Finding ideas for horror stories seems easy but sometimes you just can’t come up with anything.
How do people like Stephen King and Clive Barker manage to do it?
You can generate many horror story ideas by keeping a journal of everything that scares you. Ray Bradbury used to write down all his fears and use them as inspiration for hundreds of short stories.
Some people halve a problem where they just have too many ideas to write them all. Lucky them.
Other people have the problem where they feel like they have lots of ideas, but when it comes time to start writing them, they have a whole lot of nothing.
This article is for these people.
If you Can’t Articulate Your Ideas
Maybe you listen to a piece of inspiring music and think, “I could write such a great horror story about the way I’m feeling.”
Or, maybe you just saw a great TV show and thought, “wouldn’t it make a great story if this had happened instead.”
You never know when a great idea for a horror story is going to hit you. But articulating those ideas and getting them into a story is another matter.
In this video, horror author Branden Mcnulty has something interesting to say about coming up with ideas for horror stories:
This is how Ray Bradbury did it
He points out that Ray Bradbury used to keep a journal of everything that scared him.
Ray Bradbury is famous for his short stories. He has written hundreds of them. Many of his stories are about science fiction, like The Martian Chronicles, but he also writes a lot of horror-themed stories like Something Wicked This Way Comes.
Ray Bradbury’s idea was to keep a journal of everything that scared him. Literally everything.
He would write down everything that he was afraid of or that made him nervous on anygiven day and he filled up his journal this way. So when he needed ideas for a story, he could just look through his journal, to find a particular fear that stood out, and write about it.
All he had to do was articulate the feeling and place it into a hypothetical scenario to demonstrate how this feeling would arise and what it would lead to.
This is so simple but it’s one of the best ways to come up with ideas for horror stories because horror is about emotion.
It’s all About Emotion
Mysteries and thrillers, and so on, are about the plot. They must come together like pieces of a puzzle to reach an intellectually satisfying conclusion.
But horror is about making someone afraid and repulsed in a fun way. Horror is defined by emotion and you have to get good at creating emotion in your readers to make effective horror.
What better way than to write about your own fears?
When writing horror, you must create an authentic feeling, while also being relatable, and making the reader feel dread, while also keeping them hooked.
That’s a lot to accomplish, and you could spend years trying to master each of those steps and still not succeed.
But by using this one simple trick, you accomplish all of those things, and you continue to come up with great horror story ideas.
You can find some great Horror Writing Prompts here
Ray Bradbury would write something every day, using his fear journal for inspiration. This kind of practice honed his craft to a fine edge, and it can do the same for you.
The more you write down your fears, the better you will get at defining them. And the more you write about your fears, the better you will get at colouring them in.
There are many exercises you can do to improve your writing, but keeping a fear journal is probably the single best one for horror writers. Added to a routine of writing some fiction every day, and you have a one-two knockout punch that will make you speed ahead as a writer.
To get started, try sitting down at the end of each day and writing out anything that scared you or made you nervous. Even if it was just some random anxiety you may have felt about some problem you imagined, write it all down.
This stuff is gold and it will fuel your stories in ways you can’t predict.
A good way to start using your fear journal is to write some flash fiction. These are short stories that are usually less than 1000 words, and can often be as short as 200 words. Sometimes they can even be as short as 5 words, but that is pushing it.
Just see if you can make a story in as few words as possible. Grab one of the fears from your journal and get started. Set a timer, if you need it for motivation, but a regular writing schedule will help you more.
These short stories may turn into a full-length novel. You never know where your writing will end up.
Nothing is too silly. Just write and see what happens.
Hopefully, this will help you become the writer you wish to be. And, hopefully, you will come up with some truly terrifying horror stories to share. Until next time, happy writing.
You can read about How to Narrate a Scary Story here