Ten Tips for Writing Horror

Never let it be said that I never “gave back” to the genre. Here are ten tips for fledgling horror writers who want to see their work go far and be appreciated:

1) Drink.
It was good enough for Edgar Allen Poe and Stephen King, but somehow you’re too good for the bottom of a bottle? Amateur.

2) Claws and Tentacles.
Or better yet, claws WITH tentacles. No, wait, that’s backwards…

3) Profanity.
When confronted with unspeakable horror from the depths of time, the last words your character speaks before parting ways with his sanity will NOT be “Golly, that thing’s gonna bite off my buttocks and swallow my gosh-darn soul!”

4) Unspeakable horrors from the depths of time.
Yeah. That’s good for starters.

5) Drama.
Skip it. If readers wanted a love story they’d go watch Lifetime.

6) Violence.
It’s quality vs. quantity. If you can’t manage both, then pick one, crank it up to eleven, and rip the knob off. Then add more.

7) Pacing.
If there’s a slow, boring part in the story… fill it with zombies and set it on fire.

8) Survival instinct.
If all your characters do when confronted with horror is run and scream… you need to go outside more. Anything that crawls out of the sewers in MY neighborhood is going to get shot twice before it gets to the other side of the street.

9) Hope.
Characters need it. Readers need it. Give it to them. Then fill it with zombies and set it on fire.

10) Borderline insanity.
Not the characters… YOU. If you’ve never considered the idea that, at the very least, you might be “slightly disturbed”… pick another genre.


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44 Comments

  1. Kragon, June 24, 2008:

    This would of helped in my Creative Writing class about ten years ago. lol.

    But it’s damn true, all of it.

  2. Maox, June 25, 2008:

    @Kragon:

    And ten years later you still think it’s “would of”. No wonder they kicked you out of “creative writing” class. Like, what are you even trying to communicate? By comparison, people who can’t spell aren’t even half as intolerable*, as they at least usually manage to get the syntax right. As I spoke, burning zombies surrounded him and feasted on his brains, aaaaaaarg!

    @Darkicon

    Funy.

    * That’s more than twice as tolerable!

  3. JavaElemental, June 25, 2008:

    I found you via StumbleUpon, and had to register just to tell you how brilliant this is. This may be the finest horror-writing advice I’ve ever read. Thank-you.

    “Fill it with zombies and set it on fire” — fantastic.

  4. epm, June 25, 2008:

    Just bordeline insanity is enough? I wonder …

  5. WeREwOLf, June 26, 2008:

    Maox, my hat’s off to you. Your comment insulting someone for a glaring grammatical error (when a more polite correction would’ve sufficed just as well) ends with an equally glaring spelling error. Now THAT’S entertainment.

    Perhaps we could be throwing fewer stones, eh?

  6. Kragon, June 26, 2008:

    You know, a writer once said that grammar is not important for a writer. That is a job for the editors. A writer job is just to tell the story for the readers.

    That writer was Terry Goodkind, who wrote the Sword of Truth series. And I hold that to be true.

    So, in the immortal words of Forrest Gump. “And That’s all I got to say about that.”

    HA!

  7. Maox, June 26, 2008:

    @Werewolf:

    I knew someone would not get the joke and say that.

  8. rxsheepxr, June 26, 2008:

    Oddly enough, I’ve been writing a novel that concerns zombies AND fire for the past few months. Perhaps I’m on to something.

  9. Eris_Asteri, June 27, 2008:

    Fucking Genius!

  10. valkoz, June 30, 2008:

    Terry Goodkind sucks. Therefore, I declare your logic invalid!

  11. Kragon, June 30, 2008:

    Well, you gotta a pretty damn closed fucking mind my friend. Because Stephen King said the same thing. So are you gonna say that he sucks too?

    It’s pretty childish to disregard something an author said just because you don’t like them.

  12. valkoz, June 30, 2008:

    King sucks too.

  13. Kragon, June 30, 2008:

    *shakes head* Your sad man, and not even worth my time.

  14. Kragon, June 30, 2008:

    P.S. Sorry DI, I know this kinda shit never really goes down on your page…

  15. valkoz, June 30, 2008:

    Since you attack the person attacking the genre, it says a lot about you. I attacked the author and the books he writes. Stating my opinion, which everyone has a right to have one. Then you diss me and judge me with pure ignorance.

    P.S. I’ve read the sword of truth series and it sucked ass. Read some real novels.

  16. Kragon, June 30, 2008:

    I quote: “Terry Goodkind sucks. Therefore, I declare your logic invalid!”

    I wasn’t attacking you so much as I was attacking the childish way you made your statement. Totally disregarding a statement made by an author just because you don’t like that author is pure ignorance.

    Yes, I’m a Terry Goodkind fan. I’m also a fan Stephen King, H.P Lovecraft, J.R.R. Tolken, George Orwell, Zilpha Keatle Snyder, Orson Wells, Anne Rice, Steve Perry, and of course Marc Washington…and the list can go on.

    Just grow up, and don’t put an author down just because you don’t like it. That is ignorance. That’s all I have to say.

  17. WeREwOLf, July 1, 2008:

    Fascinating. To the best of my recollection, I do believe darkicon.com has its first-ever troll.

    Welcome, valkoz. If you’re a hungry troll, just speak up; someone will be glad to feed you. :D

  18. valkoz, July 1, 2008:

    You’re advocating not criticizing writers as readers? Btw, those authors suck. All the authors I like have bigger dicks then the authors you like.

  19. DarkIcon, July 1, 2008:

    First there was this fixation with “sucking” and now there’s this mention of penis sizes. Hmmm….

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that, man. Whatever floats your boat, dude, really.

  20. Jeff, July 2, 2008:

    I can’t ever recall the thought of how big an author’s penis was when i was reading. But as D.I. stated earlier,whatever floats your boat.

  21. Big Mike, July 2, 2008:

    lOl nigga ya asz got burnt bye ma nigga di. weezy plyed u lik uh chmp givin looseys. yeaa

  22. Kragon, July 2, 2008:

    I believe I speak for everyone here when I say …Dude what?

  23. Dave Dunwoody, July 3, 2008:

    “If there’s a slow, boring part in the story… fill it with zombies and set it on fire.”

    That’s exactly what I did with Empire, and it got things chugging along…coincidence??

  24. Maox, July 7, 2008:

    Kragon: Whenever someone says that a great man once said something, invariably the quoted dude wasn’t all that great of a man. And a writer that doesn’t know his craft well enough to spell correctly or care about grammar is probably not a very good writer. It shows either a contempt for language (which in all fairness could have its points, though only if it was intended) or lack of interest or intelligence, which is quite bad if your intentions are to communicate with people.

    Oh, p s, the majority of the so-called writers you mention have reeeeeally small dicks. (Especially Anne Rice. Who reads Anne Rice? Seriously, you’re embarrasing yourself. Don’t even try to pass it off as “literature”.)

  25. WeREwOLf, July 8, 2008:

    A great man once said, Maox’s favorite authors all have reeeeally small dicks.

    Sorry D.I., looked like the trolls were having all the fun around here and I wanted in on it. But seriously…

    Regarding spelling and grammar: Given the choice between a really great, imaginative story with interesting characters, albeit riddled with occasional spelling and grammar errors, vs. a very boring and mediocre story with perfect editing, I’ll take the former every time. A great man once said, a polished turd is still a turd. YOU are perfectly free to partake of whatever polished turds you try to pass off “literature”; I’LL help myself to the works of better storytellers, fuckyouverymuch.

  26. Kragon, July 8, 2008:

    Thank you wolf. That is all I was trying to say. Putting it the right terms was the problem.

    And as for Anne Rice. Yes I like her writing. Anything from 69 all the way up to the mid 80’s after that her writing went to shit when she started putting in her born again christian beliefs into her work. But that’s just me.

    But one thing I want to know is… When did it become wrong to read and respect a good writer. I mean they have to be doing something right. They sold hundreds of millions of books around the world… Maybe I’m just fucked up and twisted…I don’t know.

    But there are a lot more interesting books out there besides Goosebumps and FearStreet. Check it out man and open your mind a little. You maybe surprised at what you find.

  27. BillinDetroit, July 8, 2008:

    “You’re advocating not criticizing writers as readers? Btw, those authors suck. All the authors I like have bigger dicks then the authors you like.” –Valkoz

    All the authors you like were born female. What conclusions are we to draw from this?

    Actually Valkoz, I like you. That’s why I am going to let you choose between having your testicles seared or crushed. While I normally return them in a paper bag, today I’m going to dispense with that formality.

    Catch.

    Don’t flame these guys, Valkoz. I got my first set of nomex from Sears … back when it was still Sears and Roebucks and still offered horse harnesses. Which I will gladly tie you up with while we wait for the zombies. Once they show up, you’re on your own. Oh, and here’s a BIC lighter I found. If you’d like, I can drench you in gasoline while we chat.

  28. BillinDetroit, July 8, 2008:

    “fuckyouverymuch.” –Werewolf

    Truer words were ne’er spake. Poetic speech like that just sort of gets you in the saddle sores, doesn’t it?

  29. valkoz, July 10, 2008:

    “When did it become wrong to read and respect a good writer” – Kragon

    You are right, it is not wrong to respect a good writer. I would also like to mention that Anne Rice and all the authors you listed suck and are not “good” authors.

    @BillinDetroit

    Thats why you used to work at sears. You couldn’t comprehend any good literature so you are stuck reading shitty books. As I was told by a friend, this post needs more flaming. Your mom is so dumb, she reads Anne Rice. I’ll leave it at that before all your nerdrage consumes me and I start shaking in my boots from your 8 year old creative threats.

  30. Yusayoh, July 11, 2008:

    I’m sorry, but these are just hilarious comments. I don’t want to disrupt anything, so I’ll just tell you what Big Mike said, into my interpretation.

    Original: “lOl nigga ya asz got burnt bye ma nigga di. weezy plyed u lik uh chmp givin looseys. yeaa”
    Translation: “Haha man, your ass got burned by my friend, DarkIcon. He got you really bad. Yeah.”

  31. raykendo, July 12, 2008:

    Great translation Yusayoh. This is a great post, and some funny-ass comments.

    Now, all we need to do is light valkoz on fire and feed him to the zombies. Should make things more interesting.

  32. emperorofdreams, July 15, 2008:

    Okay, I am starting out, but shouldn’t we make the zombies children, douse acid in their already burning faces, sic ’em on each other like canibals, gouge their toys’ eyes out, release the leaches, rabid wolverines, and aerial pirrahna, whilst slathering the lot in broken glass, used needles and torrents of infected spiders shooting magma before our heroes reach the end of the first paragraph?

    Oh, and sit above the fray quaffing champaigne and throwing salt?

    In my spare time, I’m a nutcase.

    http://knotoftheworld.proboards57.com/index.cgi?board=edsboard

  33. Maox, July 15, 2008:

    Hmm, that’s odd, I don’t recall trying to “pass off” anything as literature since I haven’t mentioned a single writer I admire yet, although Borges, Steinbeck and Vonnegut did have seriously large dicks. By the way, how do you “partake” in literature exactly? What kind of event is it? You dress up like a little girl and whine, much like you do now?

  34. Hargreaves, July 20, 2008:

    Reading all this just makes me wonder what is good literature in your eyes? What is it that makes a writer good or bad, right or wrong? I’d like to have an answer of this, from any or all of you…

    P.S: I apologize for my english, for it is not my mother language.

  35. DarkIcon, July 20, 2008:

    Now THAT sounds like a topic for another blog post, as my rant on that is too long to be a mere comment here. But the answer really depends on what you mean by “literature”. Your definition may be different since English isn’t your first language. If by “literature” you mean “story” or “novel” then that’s really a subjective thing. If by “literature” you are referring to the uninteresting, overly-dramatic CRAP that we are forced to read in high school English class… well then I can go on at length about that, but I’m probably not qualified to “define” it since I loathe it so much.

    Dammit, I feel a rant coming on, and I have to catch a plane right now.

  36. Hargreaves, July 20, 2008:

    I’m an art student and I do know that there are many forms of literature, some of them which are misconceptions. Even though English is not my first language, still we’ve got a concept of literature… Every culture has, doesn’t it? All I want to know is what gives the right to anyone to be judgemental on the matter. Of course everyone has a right to express their thoughts or opinions on anything, but still… I think I agree with Wilde.

    Waiting… ^^

  37. Maox, July 21, 2008:

    Invariably, whenever someone claims to be a great man/an intellectual/an art student, whatever follows is usually bullshit. You are saying that we don’t have the right to judge art. According to your logic, if I poo on your face and call it art, it’s equal to anything Rembrant ever created.

    What about Wilde, you mean “all art is useless”? Is that what you’re referring to? There’s not a shred of doubt in my mind that you’re a freshman. Only first-year students aren’t embarrased about telling people what they study, only first-year students quote (and agree with) Wilde, and only first-year students are proponents of naive subjectivism.

  38. Hargreaves, July 21, 2008:

    No one claimed to be great. At least, I don’t remember doing so… There’s more to Wilde’s thoughts than just that statement. No, I’m not a freshman and yet I’m not embarrased about telling people what I do… Not only first-year students quote and agree with Wilde and not only them are proponents of naive subjectivism.

    There’s more to life than just putting doing people with words, not considering what they have to say, and disrespecting them…

    Every one has the right to speak their minds, even if by doing so they confirm that they are incredibly narrow minded.

    Learn to read beneath the lines.

  39. Maox, July 21, 2008:

    If you’d actually bother to follow the “discussion” here you’d see what I was referring to. Try scrolling up a bit.

    There’s more to life than putting naive people down with words? What would that be? Putting them down with bats? I like the way you think, please enlighten me! I’m FASCINATED with your opinion on how to live life and what being a broad-minded person such as yourself encompasses!

    (Also, you might want to answer the criticism somehow, seeing that you were the one full of profound insight about the arts- but that’s entirely up to you and how much you are prepared to have your opinions pissed on, Enlightened One)

  40. Hargreaves, July 21, 2008:

    Sarcasm, what a classic!

    I came to the comment box to have an open discussion on the matter, because I thought it would be better than just putting each other down with words. Because I thought there had to be something other in your minds than just stupidity.

    It is not my fault that someone molested you as a child… Or that you are an angry prick that attacks to defend himself from whatever imaginary danger is out there, somewhere.

    Nevertheless, I’d like to think of you as someone who actually has some intellect, beyond all that shit that he speaks. See, I too, would like you to enlighten me.

    Borges, by the way, did have a seriously large dick. So had Cortázar, and Rilke and some others such as Baudelaire, Verlaine, Poe… And so… And so. Either way, there’s still no way to tell what those authors thought when they were writing, what was their opinion on the “art” matter. Just misconceptions, mistranslations and assumptions.

  41. iconixfilms, August 4, 2009:

    Hargreaves, you took 5 paragraphs to defend yourself and then RAMBLE pseudo-intellectual bullshit about who knows what, in an attempt to appear erudite and educated, thus fanning your fucking peacock feathers, so that the absolute anonymous internet community will gaze upon your (self-delusions of grandeur) four foot cock?

    Your writing reads like you’re nothing but a fucking pretentious git, as you swill wine and pose, name dropping Rilke and the like. Oh, but I was quoting Baudelaire. Give me a fucking break. Where’s the cheese and crackers to go along with this bullshit COCKtail party you’ve thrown to waft about your pomposity. Now take take said cracker and shove it in your ego inflated mouth, you (and now for some slangauge from the modern lexicon) tool.

    You seldom get laid, yap your jaw without merit, and choose to study the works of others, because you either lack the talent to create or you’re too fucking lazy — READ — busy talking about the masters…

    Get thee to a museum, and curate muthaphuka, you flippin’ pansy. And yes, sarcasm is the gift from the gods so we mere mortal working class humans (unlike yourself) don’t literally — and no, I don’t mean figuratively — rip someone’s head off.

    And yes we use the internet to vent our so called molestation anxieties, and in hip gangster vernacular — talk shit.

    Art is vital like air and water to the success of a community, nation, earth, etc. and additionally, you do have the right to your opinion, but obviously, as eloquent as you’ve stated your previous points of view — its a load of crap, and no one’s buying.

    In other words, to you and your snobbery, if your previous posting is what you pass off as intellectual discourse, I say take your fucking cognac and Bugger Off!

    Don’t make me de-pants you in our lil’ cyber room here, and show everyone why they called you shrink-dink all throughout grade school.

    Oh, yeah… Also heard you liked to swallow. Gross, (modern slangauge alert, again) Dude.

  42. iconixfilms, August 4, 2009:

    Hagreaves that wasn’t only directed towards you, we can easily substitute your name for valkoz. Yeah, thats right. Valkoz too.

  43. Kragon, August 4, 2009:

    Damn! Took a year for it to be said…. But DAMN!

  44. iconixfilms, August 5, 2009:

    Kragon, stumbled about here, read some comments, and had some fun. On a serious note, I absolutely hate the so called “writer” crowd, who, with their noses in the air, decry everything written post 1850 as bullshit writing. Yes, the masters nailed it. But at the same time, today’s pulp and best-selling authors does not make for an automatic denouncing of craft. That’s the same bullshit argument people have had for years regarding the theory pop culture doesn’t foster “true” art. Sure thing. One name: Warhol. Or the fact that consumerism through mass taste does not equate quality. The very freaking fact they sell means they have tapped into mass appeal. So what if readers aren’t dissecting universal truths in as much as enjoying the ride? All we ask is to tell an affective story. Don’t like it? Fine. Maybe the next guy/gal will.

    Stephen King is proof the modern day writer can pawn his words for lucre and seemingly craft compelling stories repeatedly… and again… and again. Honestly, the pomposity of anyone to decry a certain writers work over another is like a mental midget arguing with himself over how long is the length of a piece of string.

    I believe we can and should praise writing when it captivates and moves the reader… We should recommend or, in the advent that we are not affected, pan the work itself… not so much the writer.

    Stephen King, Rawlings, and heaven help us, Stephanie Myers, are uber successful. Not Shakespeare by any means, but they are blessed to be earning so much as a meal through putting one word after another onto a blank page. They may or may not be my cup of tea, but to decry modern craftsman as invalid practitioners whose work will never measure up as quote, mutherfucking unquote “literature” is just the type of discourse people without creativity or the ability to see beauty in the most mundane of situations would promote.

    I’m fully betting these people, who take the time to tell others what real writers THEY prefer, and how their taste is that much more refined than mine WILL EVER or COULD EVER be… make shitty friends, terrible lovers, and even worse, relatives.

    To anyone who decries an artists work — at the expense of a paying fan who truly appreciates the product — we all know you secretly like to stick strange objects up your butt.

    And for the working man and woman who dares to open a book seeking escapism or the food of the gods… or he/she who writes strange scribblings on bathroom walls or random corners of the far reaching internet: you are not alone. We read you. Because unlike our naysaying pretentious cocksucking associates who are want to describe other writers as having small and unremarkable genitalia — WE KNOW it is you, writer of such trivial to universal musings — who is the god of cock. Your swagger and coolness is left behind eternally. And for filling those pages and those empty spaces, we salute you.

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