Nothing sucks you into a horror story like suspense. The anticipation of danger keeps us on the edge of our seats, dreading what is going to happen next.
Write suspense in a horror story by creating a sense of foreboding. Use foreshadowing to let the reader know that something big and scary is coming. Give your characters something to fight for and use dialogue to build the tension. The suspense comes from trying to guess what is going to happen next, and knowing it will be dangerous.
If you like the sound of this, keep reading. We explain everything you need to know about adding suspense to your horror stories and provide a list of ways you can start using it.
What Is Suspense?
Suspense is an emotional thread that binds a story together. It can be tension, apprehension, or even dread. It makes us want to keep reading because we are intrigued by the outcome of what will happen next. Suspense is an important element of horror fiction because it keeps the reader engaged in the story, and a strong sense of suspense helps build anticipation for the climax. Suspense can also help create mystery and wonder around characters and plot points.
How to Create Suspense in a Horror Story
A good horror story has to do more than scare you. It needs to make you want to keep reading, even just seeing what happens next. Often, this is accomplished by creating suspense — a sense that something scary is about to happen and you don’t know when. Suspense is important because it keeps readers turning pages, but certain things can make it even better.
In a horror story, you want to create a sense of foreboding. This is done by creating an atmosphere that is dark and disturbing. You want to build up tension slowly and then release it all at once. You mustn’t give away too much information early on in the story, so your readers always wonder what will happen next.
In your story, give your characters something to fight for — either themselves or someone they care about. If they have no reason to struggle against their fate, then they will not likely make it through the story alive (unless they’re really lucky!). If you can make them feel like they’re fighting for something bigger than themselves or their own lives, this will make readers root for them even more.
Try to keep things a little ambiguous, too. There’s nothing worse than having everything spelled out for readers — especially when it comes down to who-dunnit. For your readers not to get bored with the mystery aspect of your story, keep things ambiguous until the very end, where everything comes together in one big reveal.
Foreshadowing is a literary technique that uses clues or hints to build up the reader’s curiosity about what will happen next. Sometimes authors use this technique to make the reader feel anxious, while other times, it builds suspense. When foreshadowing is used effectively, it can be scary because you know something horrible is coming, but you don’t know what it is. This makes things more exciting because you’re reading along, and then BAM! Something terrible happens.
Dialogue can also effectively create suspense in a story because it adds depth and dimension to characters’ personalities (which helps readers relate more easily). People speak differently when they’re trying to sound calm or when they are afraid. By using words that convey this, you can build suspense pretty effectively.
The plot will also help determine how much tension there is in your story. Include scenes that will build suspense when you outline your story. If you write a story involving a lot of fighting or violence, readers will have greater anticipation than if they were reading about two people getting married or going on holiday. The same applies if there’s no action at all; if there isn’t any plot progression, then there won’t be any tension. It’s important to know what kind of situation your character finds themselves in so that you can create suspense around them and their situation.
Things to Avoid When Writing Suspense
There are things that writers should avoid when writing suspense. The first thing is ambiguity. The reader should understand what happened or who did it. When you are setting the scene, don’t be so vague about what’s going to happen next that the reader has no idea what’s going on.
Writing suspense requires a certain skill set that is quite distinct from other genres. To create a compelling story, you must understand the elements that make up suspense and know how to use them to your advantage.
Sometimes you can be too eager to make your plot twist or reveal the truth behind the mystery. You might think that every little thing is a clue and that every person who enters the scene is a suspect. This can cause your protagonist to become paranoid and suspicious, which plays right into the hands of the bad guy.
Don’t lead with your biggest clue. It’s tempting to show readers exactly what they need to know to solve the case: Who did it? How did they do it? What happened next? But if you do this, you’ll lose them along the way. Readers want to be surprised by what happens in your story—they want it to be unexpected. So don’t tell them everything up front; keep us guessing until you present some evidence that points us in one direction or another.
Be careful not to give away your ending. It’s tempting to have a twist or a surprise revelation in your novel that will make readers gasp and say, “Oh my god, I didn’t see that coming!” But you don’t want your readers to be able to guess what will happen next. It’s like giving away the ending of a movie before it even starts!
Finally, don’t try too hard to make your story suspenseful. The best books keep you guessing until the end because they’ve got some other hook (like an intriguing plot twist or character development) that keeps you hooked. If you’re trying so hard for suspense that it ruins the story for you, then it’s not working anymore—so don’t force it.
12 ways to create suspense in a horror story
- Start with a bang
You want to start your story with a scene that will immediately capture your reader’s attention and set the tone for the rest of the story. This can be done by starting in the middle of the action or with a shocking event that will leave your readers on the edge of their seats. An essential aspect of creating suspense in a horror story understands what the genre is about. Horror is usually intended to scare, shock, or frighten the reader and often has elements of the supernatural. It typically contains violence and gore and may have a psychological element to it.
- Use tension
One of the key elements in creating suspense knows how to use tension. Tension is what keeps the reader on edge, constantly wondering what will happen next. It’s important to keep the tension high throughout the story without giving too much away. This can be done by withholding key details about the characters or the plot. For example, you might introduce a character but not reveal their name or back story. This will make readers wonder about the character and what their role is in the story.
- Building suspense through character
Suspense is a key element in many horror stories, as it helps to ratchet up the tension and keep readers on the edge of their seats. By carefully building suspense throughout a story, writers can create an incredibly chilling and effective horror tale. One way to build suspense is through your characters. Create characters that are believable and relatable, and make sure they’re in danger. The reader should feel like they could be in the same situation as the character, which will make the suspense more palpable.
- Setting and atmosphere
The setting and atmosphere of a story can also create suspense. A good horror story will have a dark and foreboding atmosphere, with a sense of unease hanging over it. This can be created through the use of description, lighting, and sound.
- Using dialogue to create suspense
Suspense can also be built through dialogue. Keeping the conversations between characters vague and mysterious will add to the sense of unease. Make sure the dialogue is tense and fraught with tension without giving too much away.
Foreshadowing is a great way to create suspense in a horror story. By hinting at what’s to come, you can keep the reader guessing and on edge. Just be careful not to give too much away, or the suspense will be lost. You can do this by withholding information or by providing red herrings – false leads that seem like they might be relevant but turn out not to be. Another way to create suspense is through foreshadowing – giving hints or clues about what is going to happen later in the story. This can make readers feel like they are piecing together the puzzle and makes them more likely to keep reading to find out what happens next.
- Red herrings
A red herring is a plot device that can be used to create suspense. It’s often used to mislead the reader, making them think something is going to happen when it doesn’t. This can be a great way to keep the reader guessing, but make sure not to overuse it, or the suspense will be lost. A red herring is a false clue that is meant to lead the reader astray. This can be used to create suspense by making the reader think that something else is going to happen when in reality, something completely different is going to occur.
Cliffhangers are a great way to keep the reader hooked and create suspense. By ending each chapter or scene on a cliffhanger, you’ll leave the reader wanting more. Just be careful not to overdo it, as it can become frustrating for the reader if they feel like they’re never getting any answers. A cliffhanger is a plot device that is used to leave the reader in suspense. This can be done by ending a chapter or book on a suspenseful note or by leaving the outcome of an event up in the air. By using cliffhangers, you will make your readers want to come back for more.
- False sense of security
One way to create suspense is by making the reader feel like they are in a safe place, only to have that sense of security be ripped away. This can be done by lulling the reader into a false sense of complacency, only to have something happen that changes everything. An unreliable narrator is a character who cannot be trusted. This can be used to create suspense by making the reader question everything that is happening. An unreliable narrator can also be used to foreshadow future events.
- Twists and turns
Another way to create suspense is by surprising the reader with unexpected twists and turns. This can be done by subverting their expectations or playing with their emotions. Just make sure the twists make sense within the story, or you risk losing the reader’s suspension of disbelief.
- The unknown
One of the things that make horror so suspenseful is the element of the unknown. By keeping some elements of the story mysterious, you can leave the reader guessing and wondering what’s going to happen next. Just make sure not to overdo it, or you risk making the story confusing and difficult to follow. A great way to create suspense is to leave the ending of your story open-ended. This will make the reader wonder what happens next and will leave them wanting more. You can also use this technique to set up a sequel or another story in the same universe so that they can continue following the characters they’ve come to know and care about.
- Playing with time
You can also create suspense by playing with time. This can be done by sudden, usually brief moments of intense fear or terror in a horror story. They’re often used to surprise the reader and create a sense of unease. Just make sure not to overdo it, as jump scares can quickly become tiresome and lose their impact.