Horror and Mystery are two genres that work really well together. From the classic occult detective to the mystery of a family curse, there are many exciting ways to write a horror mystery story.
To write horror mystery stories, start with the fear factor. Pick a subgenre of horror and create something scary that fits. Show readers the stakes and use them to build suspense. Put your characters in appropriate danger and build up to a twist. Let your imagination loose.
A horror mystery story can be written in several ways. You could write a Humphrey Bogart-style character that uses knowledge of the occult to solve crimes. Or you could write a possession story like The Exorcist. Whatever style you choose, these tips should help.
Start With a Fear Factor
Bait your readers with a fear factor, and they’ll keep reading. A good horror mystery starts with terrifying circumstances and then builds to the point where the reader can’t put down their Kindle.
The classic example is Jaws. The story starts with a man-eating shark, then shows how it terrorizes the town and makes the audience afraid of what will happen next. It ends with a fisherman being eaten alive by the shark.
That’s how we writers build tension and suspense in our stories. Start by introducing a fear factor and build from there.
Pick a Horror Story Subgenre
When you write horror mysteries, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind. One of them is the genre of the story.
Horror stories can be tricky to write because it’s hard to find something scary without making it seem like you’re just trying to scare people. But if you pick the right horror story subgenre, the mystery naturally unfolds.
Some significant subgenres for mystery horror stories include:
- Stories of the occult
- A supernatural killer
- A family curse
- A cursed doll or artifact
- An object from another world
- Portals to other dimensions
- Ghost stories
- Secret scientific experiments
- Alien abduction
Let Readers Experience the Stakes
As a writer, you want to give your readers a sense of suspense.
If you’re writing a horror mystery, you must let the reader know what’s at stake for your protagonist. If a character is trying to save someone from being killed brutally, then make sure that the stakes are high enough that they would risk their life to do so.
Make sure that the stakes are high. In a horror mystery, this means that something horrible will happen, and you want your readers to be apprehensive about it.
For example, if your hero is looking for a missing girl, maybe he finds her car abandoned in a field. There may be blood on the windshield, and perhaps, signs of a struggle.
Furthermore, if she doesn’t take her medicine within twelve hours she will suffer permanent brain damage. Now you have high stakes.
You need to ensure that something truly terrible is going to happen if the hero doesn’t succeed. Otherwise, there isn’t much of a story and it’s just another missing person.
After establishing the stakes, you need to reinforce them. Show readers how high the stakes are.
If you’ve got a character looking for his missing daughter, you need to show why he thinks she’s in danger. But, don’t give away too much information about what happened to her (or if he knows for sure).
You can use dialogue or action to convey his thoughts and feelings about what happened to his daughter (if she was kidnapped) or if she ran away from home.
Create Suspense Through Point of View
The most important thing to remember when you write horror mystery is that you need to keep the reader guessing.
The story needs to be written to keep the reader on their toes and to wonder what will happen next. One way to do this is by using specific points of view. By keeping the reader in suspense, they become more involved with the story and want to continue reading.
The first-person point of view is the easiest to use because it allows you to show everything from one character’s perspective. You can use this type of point of view for any story, but it works best for mysteries and thrillers because it creates suspense and keeps readers interested in what happens next.
Read more about Point of View here
Consider Plot Twists to Surprise Your Audience
The plot twists you introduce in your mystery writing can help surprise your audience.
Plot twists are not just a fun device for building suspense, they also work to keep your audience engaged and interested in what’s going on in the story.
Plot twists are often used by writers of horror stories as well as other genres, but they can be effective in any fiction writing.
A good plot twist will make readers want to keep reading, but it needs to be handled carefully so as not to frustrate or confuse them.
Put Your Characters in Compelling Danger
The best way to write a horror mystery is to put your characters in clear danger.
The first two chapters of any mystery novel are the most important. In those two chapters, you must show why your characters need to solve the crime and how they will do it.
You also want to show that there is something more than just solving the crime at stake. To do this, you must put your characters in danger. If you don’t, then there’s no tension and no suspense for readers.
The best way to ensure that your characters are put into clear danger is to have them go through a series of trials and tribulations throughout your manuscript. These trials can take many forms, but they need to be believable and realistic enough so that readers will accept them.
You might want to think about how you would feel if these things happened to you or someone you know.
If you don’t know how you would react, ask people around you: “Would I do this?” or “Would my best friend/significant other do this?” This should give you an idea of how much danger is too much for a character at a particular time or under certain circumstances.
Read about the difference between Horror and Suspense here
Use Your Imagination
Your imagination is the key to writing horror mystery. It’s the only way you can create something that feels real and not make it seem like your characters are walking around in a movie.
You’ll need to use all of your senses when you write a horror story. Feel the heat, smell the fear, hear the screams and taste the terror. And let your imagination run wild with ideas of what could happen next.
The next time you’re writing, try putting yourself in the shoes of one of your characters as they navigate through an intense situation that’s beyond their control. If something seems too easy or too hard for them, consider how they respond and adjust their actions accordingly.