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Horror Writing 101

Ghost hanging in a tree

Halloween is nearly here! We’re sharing some great horror writing tips, a few of which are from one of the industry’s most notable authors: Stephen King. Enjoy making October a scary one with writing the start of your next horror novel or short story in your Phoenix, AZ apartment.

Use a strong, pervasive tone.

“How you describe settings, character movement and actions creates an overarching tone. In horror writing, a dark or frightening tone is often pronounced. Take this example from Clive Barker’s The Thief of Always:

Half closing his eyes, he crossed to the window and fumbled to slam it, making sure that the latch was in place this time.

The wind had started his lamp moving, and when he turned back the whole room seemed to be swinging around. One moment the fight was blazing in his eyes, the next it was flooding the opposite wall. But in between the blaze and the flood it lit the middle of his room, and standing there – shaking the rain off his hat – was a stranger.

He looked harmless enough. He was no more than six inches taller than Harvey, his frame scrawny, his skin distinctly yellowish in colour. He was wearing a fancy suit, a pair of spectacles and a lavish smile.

“The scene is suffused with a sense of the unsettling. Objects that should be stationary move. The room itself seems to move. The viewpoint character is disoriented. A peculiar character seems to materialize out of nowhere.”

Read a lot.

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There's no way around these two things that I'm aware of, no shortcut...we read to experience the mediocre and the outright rotten; such experience helps us to recognize those things when they begin to creep into our own work, and to steer clear of them. We also read in order to measure ourselves against the good and the great, to get a sense of all that can be done. And we read in order to experience different styles.”

“...Reading is the creative center of a writer's life. I take a book with me everywhere I go, and find there are all sorts of opportunities to dip in. The trick is to teach yourself to read in small sips as well as in long swallows. Waiting rooms were made for books — of course! But so are theater lobbies before the show, long and boring checkout lines, and everyone's favorite, the john. You can even read while you're driving, thanks to the audiobook revolution.”

Don’t worry about making other people happy.

“If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway."

Thanks for checking out the Liv Ahwatukee Blog. For more information about writing or horror writing specifically, check out Writer’s Digest. Thanks for reading!

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