Made in America

5 Tips for Spooky Story Writing

October is finally here, which means it’s time to load up on scary stories. Whether you need a tale to tell around the bonfire or are writing your first novel, here are some tips on how to write a good scary story.


1. ) Atmosphere

Use the five senses in order to build a compelling, believable, and most of all, spooky atmosphere for your tale. Describe your setting by showing the reader how things smell, taste, what they hear, and what their surroundings look like in great detail. Research locations and photography of them for inspiration, and practice describing what you see. 

2.) Avoid shock value

While jumpscares and sudden gore work in movies to scare audiences, these don’t always translate well in the written word. Avoid sudden shocking scenes designed to scare. Instead, build up to scares gradually. If your story is shorter, save the scariest plot point for last. 


3.) Tropes are your friend

Horror is a genre built on tropes, aka familiar story forms or plots that can be used over and over again. Audiences appreciate the familiarity of a haunted house on a hill or a teen slasher where one final girl survives. What happens around those concepts is what will set your story apart from the crowd and make it your own. 

4.) Have a message

Horror stories and novels are meant to give readers a thrill, but think about why your story is scary– and why you’re telling it. What is it that you want your audience to beware of? What scary part of life or our society are you highlighting? 


5.) Characterization and plot

Think about whether you want your story to be more character-centered or plot-centered. This will help anchor the story and help you decide how to deliver the best scares. A character-centered scary story will be more psychological in nature and focus on a character’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences as something happens to them. A more plot-centered story will focus on scary happenings or events, and may have multiple characters’ points of view. 


We hope these tips are helpful throughout your very own Spooktober!

For more inspiration, check out these VAMPIRE AND WEREWOLF books on sale at the Dorrance Bookstore!


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