Want to be able to send shivers up spines and make readers’ blood run cold? How about giving them a concoction of nightmares to keep them up at night – all through just your words? This is the job of a horror writer, and it’s not always the easiest.
To help you on your way to terrifying the public, we asked Amy Lukavics, author of the chilling ‘Daughters Unto Devils’, to give us some tips on how to write a horror novel:
How To Write a Horror Novel – Top Tips for Budding Writers
If you love horror, you’re automatically qualified to write it, at least that’s what I genuinely believe. But getting your ideas and writing skills to the point where you’re ready to bust out an actual novel? Not as easily done. However, when it comes to brainstorming and executing horror, I’m a firm believer in the “work smart, not hard” mantra, which may be a teensy bit misleading in the fact that you will, indeed, work very hard. Still, there are a few points you can keep in mind to help make the journey as painless as possible.
Tip #1 – Read A Lot of Horror Novels
I will always argue that the very best way to help strengthen your writing is to read as much as you possibly can. Not so that you can retain things to try and imitate later, but rather so you can get a true, solid sense of what you like to read and why. Which types of horror novels are your favourite? Which titles had the most profound effect on you, and why? What elements do you seem to consistently dig? Answering questions like this will really help you figure out which type of horror novel you want to write yourself.
Tip #2 – Prioritize Strong Contemporary Elements
Basically, what this means is to make sure there are plot points in your horror novel that are all about the characters and their emotional development, outside of the horror elements. Horror is most effective when the audience comes to genuinely like, dislike, or worry about the characters involved. You can have the scariest monster in the world, but it won’t mean nearly as much if the readers don’t give a damn about that girl who just got decapitated by it!
Tip #3 – Tone is Everything
There’s a way you can create and hold spooky tension in your story, even through scenes where nothing horrific is happening. Use descriptions that rile feelings of nervousness and dread. Have the internal monologue go to darker places once in awhile (this can go hand in hand with Tip #2.) Use language that is clear but foreboding. This will help you keep things creepy in an indirect way between the more spooktastic scenes.
Tip #4 – There Is No Rule About Gore
Lots of aspiring horror writers may wonder – how far is too far? What can we ‘get away’ with, so to speak? My approach to gore is simple: you must do what feels right for the story, nothing more, nothing less. Gore descriptions can be either incredibly well-placed or gratuitous in a way that takes the audience out of the experience a little bit, and every extreme in between. Gore is neither good or bad, it just is, quite like any other descriptive element in fiction. Use it well, and have the readers at your mercy. Use it unwisely, and your story can feel cliché or even cheapened.
Tip #5 – Do Not, Ever, By Any Means, Hold Back
If you’ve been moved and inspired by a certain idea, but are too nervous to try and pull it off because you feel like others may see it as weird or going “too far,” I strongly encourage you to ignore all the voices of doubt and attempt to do your idea justice. Let your future editor inform you if something should be edited or removed, but until then, you’ve got to be as true to your vision as you possibly can. You owe it to yourself, your idea, and your future readers.
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