How to Write a Horror Story

Updated July 12, 2018

Horror stories have interested people from the beginning of time, which is also about how long they've been around. Writing horror stories can be fun and takes some work, but it's worth it once you have let your imagination run wild. Some writers have to begin with a title, but it isn't necessary. Here are some steps for writing your horror story.

Prepare to Write Your Horror Story

Decide on the plot of the story. Read a variety of horror stories by a wide variety of writers to get ideas on more common horror plots, then decide if you want to go the more traditional route or come up with something completely new. You can also use the plot of a nightmare you've had.

Decide on the location of the story. A key tip in writing is to write what you know. Use a location that is familiar to you. If you have stayed in one and have vivid memories of it, set your story there. You could also set the story in an office like the one where you work. Being familiar with your setting will make the story more real and believable to the reader.

Decide on the number and types of characters that will be in the story. It's fun to base characters on people you know or have known. Be creative and make characters who have similar expressions or appearance to people in your life or combine two or three people's characteristics into a character in your story.

Develop Plot for Your Horror Story

Determine the main action of the story. Will there be an accident, a murder, a suicide or some other tragedy? Will there be a run-in with zombies, ghosts, a deranged killer, a possessed animal or a demonic child? Or will you come up with something completely unique, an idea no one has ever tried?

Decide if the story takes place in the city, country or some other location. Popular horror settings are abandoned warehouses, lake cabins, parking garages, dark houses when a storm has knocked out power, or even on an old farm. The setting is usually dark to allow for plenty of things to "go bump in the night."

Resolve your story with a strong ending. Will the main character be a hero and save a few other characters from death? Will the whole thing be a nightmare that goes away in the morning? Will the horror revolve around a spell that once broken in the end also ends the horror? While you should be creative with the ending, it still needs to make sense to be satisfying to the reader.

How to Develop Characters for a Horror Story

Determine the gender of your characters, giving first and last names to each character. Try not to name characters after people you know or other real people. Make a list of first names and another list of last names, then match them up to see what names sound good and are easy or fun to say and read.

Decide on where each character lives. All the characters don't have to be from the same area where the story takes place. Make them seem real to the reader by placing characters in logical settings. Or put a twist to your character's surroundings. For instance, you would normally think of an old woman with lots of cats living in a little old run-down house; put her into a high-rise luxury apartment in the middle of a bustling city instead to add mystery and intrigue to your story.

Develop a background of each character. Have a variety of occupations to make the story more interesting. Again, use something familiar to you so you can write in detail about the kinds of things they do. Call on your own background or do casual interviews with friends in researching interesting backgrounds you can use.

Draw out a relationship map for the characters, determining whether they are single, married or divorced and how their relationships tie them together. This is most easily done by mapping it out on a poster board or a white board much like you would draw a family tree or organizational chart for a company. Doing this will help you keep it straight, too. The last thing you want to do is confuse the reader by getting the relationships mixed up. A white board allows you to make changes; just make sure your story reflects those changes if you make them mid-writing.

Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article


  • People like to be scared, so put your suspense as close to the beginning of the story as possible.
  • When picking a location for your story, it helps to set it in a place that you know something about. If you've never been to the country, you wouldn't want to set your story there.
  • Characters will develop during the writing of the story so make sure you at least have the basics about each and then see where the story takes them.

About the Author

This article was written by a professional writer, copy edited and fact checked through a multi-point auditing system, in efforts to ensure our readers only receive the best information. To submit your questions or ideas, or to simply learn more, see our about us page: link below.