Horror-FAIL Friday: How NOT to Write Horror Part I

There are those of you out there that have toiled with the idea of writing a horror story. It may have been just a quick campfire tale, a one-shot Creepypasta, a full-length novel, or even the background for a survival horror game. There are the cliche ways to go about doing this. Five teenagers meet at their house in the woods, one by one are separated, and end up dying horrible violent deaths (Only Joss Whedon has managed to re-invent this genre and do it like a boss, in my opinion). Then, there are the truly fun and unique ways to go about writing horror. This is what I enjoy. However, there’s always that daunting task of how to go about starting a project like this. Sometimes taking that first step can be the most intimidating thing you do. For the lazy, I was horrified to discover a wiki page on how to write a horror story. A WIKI. Are you freaking kidding me?

According to the horror story wiki, it’s just a few easy steps needed to start your horror story. First step: think of a scary topic. A “scary topic”? The writer of the article suggests to think of these scary things just before you go to sleep. Because, I’m sure it’s fun and masochistic to imagine all of the terrible things that could happen to you while you’re helpless in your bed. And then once you have your brilliant idea, you won’t be able to sleep for a month.

2nd step: “You need details!” The writer doesn’t even explain what he/she means by “details”, only that you need them.

3rd step: Draw a diagram of your plot. The article writer warns not to get too complicated though. I personally find sub-plots and multi-book plot archs to be great and inventive. I suppose this tool tip is for those who want to write a shorter piece (or for those that only want a mediocre story).

4th step: “Think of an exciting first sentence”. Something “unexpected”. The sample for this someone saying that hide-and-seek was “the order of the evening”. Hmm.

5th step: “Just write.” While this is good advice, I’m not sure that saying “Be sure not to use too much mystery” is. Pardon my vulgarity, but WTF does that mean?

The next few steps are actually worth noting and are important in any book, regardless if it’s a horror story or not. Keeping track of your characters, choosing eerie settings (if you’re imaginative, you can make any setting eerie)…

But then, we’re back to being vague again in step 8 which is to “Add the horror”. Oh no! Not the HOR-OR! The advice is for you to think of what makes you afraid and add it into the story. And what if you are one of those people with a whole set of irrational fears? If you’re afraid of spoons, you might have trouble convincing readers that they are demonic torture devices meant to leave crescent-like marks on their victims to remind them of the impending lunar cycle! SCARY!

Plot twists is next. Because someone has obviously been watching a lot of M. Night Shyamalan. While it worked in the first few movies…let’s not forget he’s responsible for The Happening.

Even Mark has no idea what’s going on in that film.

After another generic steps, you are on your way to being the next wunderkind author of the horror genre!

Nothing ticks me off more than step for step guides about writing. Writing is intuitive. Take advice from some of the big writers (King, Bradbury, Lovecraft, etc.) but be unique. If you have to follow a step for step guide about writing horror, you probably need to think outside of the box a little more. It’s your creation! Do with it what you want! Don’t copy or conform it to fit a set of guidelines.

Be unique.

~KSilva

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