Horror as a Literary Genre

Definition – Examples – How to Write

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Hello Lovelies, and welcome back to the blog. We are learning about the fifth Pillar of Genre, Fiction. Last time, we went over a definition for Science Fiction, and we talked about some examples and how to write it. This week, I want to dive deeper into the next of those subgenres, that of Horror, and just in time for Halloween. Let’s get started.

Horror Definition

Horror stories are designed to evoke fear, fascination, or revulsion in the reader. This is done either through supernatural elements or psychological circumstances. 


I am not a big fan of horror, as a general rule, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t read a few horror novels in my life that I can recommend.

  1. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1823). A horror novel about a scientist who accidentally creates a monster when his experiment goes horribly wrong.
  2. Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897). A gothic horror novel about a vampire who wants to spread the undead curse to as many people as possible.
  3. Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (1886). A horror novel about a man who drinks a serum and transforms into his sinister alter ego, a wild, unpredictable killer.

How to Write Horror as a Literary Genre

If you are interested in writing horror, the Masterclass taught by R.L. Stine provides the following tips.

1. Pull ideas from real life and your own experiences. Reach back into your childhood memories and recall things that used to scare you or think of things you love and put a creepy spin on them. (This always works for Stephen King.)

2. Write the book title first. Most writers start with the idea for a story and figure out the title later. Try doing the opposite. Titles are great ways to quickly come up with a number of different ideas that can grow into an entire story.

3. Write the ending first. It may not always be possible, but once you start writing it makes it easier to fool people from the very beginning of the story and skillfully direct their attention away from what they think the ending will be.

4. Hook the reader right away. Start with a shocking first chapter to set the tone and quickly introduce the who, what, when, and where of the story. Putting the key elements into play early allows the rest of the plot to unfold.

5. Use cliffhangers. Pique the reader’s interest in events to come and compel them to keep reading to see what happens next. 

6. Add plot twists. Carrying the reader through the middle of a story is challenging, and there needs to be enough excitement to keep them reading to the end. An unexpected plot twist can help.

7. Plant a false lead or throw in a red herring. Include details that purposefully mislead the reader and prevent them from predicting the outcome.

8. Borrow from your influences. You can generate a lot of ideas by absorbing story concepts from other authors. Watch horror movies and read other horror books to improve the quality of your writing. Find a horror writer you admire and study their body of work. How do they tackle things like surprises, twists, and cliffhangers? How do they set the mood and create suspense?

Next Week

Next week, we are moving through the Fiction Pillar of Genre, and talking about the Fantasy genre, which is my absolute favorite genre of all time! Stay tuned for more fiction, coming your way for the rest of this year!

Discussion Questions

  1. What is your favorite work of fiction?
  2. Do you have a favorite type of fiction subgenre?
  3. What genre is your favorite to read in, and do you write in the same genre or a different one?
  4. What is the most important reason writers should be aware of genre and its conventions?
  5. What questions would you like to see me answer in a blog post or podcast episode?

Leave your answers in the comments section for this post!

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