How to Write Horror

There’s nothing like a good horror story to really chill your blood. But, these tales don’t just crawl out of the primordial ooze fully formed. No, they have to be painstakingly put together by writers who are willing to dedicate the time and energy to crafting these tales of terror. If you’ve ever wanted to write, why not try cutting your teeth on a horror story? If you’re not sure where to start, no worries there! Below you’ll find a list of books designed with the horror writer in mind. Check out one or all of them and start crafting your creepiest creatures, menacing men, wicked women, and vile villains.

To be fair, Stephen King’s book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft isn’t exclusively about writing horror. But, seeing as Stephen King is one of the masters of horror writing, it would behoove any writer who is interested in the genre to turn to him for advice. The tips and tricks he includes here are one that will apply to just about any genre. King will take readers on a journey of literary self-discovery, from how to craft believable characters to smoothing out your writing style. And of course, my favorite piece of writing advice (because it really is so true: read a lot and write a lot). As we’re looking at writing for a horror lens today, this is a book that all of you should add to your To-Read list–if for no other reason than it was written by Stephen King. But, trust me–in the long run, you’ll find plenty of reasons to make you glad you did.

Where would horror books be without monsters? Yes, I know that not all horror novels have monsters in the traditional sense, giant spiders, vampires, or zombies…but, I would argue that all horror novels have some sort of monster. To steal a couple of examples from Stephen King, it could take the form of a group of high school students who dump pig’s blood on the prom queen, a father driven to madness by isolation and an evil presence, or even a self-proclaimed “Number One Fan” who is dissatisfied with an author’s latest novel. But, Writing Monsters is all about the big baddies. We’re talking Lovecraftian nightmares, vampires, dragons, ghost ships, sharks…Not so much human monsters, but those creatures that make us realize just how small and weak humans actually are. Philip Athans goes into detail about how to write these types of monsters, the things you need to know about them (weaknesses, strengths, where does it come from, etc.), as well as ways to describe it, ideas for creation, and how to make it as scary as possible.

The Horror Writer’s Association steps up to the plate with this chilling title. On Writing Horror is the perfect guidebook for anyone writing within the genre. This little book is chock-full of essays by the masters of the craft, from Stephen King to Ramsey Campbell, Joyce Carol Oates to Jack Ketchum. If there is a specific aspect of horror that you’re looking to tap into, this is the book for you. These authors cover everything, from a list of horror classics to writing violence, plotting, monsters, and a whole list of subgenres. Consider this your horror master class!

Erin

I'm the Reader's Advisory Librarian at WPPL. My interests include old horror films, classic novels, manga and anime, paper-crafting, and plants. If you like my suggestions, you can request personalized recommendations from me on My Librarian page.