Writing fiction

How to Write a Horror Story with a Twist

Max. D Gray
By Max. D Gray. Updated: January 16, 2017
How to Write a Horror Story with a Twist

Do you want to get started in the world of writing? The horror genre is one of the most fun to write as much as it is to read as you have to get into the skin of the character, face horrific situations and write in the most natural way possible. To be able to create fear is just as difficult as to be able to make people laugh, but once you've done it, the satisfaction is rewarding. So, in this OneHowTo article we will tell how to write a horror story with a twist step by step so you can create your own scary story. Ready?

You may also be interested in: How to write a Mystery Short Story

Steps to follow:


Before writing a horror story we have to take something very important into consideration: who is our target audience? It is not the same thing to write a story for children as it is for an adult reader, the choice of characters, plot and the ending are different as we choose them according to our target audience. So the first step is to decide your target audience before starting writing your script.

It is also important that, before you write this type of stories, you get to know some of the best stories in the genre: you could start off with Halloween stories, for example.


Now we have to start by imagining our characters. As your aim is to write a short story, not a novel, you must outline a basic and credible character profile. That is to say, it is not necessary to talk about their whole background, their dreams or what frustrates them to make a good story but you'll have to build a realistic and believable character with passions, who takes logical decisions that can be credible.

So, to create characters in stories we have to ask questions such as:

  • What do they look like physically? (Age, colour, height, weight, if they have scars, etc.)
  • Who are their family? (Parents' jobs, if they come from a poor or rich family, where they grew up, etc.)
  • What is their greatest fear? - This is important to determine our character in a horror story because we have to dig a little into their mindset in order to establish a good plot and develop it well.

Depending on the type of character you want to create, you have to delve a little deeper into their past, what frustrates them or any trauma experiences in order to invent a good horror story.

How to Write a Horror Story with a Twist - Step 2

If we have decided that the fear factor in our horror story is a person, we have to go through the same process we described in the previous step but for the "scary character", who needs to have a logical and natural authenticity. It's not worth it to show that they've had a difficult life, it is advisable to get away from the stereotypical clichés and choose to make a careful psychological portrait that the reader can empathise with and get to understand the motives.


Now it is time to start thinking about the plot of our horror story. What will happen exactly? What is the chronological order of the story? This last point is important because often, scary stories don't begin with the main event, but they have a background (the death of someone, abandonment, etc.). So, in order to create a logical plot without inconsistencies, we recommend you make a time line of the events that have taken place up until your story.

Creating an outline of the plot and background will help you write and avoid making any mistakes such as inconsistencies or loose ends. Remember that a scary story needs all its elements to be well explained and linked together for it to end up being a good story. So structure your information and have your outline in mind when you type.

How to Write a Horror Story with a Twist - Step 4

Tip: although we have recommended that you do a detailed outline of your story, don't be afraid to unleash your imagination when you're writing. Letting your characters do something that you didn't expect is natural and good for a writer because it means you've created characters with life. Therefore, don't close the door of your creative freedom and let your mind get around the edges of your outline: just don't lose sight of what you had previously planned because otherwise the result can be chaotic.


As with mystery stories, when setting up a horror story we also have to work very carefully on the suspense of the plot. Edgar Allan Poe, one of the masters of the genre, says that in order to create a good story you don't need to describe blood, knife or murder itself, but rather you have to play with psychological fears, those kind of fears that create a terrifying atmosphere without revealing any detail. It is better to evoke than to show, that's the premise that you have to follow to write a good horror story.

Another trick you can use to create the atmosphere of fear that holds the reader's soul in suspense is writing a story in the first person. Making our narrator the protagonist of the story gives the story immediacy, freshness and a personal experience which will make it easier for you to transmit the character's feelings to the readers.

How to Write a Horror Story with a Twist - Step 6

In order to succeed in creating a story that is able to really scare the reader we advise that you stay away from the legendary classic horror stories based on legends of vampires, zombies and ghosts, and opt to create atmosphere in an everyday environment. Placing the scenes of your story in recognisable environments for the reader will increase that effect that you are looking for, and make your story triumph; so choose to place your character in a parking lot at night, or in a half-empty street rather than transferring them to enchanted castles or abandoned mansions.


Finally, to write a horror story you have to work specifically on the ending. Not just what the plot development will be, but rather how to reveal it to the reader. The way in which the characters realise the solution to the conflict can be subtle, by dropping clues throughout history.

Remember that you don't need to work out a happy ending but don't fall into the cliché of wanting to create a grand finale: the best advice is to let yourself go with the story and see what possibilities you have. Remember that happy endings are never a success, but artificial and forced endings are also not advisable. The best advice is to let yourself go with the flow and let the story guide you.

How to Write a Horror Story with a Twist - Step 8

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How to Write a Horror Story with a Twist