guard and lead them to something they wouldn’t expect. You need to have the readers on edge. Don’t deliver the action right away but work your way up to it, so that, like the characters, it works its way through the dark alley till the unexpected finally jumps out.
Look outside your window for inspiration
Some of the best ideas come from looking on one’s doorstep – just look at Stephen King. Quite a few of his books were set in his hometown of Maine, New England, and if you know anything about New England, you know that King had a lot of interesting history to work with.
Don’t give up
Not all ideas are as bad as they seem. Even Stephen King had to go back to the drawing board with Carrie, and look how well that turned out!
Why not give my tips a go and start writing your very own horror story?
Then post your finished story to the comments under here and the best stories can win some awesome books from the lovely people at Random House!