How to Write Horror Short Stories

Do you haven an urge to write a nerve-racking horror story, but you aren't interested in writing a whole novel? Here's a quick guide to writing a short horror story that will hopefully chill your readers to the bone.


  1. 1
    Get inspiration and study at the same time!Read other stories to find out what you like, what's scary and what language is used.
    • Find a lot of short stories for themes and ideas. You should never copy idea's, but while your reading, see what type of monsters or horrors are common. Ghosts, zombies and demons, murders, dolls and possessed people are in a lot of horror stories.
    • Analyze the language used. The words in stories and the description is what makes people scared. Words like chilling, tapping, scratching are handy.
  2. 2
    Plot, planning and character building. Get some paper and write out a few ideas. Try to keep away from mainstream, cliché things if you can. Write out things like places, characters and scary ideas. First it can be just a jumble of words, but when there's enough for a real story, write out it properly.
    • Find a catchy name to put up the top (you can do this later if need be.)
    • Use simple paragraphing for your ideas and keep it short. Write 'Saint Joseph Senatorium- closed 1746, now in ruins.' instead of a whole page of details. On a new line write other things like characters and scenes.
    • try to keep things in order. Title, place and character should be at the top, and scenes under that with enough space to add additional points or idea's you may think of later.
  3. 3
    Climax! Think of things to end the story. It's all good to have a horror story that makes the reader paranoid of shadows, or grossed out from the blood, but there has to be an end. The story can't end with 'and they lived happily ever after' or 'they woke up and it was all a dream'. Blah! I will throw up and send you back to school!
    • The story needs a point for getting told. The point can be to tell people to not be so selfish (or your children get killed), or simple as don't be mean to the lonely kid sitting at the back of the class room (you get killed). There needs to be a morel, otherwise the story isn't worth the time someone reads it-the morel is subtle and hidden, but will be there.
    • Think of some way to end the story with a bang! It's the biggest, most intriguing part. If people stop reading there, there's something very wrong! It should be so captivate they can not put it down.
  4. 4
    Jump in! When finally everything seems to be in the right order and the story seems right, start writing! Use the plan as a rough outline, using the sheet as a reference as where to go.
    • Make sure you have time to write first! You don't want to get interrupted when you've only just started. Schedule out a few hours if you can!
    • The sheet is only a reference, and is not written in stone. If you think of something amazing, write it! First make sure it fits in; you may need to do a little tweaking to get it right.
    • Try to use descriptive words to keep things interesting or just use a thesaurus. Instead of red, use crimson, or scarlet, because 'red' is such a common word.But don't overdo it and use 15 paragraphs to describe one room.
    • Try to format as you go-Paragraphs, proper headings, ect.
    • Take a break if you need it. Just because a story is 'short', does not mean it takes 5 minutes to write. They can be from 1-10 pages long! (and longer if someone gets a brilliant stoke of genius!). A good thing to do is write for two hours, take a five minute break, and repeat.
  5. 5
    Take a break before you edit. For some published authors, they don't look at their work for weeks after they write it! Why? Because when the story is fresh in your head it's easy to mistake words for what they should be, not what they are. Of cause, you don't want to leave your story waiting for weeks, so stay away for a good two days-or a week if you can!
    • While editing, add punctuation and format. Names need capital letters, change there to they're, sentences need full stops at the end or take them out and use a commas! Editing is cleaning up- so give it a nice scrub!
    • If you see a scene that isn't needed cut it out! All scenes need a purpose to move forward.
    • Add more description where you can, and change all those 'said' to something else! Keep variety for interest. A thesaurus is your new best friend, go talk to him!
  6. 6
    Get Critiqued! Read your story without editing it! Read it like you would read someone elses. Criticize everything you can-AND MAKE NOTES! If you can't criticize your own work, then you shouldn't be a writer! Then, when you feel ready, lend it to a friend or two (or three, or four...).
    • When you critique, really tear it apart! This is your story, and all the weak points need to be removed! When your done, try to notice the good, strong points-everyone needs a bone here and there.
    • Your friends are not your friend when you hand them the story. Ask them to take notes and to be honest! So honest it makes you cry! (I'm kidding...)
    • Soak up it all! Don't get defensive, they are only trying to help! Take in what they say, think about it, and see if there's a way you can fix it.
    • If you want (and have the courage), find a beta reader/critiquer online. They don't care really about you, so they will slaughter your story. This is not for everyone though, and can be really heartbreaking if you think you've done well.
  7. 7
    Re-edit your work. This can be hard, considering you (hopefully) have so many notes! Rebuild your story to everything it can be.
    • If you feel game enough after the last attack on your story, repeat steps 5-7. This can be done as many times as you like- but your friends may get a little bored.
    • Be generous to yourself. Don't cry about how many notes you have-don't assume it's bad. Think about how they can improve you.
    • This is the polished work when you finish. They're shouldn't be any grammar, spelling, punctuation errors or misleading phases.
    • This is also the time when you REALLY need a title if you don't have one. Keep it relevant to the story, short and intriguing. Don't use: The haunted house on the Hill, too long and too cliché. Something like 'Creeper' or 'Mutilated' is better.
  8. 8
    When it's all finished, share your story! Give it to friends, family, co-workers, school mates, ect. This is also when you send it to a publisher if you want to get published. If you don't, a good way to get things out there easily is through online websites (such as or happy about your accomplishment!


  • Stay focused.
  • A lot time for your work-turn off your internet, the mobiles, kick your girlfriend/boyfriend/mother/father/siblings/children out the door!
  • Eat a meal before you sit down, and grab a coffee or glass of water so you don't have to get up.
  • Keep everything organised and close. Those notes need to be within reach so you don't have to go looking for them.
  • Don't be afraid to change your story around slightly. And if you must, scrap the whole idea and work on a new one.
  • If you can, add some background level music. Try to find creepy, eerie stuff to 'set the mood'. Songs without words and no bouncing base are great!
  • When you get tired-STOP. Writing while tied is bad and can make the story half of the greatness. You need to be alert and calm. If it's midday and not bedtime, simply do something for 5 minutes to wake you up, and if it doesn't work, put everything away and do something else. It will still be there tomorrow.

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Categories: Merge | Writing