There are so many common writing mistakes out there that it can be a little bit daunting trying to avoid all of them. To give you plenty of food for thought we’re going to take a look at the 10 best ways you can start putting pen to paper. Just make sure you don’t write something so scary that it has you well and truly spooked before you get to the end of it!
1. Introduce your characters so the reader cares about them
There’s never been a good horror story written where the characters, and their backstories, were an afterthought. It’s no use describing gruesome goings-on and grizzly ends if the reader has no reason to care who they happen to. The first few chapters should focus on introducing your characters so the reader has a chance to get to know them. The more insights you can give them, the harder the spooky events will hit them. Just what you want when you want people gripped from the first page to the last.
2. Build in a backstory that gets them puzzled and intrigued
You should always have one character who is perhaps not quite what they seem. Make it difficult for the reader to make their mind up one way or the other, and you’ll have a literary device that you can deploy in a whole variety of different ways. It’s all about leaving that shade of gray, or touch of ambiguity, surrounding someone’s backstory. You can then let the reader’s imagination run wild with all the little tempters and teasers you scatter throughout the story.
3. Foreshadowing is a great way to tempt them in
As you start building up the pace of your story, it’s really important that you create a subtle sense of foreboding in the mind of the reader. Hint about what may be about to come so they’re constantly on the lookout for clues. It’s a classic technique writers use to get people hooked from the very first page, and it’s just the sort of approach that works wonders when it comes to horror stories.
4. Pacing your manuscript will be essential
Ask for the best writing help and you will get told that pacing is the name of the game. It’s something that’s so important when it comes to giving your story longevity and readability, but it’s a hard balance to get right. Horror stories work best when the pace continuously chops and changes so that the reader feels the same mix of fear, relief, and excitement that the protagonists are experiencing.
5. Write something that requires plenty of imagination
Imagination is what made the Harry Potter series so amazing. Granted, they’re not horror stories, but what they did is get the reader’s imagination to do a lot of the hard work. Your job as an author is to paint a picture, but leave plenty of room for the reader to imagine it in their own way. It’s about inviting them to be a part of the story, and once they are, they’ll be heavily invested in the outcome.
6. Build tension by describing the atmosphere
Horror stories need to be gripping, and that means making them far more than 300 pages of blood and guts. The atmosphere is what will allow you to set the scene, build anticipation, and get the reader on the edge of their seat. Put lots of thought into describing it so that you can really build something special.
7. Put yourself in the mind of the reader
Every author needs to have an idea about what the reader is expecting to find when they throw themselves into the story. The reason for this is not so that you can deliver the ending they’re all expecting, it’s actually quite the opposite. By avoiding the obvious finales, writing in double bluffs, and generally just being original you can create a story that’s as gripping from the first page to the last. Sketch out a rough structure for the story with the main plot twists on a side of the paper, if something looks like it’s been done a thousand times before, drop it and come at the problem from an entirely new angle.
8. Create suspense at the most unexpected of places
Horror stories aren’t all about building up to one big showdown with a ghastly ghoul towards the end. You want the reader to feel that something scary or gruesome is just around the corner, so write that way. You could end other innocuous chapters on a one-line cliffhanger or big reveal. This will make it clear to the reader that every word, every sentence, and every paragraph in your story really does matter. It’s about captivating them so you can create that sense of foreboding and being on edge that all good horrors induce.
9. Don’t go for anything clichéd or off the wall
Waking up and finding it all was a dream is quite possibly the worst way to end a book ever devised. Avoid these sorts of endings at all costs, and make sure you’re as original as you can possibly be. Of course, you’re going to have some of the classic themes in there: a romantic interest, an ambiguous backstory, compassion for the baddie, but don’t overdo things. If you try and squeeze everything in, you’ll end up with a story that doesn’t give the reader enough time to get invested in any one particular character or subplot.
10. Keep the big reveal to the very last chapter and tease a sequel
Last but not least, you need to have a big reveal there. It’s all about keeping it to the very end, and it’s about delivering it in a way that makes people drop the book they’re that scared. Take your time to build up to it, then when there’s a lull in the pace hit top gear and go all out towards the ending. You’ll be able to catch the reader off guard so your words have even more impact, and because you haven’t left everything to the final page you can also tease a sequel. Ideal if you want to start creating a name for yourself in the horror genre.
Now that you’ve heard the 10 tips you need to know, it’s up to you start putting pen to paper. If you get in the habit of writing rhythmically — the same time and duration each day — you’ll find you quickly have a few chapters on your hands. Make it a part of your everyday life and you’ll soon be bitten by the writing bug.
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