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An introduction to writing horror - 12 Month Course

Writing horror can be one of the most thrilling ways of exploring our fears. We are able to articulate and structure stories which horrify, terrify and repulse our readers in an environment in which we feel safe and secure — we know the monsters are fictional and exist only in our imagination…or at least, that is what we tell ourselves. This course has been designed at a time where horror fiction is really thriving. We have more publishers than ever before accepting various types of horror stories: flash fiction, short stories, novellas and novels. The delays in knowing about submission points and the delays experienced in sending our work via the postal service are now no longer an issue as with most of the submissions, sending work through email is now an option. This makes the process much easier, cheaper and more efficient. Our overall intention for ‘An Introduction in Horror Writing’ is to enable you to become familiar with this genre and strengthen your skills in writing original horror fiction so you are ready to become a published author.

1) Fear of the unknown - what is horror?

In this section, students will begin to examine the conventions of the horror genre (disturbing settings, character conventions, fear of evil) and examine the various sub-genres within horror writing (body horror, splatter punk, psychological horror, the gothic).


Use the horror conventions you have learnt in this section to formulate part of a story or a short story that would fall within the horror genre (600-800 words).

2) The monster under the bed - creating the best bad guys.

In this section, students will examine the ‘evil’ within horror and how this can be manifested within a story. This includes looking at how evil can be represented within the horror genre: vampires, zombies, serial killers, ghosts, aliens. In addition, the reasons and motives of this evil must be understood in order to produce a story which is convincing in its nature. However, it is necessary to look at providing a unique ‘monster’ and motive to ensure the writing remains original.


Present evil in a short story. You must include some representation of evil and their relevant motives. (800-1,000 words).

3) Creating characters that will change the world.

In this section, students will look at character building and how this can be presented within a story. Elements such as character relationships, character traits, dialogue and personality will be discussed.


Write part of a story which develops your protagonist and one other character (600-800 words).

4) Horror Structure - Forming the Best Structure for Your Story.

In this section, students will look at the conventions of structure in horror writing, such as character convention, point of view, narrative structure, dialogue and description.


Write part of a story from one character’s point of view, then write the same piece from the ‘monster’s’ point of view (1,000-1,200 words).

5) Tension? what tension?! - creating atmosphere in horror writing.

In this section, students will begin to examine specific points within their stories where tension, emotion or atmosphere needs to be created. Various techniques (such as word choice, detail, reader response and description) will be investigated to ensure these scenes have a greater impact on the reader.


Write a scene which is consumed with tension, emotion or atmosphere using the techniques you have learned (600 words).

6) Writing horror and getting published (double section and assessment).

In this final section, students will be guided through how to edit and proofread their short story. Furthermore, students will learn how to research the relevant markets and begin to formulate both a cover letter and polish their short story (preferably one they have already written during the duration of this course).

Assessment 1: 

Write a cover letter for a relevant anthology/magazine/website (500 words approx).

Assessment 2: 

Improve your short short through the editing and proofreading processes discussed in this section (1,000-3,000 words).

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