Take a deranged psychopath, a group of innocent teenagers and mix them together with a lot of blood. You'll end up with a standard and cliched horror story. Opening your story with "It was a dark and stormy night" is also a bad idea. This infamous line from the 19th century British novel "Paul Clifford" is now comically used as how not to open a story. The horror genre may initially seem like an easy genre to master. However, a well-crafted horror story plot is not quite so simple.
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Think about the places, things and people in your story in an obtuse manner. What lurks in the abandoned school? Could that lawnmower start by itself? What is the old man next door growing in his garden? Focus on that one key element that you can use to turn on its head. Once you have this element, it becomes the spine of your plot and the rest of the story falls into place.
Create a believable villain (antagonist) by giving him a reason for creating mayhem and murder. Most antagonists in horror stories have deep psychological problems. This usually fuels the engine of the plot. Spend time researching and developing your antagonist's torturous past. It anchors your plot.
Develop your hero (protagonist) and a cast of supporting characters by placing them into the situation that you created and letting them react to it and one another. The protagonist usually has an entourage of friends who can be used not only as potential corpses but as plot devices to establish an emotional bond between the protagonist and the audience.
Write a logical conclusion that provides the climax of your plot in a believable showdown between your story's antagonist and protagonist. Satisfy your audience with a conclusion that fits the characters. It's all right to have an open-ended conclusion, especially if you plan on creating a sequel.
Tips and warnings
- Write realistic themes and avoid clichés. How many times have you read a horror novel or seen a horror film in which the antagonist keeps coming back from the dead? If your story hasn't included elements of science fiction, don't suddenly include them to explain the reappearance of your dead antagonist. Your audience knows what is realistic and what is not.
- Stick with your genre. If you are writing a horror-comedy in the style of the film "Scary Movie," stay with that theme from beginning to end. Similarly, if you unexpectedly inject humour or over-the-top farce into your serious horror story, you and your story lose credibility with the audience.
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