Writers write to get a reaction out of their readers. No matter the genre, you want your reader to feel something when they read your writing.
For horror writers, that feeling is fear. But it’s also so much more than that.
Great horror stories take the everyday creepy and turn it into something even more creepy (and often become a condemnation of injustices in society). And then, the great thing is, horror stories teach you that those creepy things can be beaten. That’s what keeps bringing the readers back.
And that’s why horror writers keep churning out the fear.
Maybe you love writing scary stories. Maybe you don’t, but this is something you’d like to take a whack at, just for practice (we’re fans about that around here!).
Just like reading outside your genre is valuable to mastering the writing craft, so is writing a scary story.
This story doesn’t have to be long, it could be a short story. Try for something you can write in one sitting, like 1,500 words.
To get you started, use one of the Halloween writing prompts suggested in this article. Then let loose, and have fun!
Ghost stories have a rich literary tradition, but for most of my life, I dismissed them. I don’t believe in ghosts, and I’ve seen enough horror movies to know I’m not interested in seeing another. However, I just finishedDenis Johnson’s Train Dreams, a finalist for the Pulitzer, and was surprised to see a very moving account of a ghost.
It made me realize how many ghost stories are in the literary canon. There’s Poe’s The Raven, Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw, basically all of Nicolai Gogol’s work, and more recently Michael Cunningham’s Specimen Days, among many others I’m forgetting. We love ghost stories!
People are complicated. I know, that’s like saying, “Hey, fire is hot!” but when it comes to characterization, this needs to be said. Our tendency as authors is to stick imaginary people into tiny two-dimensional categories, forgetting that no human being fits into tiny two-dimensional categories.
One of the things that makes humans so confounded complicated is we are not logical.
One of the best ways you can foster a love of reading and writing in children is to offer lots of low-stakes opportunities to practice. These kids writing prompts can be used with any group of kids you’re working with: elementary school, middle school, or high school writers.
Prompts can help kids break through creative writing idea blocks or boredom. Whether in a slump or starting a new project, try a prompt a day and see what happens.
Keep it as simple as possible: one notebook or document, one location, the same(-ish) time each day, and a timer set for 5, 10, or 15 minutes.
Don’t let yourself edit, reread, or rework anything. Just write. Keep the pen moving across the page. There’s no wrong way to play.
Plus, there’s a great note for you, whether you’re a parent or teacher or both, at the end.
Give these fun creative writing prompts a try and watch how consistent practice contributes to ideas, confidence, and yes, even stronger writing skills!