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Home » Blog » 132 Best Horror Writing Prompts and Scary Story Ideas

132 Best Horror Writing Prompts and Scary Story Ideas

creative writing scary story examples


Horror stories send shivers down our spines. They are gruesome, shocking, and chilling. Scary stories are meant to horrify us, and there are many ways to make a powerful impact on the reader. The element of surprise is crucial to make the readers’ blood freeze.

There are different types of horror stories. They often deal with terrible murders, supernatural powers, psychopaths, the frightening human psychology and much more.

Although many horror writing prompts and scary ideas have been written, the following 132 horror writing prompts can spark great creativity in aspiring writers of the horror genre.

  • A family is on a camping trip. The parents are walking with their two children, a daughter and a son. The little boy trips and falls into a dark river. His father jumps to rescue him. Somehow the boy manages to swim to the surface. The father is nowhere to be found. When the mother gets a hold of the boy, she can’t recognize him. She tries holding him, but the moment she touches his wet body, her hands start burning.
  • A young girl goes missing in a nearby forest. The whole town is searching for her. Her parents find her sitting and smiling in a cave. Her eyes are completely white.
  • A woman starts watching a movie late at night. The movie seems all too familiar. Finally, she realizes that it is a movie about her own life and that she might be already dead.
  • A house finds a way to kill every visitor on its premises.
  • A child makes her own Halloween mask. She glues a lock of her own hair on her mask. The mask comes to life and threatens to take over the girl’s body.
  • While digging in her backyard, an old lady discovers an iron chest. She opens it and finds a pile of old photographs of her ancestors. All of them are missing their left eye.
  • A priest is trying to punish God for the death of his sister. He is getting ready to burn down the church, when supernatural forces start to torture him.
  • Every year a woman goes to the cemetery where her husband is buried, and when she looks at his tombstone, she notices her own name carved in it.
  • A woman puts a lipstick on in the bathroom when she hears a demonic voice saying to her: “Can’t you see?”
  •  A mysterious child psychiatrist promises parents to cure their children if they give him a vile of their blood.
  •  A group of 10 friends decide to rent an old English castle for the weekend. The ghosts are disturbed and seek their pound of flesh.
  •  A photographer travels to an Indian reservation for his next project. He starts taking photos, but there are only shadows in the places where people should have been.
  •  A young married couple decide to renovate an abandoned psychiatric hospital and turn it into a hotel. Everything is going well until their first guest arrives.
  •  Three sisters are reunited for the reading of their grandmother’s will. She has left them a diamond necklace, but they have to fight psychologically and physically for it.
  •  An old woman pretends to be lost and asks young women to help her get home. She offers them a cup of tea and drugs them. When the women wake up, they are chained in the basement. The old woman gives them tools and boards, so that they can build their own coffin. If they refuse, she inflicts pain on them.
  •  A mysterious stranger with a glass eye and a cane commissions a portrait. When the portrait is finished, the painter turns into stone.
  •  A little girl’s sister lives with a monster in the closet. She exits the closet on her sister’s birthday.
  •  The demons under the nuclear plant get released after an explosion and start terrorizing the families of people who work at the plant.
  •  A woman gets trapped in a parallel universe where every day she dies horribly in different ways.
  •  A cannibal hunts for pure children’s hearts hoping they will bring him eternal youth.
  •  A politician hides his weird sister in the attic. She’s had her supernatural powers after their family home burned to the ground.
  •  A 16-year-old girl wakes up on a stone-cold table surrounded with people in black and white masks. They are chant and start leaning forward. All of them carry carved knives.
  •  A boy hears screaming from his parents’ bedroom. He jumps and hides under his bed. Suddenly, everything becomes quiet. A man wearing army boots enters his room. He drags the boy from under the bed and says: “We’ve been searching for you for 200 years.”
  • A husband and his wife regain consciousness only to see each other tied to chairs, facing each other. A voice on the radio tells them to kill the other, otherwise, they would kill their children.
  •  A mysterious altruist gives a kidney to a young man, who has potential to become a leading neuroscientist. After a year, the altruist kills the young man because he proves to be an unworthy organ recipient. The following year, the mysterious altruist is a bone marrow donor.
  •  A group of friends play truth or dare. Suddenly, all the lights go out and in those ten seconds of darkness, one of the group is killed.
  •  A young man becomes obsessed with an old man living opposite his building. The young man is convinced that the old man is the embodiment of the devil, and starts planning the murder.
  •  Concerned and grieving parents bring their 8-year-old son to a psychiatrist after their daughter’s accident, believing that the boy had something to do with her death.
  •  A woman is admitted to a hospital after a car crash. She wakes up after three months in a coma, but when she tries to speak, she can’t utter a sound. When the nurse sees that she is awake, she calls a doctor. The last thing the woman remembers is hearing the doctor say: “Today is your lucky day,” right before four men in black robes take her out.
  •  A small-town cop becomes obsessed with a cold case from 1978. Three girls went missing after school, and nobody has seen them since. Then one day, in 2008, three girls with the same names as those in 1978 go missing. The case is reopened.
  •  After his parents’ death a cardiologist returns to his small town where everyone seems to lead a perfect life. This causes a disturbance in the idyllic life of the people since none of them has a heart. 
  •  A man is kidnapped from his apartment on midnight and brought on a large private estate. He is told that he will be a human pray and that ten hunters with guns will go after him. He is given a 5-minute head start.
  •  A strange woman in labor is admitted in the local hospital. Nobody seems to recognize her. She screams in agony. A black smoke fills in the entire hospital. After that, nobody is the same. A dark lord is born.
  •  A young girl finds her grandmother’s gold in a chest in the attic, although she isn’t allowed to go there by herself. She touches the gold and she starts seeing horrible visions involving her grandmother when she was younger.
  •  An anthropologist studies rituals involving human sacrifice. She slowly begins to accept them as necessary.
  •  A family of four moves in an old Victorian home. As they restore it, more and more people die suddenly and violently.
  •  An old nurse has lived next door to a family that doesn’t get older. Their son has remained to be a seven-year-old boy.
  •  A girl wakes up in her dorm and sees that everybody sleepwalks in the same direction. She acts as if she has the same condition and follows them to an underground black pool where everybody jumps.
  •  A bride returns to the same bridge for 50 years waiting for her husband-to-be to get out of the water.
  •  An old woman locks girls’ personalities in a forever growing collection of porcelain dolls. Parents of the missing girls are in agony and they finally suspect something. When they tell the police, their claims are instantly dismissed.
  •  A chemistry teacher disfigures teenagers who remind him of his childhood bullies. One day, he learns that the new student in his school is the son of his childhood’s archenemy.
  •  A girl starts digging tiny holes in her backyard. When her mother asks her what she is doing, the girl answers: “Mr. Phantom told me to bury my dolls tonight. Tomorrow night I am going to bury our dog. And then, you, mother.”
  •  Twin brothers were kidnapped and returned the next day. They claim that they can’t remember anything. The following night, twin sisters disappear.
  •  A boy has a very realistic dream about an impending doom, but nobody believes him until during a storm all the birds fall dead on the ground.
  •  Room 206 is believed to be haunted, so hotel guests never stay in it. One day, an old woman arrives at the hotel and asks for the key to room 206. She says that she was born there.
  •  A genius scientist tries to extract his wife’s consciousness from her lifeless body and insert it into an imprisoned woman who looks just like his wife.
  •  Two distinguished scientists develop a new type of virus that attacks their brains and turns them into killing machines.
  •  A woman steps out of her house only to find four of her neighbors dead at her doorstep. Little does she know that she isn’t supposed to call the police.
  •  A bachelor’s party ends with two dead people in the pool. Both of them are missing their eyes.
  •  A young woman wearing a black dress is holding a knife in her hand and threatening to kill a frightened man. She is terrified because she does not want to kill anybody, but her body refuses to obey her mind.
  •  A strange religious group starts performing a ritual on a playground. The children’s hearts stop beating.
  •  A woman discovers that her niece has done some horrible crimes, so she decides to poison her. Both of them take the poison, but only the aunt dies.
  •  A man encounters death on his way to work. He can ask three questions before he dies. He makes a quick decision.
  •  An older brother kills his baby sister because he wants to be an only child. When he learns that his mother is pregnant again, he decides to punish her.
  •  A husband and his wife move to a new apartment. After a week, both of them kill themselves. They leave a note saying: “Never again.”
  •  A man is trying to open a time portal so that he could kill his parents before he is ever conceived.
  •  A famous conductor imprisons a pianist from the orchestra and makes him play the piano while he tortures other victims, also musicians. Every time the pianist makes a mistake, the conductor cuts of a finger from his victims.
  •  A popular French chef is invited by a mysterious Japanese sushi master for dinner. A powerful potion makes the French chef fall asleep. He wakes up horrified to learn that he is kept on a human farm, in a cage.
  •  A nuclear blast turns animals into blood-thirsty monsters.
  •  A mysterious bug creeps under people’s skins and turns them into the worst version of themselves.
  •  A kidnapper makes his victims torture each other for his sheer pleasure.
  •  Four friends are invited to spend the afternoon in an escape room. A man’s voice tells them that they have won a prize. They happily accept and enter the escape room. They soon realize that the room was designed to reflect their worst nightmares.
  •  Two sisters have been given names from the Book of the Dead. Their fates have been sealed, so when they turn 21, dark forces are sent to bring them to the underground.
  •  A mother-to-be starts feeling severe pain in her stomach every time she touches a Bible. Despite the fear for her own life, she starts reading the New Testament out loud.
  •  A literature professor discovers an old manuscript in the college library. He opens it in his study and suddenly a black raven flies through the window.
  •  You are the Ruler of a dystopian society. You kill every time your control is threatened.
  •  You are an intelligent robot who shows no mercy to humanity.
  •  You are a promising researcher who discovers that all the notorious dictators have been cloned.
  •  A nomad meets a fakir who tells him that he would bring agony to dozens of people unless he kills himself before he transforms into a monster.
  •  A most prominent member of a sect goes to animal shelters to find food for the dark forces.
  •  A man hires unethical doctors to help him experience clinical death and then bring him back to life after a minute. Little does he know that one minute of death feels like an eternity full of horrors.
  •  You travel home to visit your parents for the holidays. Everything seems normal until you realize that demons have taken over their consciousness.
  •  A mysterious woman moves into your apartment building. One by one, all of the tenants start hallucinating that monsters chase them and jump into their own deaths.
  •  Divorced parents are kidnapped together with their son. Both of the parents have been given poison, but there is only one antidote. The boy needs to decide which parent gets to be saved. He has 30 seconds to make that decision.
  •  A patient with a multiple-personality disorder tells you that you are one of six characters.
  •  You wake up in bed that is a blood-bath.
  •  The Government abducts children with genius IQ and trains them to fight the horrors in Area 51.
  •   A woman who has just given birth at her home is told that the baby is predestined to become the leader of the greatest demonic order in the country.
  •  A man signs a document with his blood to relinquish his body to a sect.
  •  A woman enters a sacred cave in India and disappears for good.
  •  A man opens his eyes in the middle of his autopsy while the coroner is holding his heart.
  •  You look outside the windows in your house only to see that the view has changed and there is black fog surrounding you.
  •  The gargoyles from the Notre Dame have come to life and they start terrorizing Paris.
  •  Somebody rings your doorbell. You open the door and a frightened girl with bloody hands is standing at your doorstep. “You’re late,” you reprimand her.
  •  You wake up in the middle of the night after a frightful nightmare, so you go to the kitchen to get a glass of water. You turn on the light and a person looking like your identical twin is grinning and pointing a knife at you.
  •  A renowned book editor receives a manuscript elegantly written by hand. The title grabs her attention and she continues reading page after page. When she finishes, the manuscript spontaneously starts burning, and the editor is cursed forever.
  •  The last thing you remember before losing consciousness is fighting a shady Uber driver.
  •  You find yourself in a cage in the middle of a forest and black mythological harpies hovering above the cage.
  •  A woman wants to quit smoking, so she visits a therapist who is supposed to help her with the use of hypnosis. She goes under and when she wakes up, she feels like a born killer.
  •  Five hikers get stranded during a horrible storm. One of them kills the weakest and starts burning his body.
  •  A mother goes in the nursery to check up on the baby and discovers that the baby is missing and, in her place, there is a baby doll.
  •  A killer is willing to pay a large sum of money to the family of a volunteering victim. A cancer patient contacts the killer. The killer ends up dead.
  •  The sacred river in a remote Asian village fills up with blood. The last time that happened, all the children in the village died.
  •  A tall, dark, and handsome stranger invites a blind woman for a romantic date in his botanical garden. The garden is full of black roses in which women’s souls have been trapped. He tells her that she will stay forever with him in his garden.
  •  A frightened man is trying to lead a werewolf into a trap and kill him with the last silver bullet.
  •  An architect designs houses for the rich and famous. What he doesn’t show them is that he always leaves room for a secret passageway to their bedrooms, where they are the most vulnerable.
  •  A man’s DNA was found on a horrible crime scene and he has been charged with murder in the first degree. He adamantly negates any involvement in the crime that has been committed. What he doesn’t know is that he had a twin brother who died at birth.
  •  Every passenger on the Orient Express dies in a different, and equally mysterious way.  
  •  A magician needs a volunteer from the audience in order to demonstrate a trick involving sawing a person in half. A beautiful woman steps on the stage. The magician makes her fall asleep, and then he performs the trick. In the end, he disappears. People in the audience start panicking when they notice the blood dripping from the table. The magician is nowhere to be found. The woman is dead.
  • A mother discovers that her bright son is not human.
  • Specters keep terrorizing patients in a psychiatric hospital, but nobody believes them.
  • A man’s mind is locked into an immovable body. This person is being tortured by a psychopath who kills his family members in front of him, knowing that he is in agony and can’t do anything to save them.
  • A bride-to-be receives a DVD via mail from an unknown sender. She plays the video and disgusted watches a pagan ritual. The people are wearing masks, but she recognizes the voice of her husband-to-be.
  • A man turns himself to the police although he hasn’t broken the law. He begs them to put him in prison because he had a premonition that he would become a serial killer.
  • Jack the Ripper is actually a woman who brutally kills prostitutes because her own mother was a prostitute.
  • A ticking noise wakes her up. It’s a bomb, and she has only four minutes to do something about it.
  • After a horrible car crash, a walking skeleton emerges from the explosion.
  • A world-famous violinist virtuoso uses music to summon dark forces.
  • A philosopher is trying to outwit Death in order to be granted immortality. He doesn’t know that Death already knows the outcome of this conversation.
  • A beautiful, but superficial woman promises a demon to give him her virginity in exchange for immortality. Once the demon granted her wish, she refused to fulfill her end of the deal. The demon retaliated by making her immortal, but not eternally youthful.
  • A voice starts chanting spells every time somebody wears the gold necklace from Damask.
  • Three teenagers beat up a homeless man. The next day all of them go missing.
  • Thirteen tourists from Poland visit Trakai Island Castle in Vilnius. Their bodies are found washed up the next morning. They are wearing medieval clothes.
  • A group of extremists ambush the vehicle in which a head of a terrorist cell is transported and rescue him. They go after anybody who was involved in his incarceration.
  • A hitman is hired to kill a potential heart donor.
  • A man is attacked by the neighbor’s dog while trying to bury his wife alive.
  • A woman disappears from her home without a trace. He husband reports her missing. The police start to suspect the husband when they retrieve some deleted messages.
  • After moving to a new house all the family members have the same nightmares. Slowly they realize that they might be more than nightmares.
  • A psychopath is drugging his wife, pushing her to commit a suicide so that he could collect the life insurance.
  • A woman loses her eyesight overnight. Instead, she starts having premonitions.
  • A vampire prefers albino children.
  • A man commits murders at night and relives the agony of his victims during the day.
  • A black horse carriage stops in front of your house. A hand wearing a black glove make an inviting gesture. Mesmerized, you decide to enter the carriage.
  • Demons rejuvenate by eating kind people’s hearts.
  • People are horrified to find all of the graves dug out the morning after Halloween.
  • Men start jumping off building and bridges after hearing a mysterious song.
  • A voice in your head tells you to stop listening to the other voices. They were not real.
  • A severed head is hanging from a bridge with a message written in the victim’s blood.
  • A delusional man brings his screaming children to a chasm.
  • A 30-year-old woman learns that a baby with the same name as her died at the local hospital 30 years ago.
  • A vampire donates his blood so that a child with special brain powers can receive it.
  • A teenager is determined to escape his kidnapper by manipulating him into drinking poison. He doesn’t stop there.

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101 Terrifying Horror Story Prompts

creative writing scary story examples

Welcome to the story den of horror, scares, and the macabre.

Most writers are often asked, "Where do you get your ideas from?" A majority of the time, writers find it difficult to answer that question.

We get our ideas from a plethora of sources — news headlines, novels, television shows, movies, our lives, our fears, our phobias, etc. They can come from a scene or moment in a film that wasn't fully explored. They can come from a single visual that entices the creative mind — a seed that continues to grow and grow until the writer is forced to finally put it to paper or screen.

In the spirit of helping writers find those seeds, here we offer 101 originally conceived and terrifying story prompts that you can use as inspiration for your next horror story.

They may inspire screenplays, novels, short stories, or even smaller moments that you can include in what stories you are already writing or what you will create in your upcoming projects.

But beware! If you scare easily — and have active imaginations like most writers do — turn up the lights and proceed with caution...

1. A girl goes missing in the woods, and her parents find only a decrepit and scary doll left behind. They soon learn that the doll is actually their daughter. And she's alive.

2. New residents of an old neighborhood are invited by their friendly neighbors to a Halloween party. The neighbors are vampires.

3. A family dog runs away from home. He returns a year later to the delight of his family. But there's something different about him. Something demonic.

4. A girl goes missing. Fifteen years later, her parents get a call from her older self. But they listen in fear because they killed their daughter that dark night years ago.

5. A man reads a novel, soon realizing that the story is his very own — and according to the book, a killer is looming.

6. A scientist clones his family that died in an airplane crash — but soon learns the repercussions of playing God.

7. A man wakes up bound to an electric chair.

8. A man wakes up in a coffin next to a freshly dead body.

9. A woman wakes up to find her family gone and her doors and windows boarded up with no way to escape.

10. A man afraid of snakes is shipwrecked on an island covered with them.

11. Serial killers worldwide are connected by a dark web website.

12. The world's population is overtaken by vampires — all except one little child.

13. A woman afraid of clowns is forced to work in a traveling circus.

14. An astronaut and cosmonaut are on the International Space Station when their countries go to Nuclear War with each other. Their last orders are to eliminate the other.

15. A treasure hunter finds a tomb buried beneath the dirt.

16. A young brother and sister find an old door in their basement that wasn't there before.

17. Winged creatures can be seen within the storm clouds above.

18. A man wakes up to find a hobo clown staring down at him.

19. Residents of a town suddenly fall dead while the dead from cemeteries around them rise.

20. A doctor performs the first head transplant — things go wrong.

creative writing scary story examples

21. A man is texted pictures of himself in various stages of torture that he has no memory of.

22. A girl wakes up to find a little boy sitting on his bed, claiming to be her younger brother — but she never had one.

23. A scare walk in the woods during Halloween is actually real.

24. A bartender serves last call to the only remaining patron, who is the Devil himself.

25. Earth suffers a planet-wide blackout as all technology is lost.

26. A boy's stepfather is actually a murderous werewolf.

27. Something has turned the neighborhood pets into demonic killers.

28. A priest is a vampire.

29. A woman wakes up with no eyes.

30. A man wakes up with no mouth.

31. A monster is terrified by the scary child who lives above his bed.

32. An astronaut jettisoned into the cold of space in a mission gone wrong suddenly appears at the doorstep of his family.

33. A woman answers a phone call only to learn that the voice on the other end is her future self, warning her that a killer is looming.

34. A boy realizes that aliens have replaced his family.

35. A woman wakes up in an abandoned prison that she cannot escape.

36. A bank robber steals from the small town bank that holds the riches of witches.

37. A door-to-door salesman circa the 1950s visits the wrong house.

38. Deceased soldiers return to their Civil War-era homes.

39. Kidnappers abduct the child of a vampire.

40. An innocent circus clown discovers the dark history of the trade.

creative writing scary story examples

41. A homeless man is stalked by faceless beings.

42. A spelunker stumbles upon a series of caverns infested with rattlesnakes.

43. A group of friends is forced to venture through a chamber of horrors where only one is promised to survive.

44. He's not the man she thought he was. In fact, he's not a man at all.

45. Suburbia is actually purgatory.

46. Someone discovers that we are all actually robots — who created us and why?

47. She's not an angel. She's a demon.

48. An old shipwreck washes ashore.

49. A sinkhole swallows a house whole and unleashes something from beneath.

50. A man has sleep paralysis at the worst possible time.

51. A woman out hiking is caught in a bear trap as the sun begins to go down.

52. Naked figures with no faces stalk campers in the woods.

53. An astronaut is the sole survivor of a moon landing gone wrong — only to discover that the moon is infested with strange creatures.

54. A woman is wrongfully condemned to an insane asylum.

55. A mother's baby will not leave its womb and continues to grow and grow and grow while doctors try to cut it out but can't.

56. Friends on a road trip stumble upon a backcountry town whose residents all dress up as different types of clowns.

57. Tourists in Ireland retreat to an old castle when the country is taken over by greedy and vengeful leprechauns.

58. A boy on a farm makes a scarecrow that comes alive.

59. A figure dressed in an old, dirty Easter Bunny suit haunts the children of a town.

60. The abused animals of a zoo are unleashed and wreak havoc on a small town.

61. A deceased grandma's old doll collection comes alive.

creative writing scary story examples

62. Little Red Riding Hood was a vampire.

63. Somebody clones Hitler and raises him as a white supremacist.

64. A pumpkin patch comes alive — beings with heads of pumpkins and bodies of vines.

65. An endless swarm of killer bees wreaks havoc on the country.

66. Christ returns to Earth — at least that is who people thought he was.

67. A natural anomaly brings all of the country's spiders to a horrified town.

68. A woman finds old 16mm film from her childhood and sees that she had a sister — what happened to her?

69. Something ancient rises from an old pond.

70. A woman suddenly begins to wake up in somebody else's body every morning — each day ends with her being stocked and killed by the same murderer in black.

71. An Artificial Intelligence begins to communicate with a family online, only to terrorize them through their technology.

72. A family buys a cheap house only to discover that an old cemetery is their back yard.

73. Years after the zombie apocalypse subsides, survivors discover that the epidemic was caused by aliens that have appeared to lay claim to the planet.

74. A woman has memories of being abducted by aliens — but she soon learns that they weren't aliens. They were...

75. A boy has a tumor that slowly grows into a Siamese twin — the older they get, the more evil the twin becomes.

76. A cult that worships history's deadliest serial killers begins to kill by copying their methods.

77.  Stone gargoyles suddenly appear on the tops of buildings and houses of a small town.

78. A family on a boat trip stumbles upon an old pirate ship.

79. A winter snowstorm traps a family in an abandoned insane asylum.

80. A little girl comes down from upstairs and asks her parents, "Can you hear it breathing? I can."

creative writing scary story examples

81. A town is enveloped in unexplained darkness for weeks.

82. A jetliner flies high in the sky as Nuclear War breaks out below.

83. Children discover a deep, dark well in the woods — an old ladder leads down into it.

84. A child sleepwalks into their parent's room and whispers, "I'm sorry. The Devil told me to."

85. As a woman showers, a voice comes from the drain whispering, "I see you."

86. A child finds a crayon drawing of a strange family — it's inscribed with the words we live in your walls .

87. All of the cemetery's graves are now open, gaping holes — the dirt pushed out from underground.

88. A woman is watching a scary movie alone on Halloween night — someone, or something, keeps knocking at her door.

89. Someone is taking a bath as a hand from behind the shower curtain pushes their head into the water.

90. A farmer and his sons begin to hear the laughter of children coming from his fields at night — no children are in sight.

91. Someone looks out their window to see a clown standing at a corner holding a balloon — staring at them.

92. Mannequins in a department store seem to be moving on their own.

93. What if the God people worshiped was really Satan — and Satan had somehow kept God prisoner?

94. A man dies and wakes up in the body of a serial killer — and no matter how hard he tries to stop killing, he can't.

95. A prisoner awakens to find the prison empty — but he's locked in his cell.

96. A woman jogging stumbles upon a dead, bloody body — she then hears a strange clicking sound and looks up to see a dark figure running towards her.

97. A girl hears laughter downstairs — she's the only one home.

98. An Uber driver picks up the wrong person — and may not live to tell the tale.

99. There's someone or something living and moving up in the attic — but it's not a ghost.

100. A child's imaginary friend is not imaginary.

101. The reflections that we see of ourselves in the mirror are actually us in a parallel universe — and they are planning to do whatever it takes to take our place in this world.

creative writing scary story examples

Share this with your writing peers or anyone that loves a good scary story.

For some more scares, check out ScreenCraft's  20 Terrifying Two-Sentence Horror Stories and  8 Ways Horror Movies Scare the S*** Out of Audiences!

Sleep well and keep writing.

Once you're inspired, take your idea to the next level and  Develop Your Horror Movie Idea in 15 Days .

Ken Miyamoto has worked in the film industry for nearly two decades, most notably as a studio liaison for Sony Studios and then as a script reader and story analyst for Sony Pictures.

He has many studio meetings under his belt as a produced screenwriter, meeting with the likes of Sony, Dreamworks, Universal, Disney, Warner Brothers, as well as many production and management companies. He has had a previous development deal with Lionsgate, as well as multiple writing assignments, including the produced miniseries  Blackout , starring Anne Heche, Sean Patrick Flanery, Billy Zane, James Brolin, Haylie Duff, Brian Bloom, Eric La Salle, and Bruce Boxleitner. Follow Ken on Twitter  @KenMovies 

For all the latest ScreenCraft news and updates, follow us on  Twitter  and  Facebook !

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159+ Horror Story Prompts – Unleash Your Scary Stories

By: Author Paul Jenkins

Posted on Published: September 5, 2022  - Last updated: January 2, 2024

Categories Writing , Inspiration , Storytelling

Are you a horror enthusiast with a passion for writing? Well, you’ve come to the right place! In this article, we’ve put together 159 spine-chilling horror story prompts to help unleash your creativity and keep your readers on edge. Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned writer, our carefully curated prompts, sorted by genre, will turn your creative gears.

Dive into these prompts and start crafting your terrifying tale today! With our help, you’ll be able to engage and thrill your audience through captivating narratives and haunting horror elements.

Key Takeaways

  • Discover 159 creative writing prompts to inspire gripping horror stories
  • Experience prompts tailored for different sub-genres within the horror realm
  • Unleash your creativity and captivate readers with spine-chilling tales

25 General Horror Writing Prompts

Here are 25 intriguing horror writing prompts to spark your imagination:

Haunted Places

  • Your family moves into a new home, only to find out it’s haunted by the ghost of a previous occupant.
  • A group of teenagers dares each other to stay overnight in a haunted house.
  • Inheriting your deceased grandmother’s house, you find a haunted music box.
  • Your group of friends discovers their beach hotel is haunted during their vacation.
  • Settling into your new home, your family realizes they’re not alone.

Mysterious Encounters

  • You and your friends go camping in the woods, but a mysterious killer begins stalking you.
  • Alone at home, you hear strange noises coming from within the house.
  • While driving home from work, your car breaks down late at night in a dark, isolated area.
  • On Halloween night, a creepy child dressed in a clown outfit shows up at the door of your babysitting gig.
  • Investigating odd noises in your attic, you make a horrifying discovery.

Supernatural Experiences

  • You and your friends decide to play with an Ouija board, accidentally summoning a demonic presence.
  • Strange occurrences begin happening when you discover that your children have been playing with a voodoo doll.
  • Living alone, an elderly woman notices objects in her house mysteriously moving independently.
  • Following a car accident, you start having nightmares of your death.
  • You stumble upon disturbing rituals at an abandoned temple on a Mexican vacation.

Unsettling Situations

  • Waking up in a hospital, you have no memory of how you got there or what happened to you.
  • You find out that your identical twin sister has been locked away in an asylum and decide to switch places with her.
  • As layoffs loom at work, your colleagues start dying in mysterious accidents.
  • Trying on clothes in a dressing room, you realize you’re not the only one present.
  • Your regular poker game is disrupted when you realize one of your friends has been replaced by an impostor.

Survival and Escape

  • After being stranded on an island, your group of survivors becomes the prey of cannibals.
  • Returning from war, you discover sinister counterparts have taken the place of your family members.
  • Driven by financial desperation, you agree to participate in a dangerous medical experiment.
  • Performing maintenance on an old elevator, you find yourself trapped overnight with terrifying company.
  • You start receiving terrifying phone calls and strange gifts at your doorstep.

25 Horror Screenplay Ideas

Let these ideas spark your creativity as you dive into the eerie world of horror writing:

Curses and Transformations

  • Imagine a small town where a mysterious curse transforms townsfolk into animals under the cover of darkness.
  • Picture an evil witch transforming people into frogs, forcing them to race against time to break the spell.

Ghosts and Spirits

  • Picture a woman tormented by the spirit of her deceased sister, who relentlessly attempts to end her life.
  • Think of a family moving into their dream home only to discover it’s inhabited by vengeful ghosts.
  • Visualize a woman pursued by her abusive ex-lover returned from the afterlife.
  • Consider friends visiting a haunted house, unaware of the frightening spirits awaiting them inside.
  • A family moves into a new house, only to find they’re being watched by an unseen presence.

Demonic and Otherworldly Entities

  • Envision a group of friends camping in the woods, stalked and hunted by ravenous werewolves.
  • Contemplate a young girl possessed by a malevolent demon, striking terror and death in her community.
  • Ponder a man who gradually realizes his wife has been replaced by an extraterrestrial being.
  • Envision a mother’s fight to protect her children from a nightmarish creature hiding in their closet.
  • In the midst of an eclipse, vampires emerge to feast upon unsuspecting humans.
  • A detective uncovers a shocking truth: werewolves have committed a string of grisly murders.

Apocalyptic and Unnatural Threats

Zombies and the undead.

  • Imagine a zombie invasion during a couple’s Caribbean getaway.
  • A twisted scientist creates a serum that turns its victims into undead zombies and unleashes it on the world.
  • On Halloween night, the dead rise as zombies to roam the Earth.

Paranormal and Psychic Phenomena

  • A woman is tormented by sinister, phantom-like children.
  • People fall victim to demonic possession through everyday technology.
  • A man, subjected to cruel experiments, channels newfound psychic powers to exact revenge.

Terrifying Encounters and Survival

Haunting encounters.

  • Teenagers partying in a deserted warehouse get trapped, facing dire consequences.
  • Kids at summer camp discover the staff members are aliens with a sinister plan.
  • As teens roam through an abandoned asylum, they begin to vanish one by one.

Cultural and Exotic Horrors

  • An American family vacationing in Japan unwittingly stumbles upon paranormal Yakuza activity.

Wilderness and Isolation

  • While hiking in the mountains, a group of friends must find their way back before darkness falls.
  • A brave sibling must protect their younger sister during a home invasion.

Let these ideas guide you in crafting your own terrifying tales. Enjoy the spine-chilling writing process!

37 Science Fiction Horror Prompts

Immerse yourself in these spine-chilling science fiction horror scenarios:

Space Horrors

  • Envision a space expedition going horribly wrong when the crew realizes they’re not alone on their ship.
  • Consider a woman astronaut haunted by a ghost from her past that she thought she left behind.
  • Visualize a cursed alien object causing gruesome deaths to whoever touches it.
  • Picture people trapped in a deadly maze on a faraway exoplanet created by a lunatic.
  • Contemplate astronauts on a deep space mission finding a hidden creature aboard their ship.
  • Envision a woman waking from cryogenic sleep to find she’s the last person on earth.
  • Reflect on a woman realizing her perfect life is an illusion created by an AI brain implant.
  • Contemplate a family vacation in space ruined by an alien creature stalking them.
  • Envision a woman with someone else’s still-beating heart inside her chest after surgery.

Time and Dimensional Anomalies

  • Imagine friends using a time machine and ending up in a parallel universe where menacing creatures are hunting them.
  • Think about a girl with psychic abilities accidentally opening a portal, unleashing terror upon her town.
  • Imagine friends uncovering an evil alien entity behind strange disappearances near their hometown.
  • Think about scientists accidentally opening a door to another dimension while working on a top-secret project.
  • Imagine a man stuck in a deadly time loop, living the same day over and over.
  • Ponder women drawn to an alien after a strange invasion, but is it just a physical attraction or something more sinister?

Alien Invasions and Encounters

  • Ponder an alien invasion taking over a small town, leaving a group of teens to save the day.
  • Reflect on a virus turning humans into zombies, with survivors fighting for their lives in a world of ruin.
  • Ponder a student’s terrifying hallucinations of an alien invasion caused by mysterious pills.
  • Consider mysterious disappearances in a town, with aliens as a possible culprit.
  • Picture an alien invasion forcing humanity underground, and someone venturing back to the surface only to find something far more horrifying.
  • Envision a distant future where humanity is at war with an advanced alien species, changing the course of human evolution .
  • Imagine a silent spacecraft appearing over a city, its intent unknown, sparking fear and fascination worldwide.

Futuristic Dystopias

  • Think about a mad scientist experimenting on people to create the perfect human.
  • Visualize an eclipse leaving everyone blind, except for one person.
  • Picture a future with a hive mind connecting everyone, and a woman hearing voices that aren’t her own.
  • Ponder a dark secret hidden by corporations ruling a world without democracy.
  • Consider an environmental disaster forcing humanity to live in a dome city ruled by a tyrannical government.
  • Visualize a world with cloning, and a woman realizing her identity isn’t what she thought.
  • Reflect on a small town terrorized by a killer who’s not quite human.
  • Contemplate scientists resurrecting extinct animals, only to create something far more dangerous instead.
  • Reflect on a man who suspects he may have started a zombie outbreak after a suspicious virus appears.

Psychological and Supernatural Terrors

  • Envision a boy discovering a mysterious door in the forest that takes him to an unwelcoming world.
  • Contemplate a girl who starts seeing unseen creatures after making a wish on a shooting star.
  • Consider a world controlled by AI, where a man starts to question his own memories.
  • Visualize a woman haunted by nightmares that turn out to be real, discovering she’s not the only one suffering from them.
  • Imagine a woman exploring lucid dreaming, later realizing she’s not the only one inside her mind.
  • Think about friends playing an augmented reality game with deadly stakes against a mysterious opponent.

27 Halloween Night Horror Prompts

As you delve into the world of horror writing, set the stage by using these chilling Halloween night prompts to unleash your creativity. Remember, on Halloween, the barrier between worlds becomes thin, so embrace the eerie occurrences that lurk in the shadows.

Haunted and Cursed Locations

  • Picture yourself and your friends gathered around a bonfire, sharing ghost stories. As one tells a tale about a cursed house nearby, you suddenly realize you’re standing in front of that very house.
  • A dare leads a group of teenagers to spend Halloween night in a haunted graveyard, only to discover they are not the only ones there.
  • Exploring an abandoned mental asylum with friends on Halloween, you hear strange noises coming from a cell.
  • After moving into a new home, paranormal happenings plague your family’s first Halloween.
  • An unexplainable force draws you to an abandoned house on Halloween night.
  • Curious teens follow your town’s haunted history, only to realize they are being watched by an evil presence.

Terrifying Encounters

  • A quiet Halloween night spent home alone becomes terrifying when you hear someone break in. As you hide under the bed, the intruder is already in the room with you.
  • Walking home from work, you notice a man following you. Your pace quickens, but so does his – and he’s always right behind you.
  • Trick-or-treating with friends, you encounter a seemingly abandoned house with its lights on and voices inside.
  • Playing basketball alone on Halloween, a mysterious clown approaches you on the street.
  • A chilling phone call from an unknown number threatens you on Halloween night.
  • Taking an alley shortcut, you notice something odd in a dumpster.
  • Babysitting on Halloween, unexplainable events occur while you’re alone with the children.
  • As you trick-or-treat, a masked man follows your every step.
  • Lying in bed, the slow approach of footsteps up the stairs on Halloween night fills you with dread.
  • A power outage causes uneasy knocking on apartment doors during Halloween night.

Supernatural and Mysterious Events

  • Driving home from a Halloween party, your family hits a deer on the road – except it’s more than just an ordinary deer.
  • Babysitting on Halloween night, the power goes out and you hear strange noises coming from upstairs.
  • Cleaning up after a party, you discover a hidden door in your basement that leads into darkness.
  • A remote cabin trip with friends for Halloween quickly becomes a nightmare with no connection to the outside world.
  • Discovering an old box in the attic, the contents send shivers down your spine.
  • Finding an ancient book on Halloween, a young boy unknowingly releases malevolent forces.
  • Desiring adventure, a group of teens leaves a Halloween party to stumble upon a forbidden place.
  • On Halloween, a haunting text message arrives from an unknown sender during a midnight horror movie.
  • First Halloween in a new home, you begin to realize your family isn’t alone.
  • As you set up for a Halloween party, lurking shadows indicate you are being watched by something malevolent.

These prompts will help you explore the spine-chilling world of horror stories, invoking spine-chilling fright and fueling your writing on Halloween night.

18 Haunted House Horror Prompts

Imagine your protagonist moving into a new home, only to find that their sanctuary is disrupted by paranormal forces. These 18 haunted house horror prompts will craft a chilling tale to keep your readers on edge.

Ghostly Encounters

  • Unwelcome Occupant : You and your family move into a new home, only to realize it’s haunted by a former resident.
  • Spiteful Spirit : A haunted fixer-upper reveals the vengeful ghost of a former owner.
  • Malicious Phantom : Your family moves in, only to find a malevolent spirit already residing in the house.
  • Ghostly Messenger : A tormented girl receives cryptic messages from a ghost.
  • Terrifying Twins : Expecting twins, you worry that one is possessed by a demon.
  • Mother’s Nightmare : Strange scratches on your daughter’s body make you think she’s possessed by a demonic entity.
  • Haunted Marriage : Your relationship is tested when your new home turns out to be haunted.
  • Ghostly Visions : After moving into a new home, you suddenly gain the ability to see spirits.
  • Unexpected Roommate : Moving into your first house together, you and your partner quickly realize something unseen shares the living space.

Demonic and Supernatural Threats

  • Nightmare Hauntings : A mysterious figure tormenting your dreams puts your family in danger.
  • Demonic Husband : Strange symbols in your home make you suspect demonic possession of your spouse.
  • Portal to Darkness : Your new home connects to a demonic realm through a mysterious entrance.
  • Dark Communication : Your son starts speaking in tongues and behaving strangely, making you think he’s talking to demons.

Mysteries and Dark Secrets

  • Deadly Dare : Friends stay overnight in a haunted house for a dare, only to discover the danger is real.
  • Dark Secret : Unbeknownst to them, your family moves into a house with a history of brutal murders by the owner’s son.
  • Mirror Menace : Suspicion of your husband’s infidelity grows as you notice another woman’s reflection in the mirrors.
  • Eerie Sounds : Unusual noises emanate from your home’s attic.
  • Hidden Horrors : You find remnants of a gruesome past concealed in your new home’s walls.

These prompts will help you explore the haunted house setting through various eerie scenarios, involving ghosts, demons, and chilling discoveries—all in a friendly, second-person point of view. Dive into your story, harness the fear, and captivate your audience with these spine-tingling ideas.

17 Paranormal Activity Horror Prompts

Haunting and possessions.

  • Consider a woman haunted by a ghost that desperately needs to communicate something important.
  • Think about a woman discovering her son is possessed by an evil demon.
  • A family moves into a new house already inhabited by ghosts seeking company.
  • Your mother becomes possessed by an evil spirit, endangering everyone in her life.
  • An exorcism goes haywire, unleashing a horde of demons into the world.
  • A family is visited by the ghost of their young child, who tragically passed away.

Dark Forces and Evil Entities

  • A woman discovers her supernatural abilities and uses them to stop a force of darkness from enveloping the world.
  • An evil witch curses a village, turning all its inhabitants into various animals overnight.
  • Two young girls learn they possess witchcraft powers and must stand against a wicked sorcerer.
  • Unfriendly angels begin to descend from heaven with ominous intentions.
  • The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse ride into your town, bringing death, destruction, and chaos.

Mysterious and Deadly Threats

  • Imagine you and your friends go camping and find yourselves hunted by a mysterious and possibly non-human creature.
  • A group of friends is stalked by a killer who knows their darkest secrets and deepest fears.
  • A psychic girl foresees her own death but is powerless to stop it, adding to her fear.
  • People begin to inexplicably and spontaneously combust around you, with no discernible cause.
  • A rampant wave of demonic possessions starts affecting your community, turning loved ones against each other.

Unexplained and Terrifying Events

  • A family vacationing in a secluded cabin starts to encounter unexplainable events.

10 Plot Twists for Horror Stories

Ready to take your horror stories to the next level? Here are 10 plot twists that can add a frightfully unexpected twist to your sinister tales.

  • Unending nightmare : Your protagonist wakes up and realizes they’re caught in a never-ending bad dream.
  • Hidden family secrets : Your protagonist’s nemesis turns out to be their long-lost twin sibling.
  • Extraterrestrial encounters : The menacing creature is actually an alien from another world.
  • Ghosts with a purpose : The spirits haunting your protagonist are time-travelers from the future , trying to avert a catastrophe.
  • Reincarnated nemesis : Your protagonist discovers they are the reincarnation of the villain they despise.
  • Psychic revelations : Your protagonist realizes they have psychic powers and have been experiencing visions of future atrocities.
  • Supernatural portal : The seemingly ordinary small town setting is actually a gateway to the underworld.
  • Demonic doll : The murderer is an evil doll that springs to life under the cover of darkness.
  • Purgatory prisoner : Your protagonist has been dead all along and is trapped in purgatory.
  • Reader revelation : In the end, the reader realizes they are the true culprit in the story.

Sprinkle these plot twists into your horror writings to frighten your readers, weaving magic and torture into your stories for unforgettable moments of terror.

The Structure of a Great Horror Story

The attention-grabber.

A compelling horror story begins with an element that captivates the reader’s interest. This initial intrigue should evoke fear without giving away too many details. Your goal is to entice the reader to continue.

The Tension Builder

Having captured the reader’s interest, building suspense through eerie descriptions and tension-filled narratives is essential. Keep details vague to maintain an air of mystery , allowing the reader’s imagination to run wild.

The Chilling Moment

At some point, you ought to deliver an unforgettable scare. This is when your tension-building pays off. The chilling moment should be surprising yet consistent with the story’s context. An out-of-context scare might feel contrived and undermine its impact.

The Unraveling

Finally, it’s time to bring the story towards its conclusion. Provide some clarity while leaving a hint of ambiguity. This keeps the reader on edge even after they’ve finished reading.

Keep these guidelines in mind, and you’ll be well-equipped to craft an enthralling horror story. Focus on maintaining mystery, building suspense, and striking at the perfect moment. Happy writing!

The Potential Weakness of a Horror Story

As a writer, you want your horror story to be frightening enough to captivate your readers and not so horrifying that it repels them. To find the ideal balance, it’s crucial to know who your audience is and what scares them.

Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all formula when it comes to fear. Different people are frightened by different things. Horror elements such as blood and gore aren’t always the most effective; sometimes, stories that tap into our deepest fears are more terrifying. For instance, a story about a mother losing her child in a store could evoke more dread than one involving a murderous monster.

One major challenge of crafting a compelling horror story is avoiding predictability. To keep your readers engaged, consider subverting their expectations and taking your story in surprising directions. This approach not only keeps them guessing but also maintains suspense throughout.

In the world of horror, striking a balance between being too scary and not scary enough is critical. By understanding your audience and exploring their fears, you can tailor your story accordingly. Ensuring unpredictability and capitalizing on deeply-rooted fears can significantly help elevate your story. Following these guidelines, you’ll be on the right track to create a chilling horror tale that leaves your audience suitably spooked.

What Are Common Horror Writing Themes

The world beyond our understanding.

A classic horror theme involves supernatural elements. This could mean ghosts, vampires, witches, zombies, or other beings that evoke fear. Incorporating the supernatural into your story can create spine-chilling moments for your readers to enjoy.

Menace Behind The Mask

Serial killers attract attention in horror stories as well. These characters often suffer from mental illness, making them unpredictable and frightening. By targeting specific victims, these killers bring a sense of personal dread for readers. Consider having a serial killer as your story’s main antagonist if you want to delve into gruesome aspects of human nature.

Alone in The Dark

Isolation is a powerful theme in horror, as it allows fear to fester and grow. When characters find themselves cut off from society, voluntary or not, situations can spiral out of control quickly. To increase tension in your story, have your characters confront their nightmares in isolation.

The End of The World

Apocalyptic scenarios are yet another classic horror staple. These can involve a zombie outbreak, an environmental catastrophe, or any other event that brings society to its knees. If your goal is to craft a harrowing story, consider setting it during or after a cataclysmic event.

Terror in Our Flesh

Body horror focuses on grotesque mutations, excessive gore, and horrifying physical changes. Although graphic in nature, body horror can also incorporate scares and suspense. For a blood-curdling tale, experiment with body horror elements.

Incorporating aspects such as population growth, psychological horror, and terrifying clowns can add an extra layer to these themes. Remember, whether you choose one of these themes or create something entirely original, the most crucial aspect is writing a story that piques your interest while keeping a friendly tone and maintaining a second-person point of view.

What Makes a Character Terrifying

Understanding their desires.

Firstly, it’s important to determine what your character wants. Their goals should be sinister and harmful to others. Whether it’s a simple desire to inflict pain or a complex plan to conquer the world, ensure that their intentions send shivers down your readers’ spines.

The Extent of Their Actions

Next, consider the lengths your character is willing to go to achieve their goals. Are they prepared to kill, torture, or maim? The more gruesome and ruthless their methods, the more terrified your readers will become. Looking at classic horror villains like Freddy Krueger or Michael Myers, you can see that their lack of mercy in inflicting pain on others is what makes them so scary.

  • Victims : The types of victims your character targets can also add to their degree of terror. For example, do they prey on innocent people or focus on those with specific traits?
  • Best friend : If your character has a best friend or close ally, explore how their relationship influences their actions and motivations. Consider how this bond can add depth or twists to the story and enhance the frightening aspects of your character.

Uncovering Their Motivations

After identifying your character’s sinister objectives and the extreme methods they’re willing to employ, seek to understand the reasons behind their desires. Was their drive initiated by a past tragedy or the concealment of a dark secret? By comprehending their motives, you can create a truly believable and terrifying character.

In conclusion, a well-rounded and multi-dimensional character with malevolent motives can truly strike fear into the hearts of readers. Utilize these suggestions to craft a spine-chilling horror story, making sure to let your creativity and imagination run free.

Fate and Coincidence in Horror Story Writing

In your journey as a horror writer, you might realize that blending fate and coincidence plays a crucial role in making your stories spine-chilling. When characters face continuous misfortune, readers can’t help but feel a sense of dread. So, how can you make the coincidences in your story plausible and avoid making them seem forced? Here are a few tips to help you seamlessly integrate fate and coincidence into your tale.

Firstly, remember that not all coincidences need an explanation. Sometimes, leaving them unexplained is better. A neatly knit story where everything is explicitly connected can feel contrived and unbelievable. Embracing mystery can add suspense to your spine-tingling narrative.

However, avoid certain coincidences altogether to maintain reader engagement. For instance, if two unrelated characters coincidentally meet on the street or a character discovers vital information purely by chance instead of through their efforts, it may seem unconvincing or like cheating.

To ensure that every event has a purpose and avoid contrived coincidences, ask yourself why a specific incident is happening and how it will impact the characters and plot. If you can’t find a satisfactory answer, consider reevaluating that scene.

By heeding these tips, you can make coincidences believable and enhance suspense instead of diminishing it. Strive to maintain an air of mystery while ensuring that each event serves its purpose. With a little effort, you can craft spine-tingling horror stories that will leave your readers captivated and wanting more.

Entangled love in horror

In the realm of horror films, the inclusion of love as a central theme can create a compelling contrast that heightens the emotional stakes of a story.

This juxtaposition of love in a horror story often deepens the reader’s connection to the main characters and makes their journey through fear and horror even more poignant.

Whether it’s a psychological thriller in which the protagonist must save a loved one from strange and evil forces or a supernatural horror in which love is the only solace in a world of darkness, the element of love adds a unique dimension to scary story ideas.

Love can be the driving force that pushes characters to face their deepest fears, resulting in an unforgettable and impactful horror story.

When horror writers weave these threads together, they create not just good horror stories but narratives that resonate on a deeply human level, combining the thrill of fear with the warmth of love.

Choose a Catchy Title

If you’ve gathered a wealth of story ideas and are ready to bring your spooky tale to life, the next crucial step is finding the perfect title to capture the essence of your story.

We invite you to explore our specially crafted guide at Brilliantio’s Horror Story Titles , where you’ll discover 34 unique ideas on how to name your horror story effectively.

This resource is designed to help you brainstorm and select a title that not only intrigues your readers but also gives a glimpse of the chilling adventure they’re about to embark upon.

A compelling title can make all the difference in drawing readers into the world you’ve created, so be sure to take advantage of this valuable tool in your storytelling journey.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can i start writing a frightening tale.

  • Choose a setting: a haunted house, a creepy forest, or an old mansion.
  • Develop your main character(s): give them a strong backstory, fears, and strengths.
  • Identify the source of horror: a ghost, a monster, or a mysterious villain.
  • Create tension and suspense: use descriptive language to keep readers on edge.

What elements create an excellent creepy romance?

  • Dark and alluring atmosphere: gothic, mysterious, and eerie.
  • Forbidden love: star-crossed lovers or love triangles.
  • A menacing or supernatural element: a vampire, ghost, or werewolf.
  • High emotional stakes: danger, betrayal, lost love.

Are there short horror movie ideas suitable for students?

  • A cursed object: an old book, a painting, or a music box.
  • A hidden secret: a forbidden room or an undiscovered basement.
  • A group of friends’ ghost hunting expedition turns dire.
  • Attending a party unaware of the host’s sinister intentions.

How should I approach writing a 500-word scary story?

  • Focus on one main event, setting, or character.
  • Utilize a simple and compelling plot.
  • Use concise descriptions to create an eerie atmosphere.
  • Leave readers wanting more with a twist ending.

What intriguing concepts can I use for body horror?

  • Transformation: becoming a monster or a grotesque creature.
  • Disfigurement: a character waking up with altered physical features.
  • Parasitic takeover: the protagonist’s body gradually taken over.
  • Cloning or doppelgangers: exploring dark counterparts.

How can I make my chilling tale stand out?

  • Subvert clichés : twist typical horror tropes to surprise readers.
  • Focus on psychological terror : dive deeper into characters’ minds.
  • Blend genres : combine horror with mystery, romance, or sci-fi.
  • Incorporate folklore or legends : introduce lesser-known myths or legends.
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101 Scary Horror Story Ideas and Writing Prompts

Writing Prompts |

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One of the main goals I have with this site is to remove potential barriers for writers and self-publishing authors. Sometimes those writing barriers come in the form of inspiration or lack thereof,  so I decided to create a series of posts with genre-specific writing prompt s.

In this article, I will share 101 Horror Story Ideas and Writing Prompts that you are free to use as inspiration for your next project.

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I’ve always been someone who suffered from lots of ideas and less than stellar follow-through, but I know there are some authors out there where all they need is a bit of inspiration and they are going to run with and create something great.  So that’s my hope, that some of you will read these horror story ideas and get inspired to flush them out and create a terrifying story that has the potential to scare millions in the future.

creative writing scary story examples

Some people might question putting your story ideas out there for others to use, but the truth is there is no shortage of ideas out there. On top of that, if we were all given the same horror writing prompt and asked to create a story from it, not one story would be the same. We all have different skill levels, approaches, writing styles, and imagination. I know many of you can create these ideas into something better than I ever could.

creative writing scary story examples

Story ideas are great, and they can capture our imaginations and propel us to start and finish a project when they fully consume us. However, the execution of completing that story is where the real magic happens.

So don’t be afraid to explore any of these horror writing prompts for fear that they are public and could potentially be used by other writers.  If one story idea grabs you, sit on it, let it ruminate in your mind, flush it out, tweak it, make it your own. If you go through that creative process and are still excited about it, then move onto the outlining phase, where you will truly bring these ideas to life in your own image.

I also want to give a quick warning, these writing prompts and horror story themes are meant for adults, so allowing your children to read them, is up to your discretion.

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So let’s get into it- 101 Horror Story ideas, segmented loosely by their type of horror subgenre.

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Ghost, Supernatural, & Demon Horror Story Ideas and Writing Prompts

creative writing scary story examples

In this section, you will find one of the most common types of horror story, those dealing with ghost stories, the supernatural, or demons. I hope you enjoy these ghost horror story writing prompts and they inspire you to write something crazy scary. Want Some Inspiration- Check Out The Latest Ghost Best Sellers on Amazon

1. A freelance photographer is in Brazil for Carnivale. When he checks into his economy rental his health inexplicably begins to go downhill very fast. The cause lies with the spirits of visitors past. 

2. Foster parents take custody of a newborn, but when they open up their home to the baby a dark force takes over the house that threatens them all. 

creative writing scary story examples

3. An archeologist studying Aztec Ruins in Mexico starts to have visions of ancient atrocities. They become ever more real and dangerous when they start to repeat themselves all around him.

4. A cemetery groundskeeper’s run-in with a mysterious woman unlocks an ability to see the future, the trouble is everything he sees entails the death of his loved ones. 

5.  A priest struggles to reconcile science and his faith, the trouble is as he gets closer and closer to leaving the church, the darker events get around him. 

6. A family moves into an abandoned ranch that hasn’t been lived in for years. As they get settled their animals begin to get sick and die. What they don’t realize is that once all the animals are gone, they are next. 

7. A man inherits a European chateau from a rich relative he never knew existed. When he and his wife get there it quickly becomes evident something in this house never intends to let them leave. 

8. A real estate developer purchases a defunct insane asylum.   But everyone that enters the new bed and breakfast begins to go mad, prompting the question was it the people who brought madness to Trumbull House or vice versa. 

9. A young woman is dragged to a medium as part of a bachelor party. During the reading, the medium warns the women of impending doom right before she dies. 

10. A plantation owner known for the brutality with which he treated his slaves beats a young man to death after catching him with his daughter. The slave’s spirit returns seeking revenge on the man and reunion with his lost love. 

11. A young girl walks into her parent’s room one-morning without saying a word looking distant, calm, and pale. Finally, matter-of-factly she speaks, “We should make the most of today because it’s our last.”

12. A young couple begins to wake up every night, at the witching hour, starting on the 1 year anniversary of their child’s death. 

13. Teenagers go deep into the woods for a weekend of drinking and debauchery on an ancient Indian burial ground. One by One they disappear. 

14. An undercover police officer is tasked with infiltrating a fringe demonic cult suspected of kidnapping a child. As he lives among them he participates in rituals that are meant to bring about tragic events. Suddenly he realizes they’re actually happening to friends and family in the town. 

creative writing scary story examples

15. A born-again Christian evangelical in New Orleans try to fight remaining voodoo fringe cultural elements.  When he finds voodoo dolls representing everyone in the town strung up, he abruptly cuts them down, which sets off a series of tragic disappearances. 

16. A group of teens decides to spend the weekend at the site of a haunted urban legend. During their visit, they begin to realize the legend actually describes the exact events of their weekend blurring truth & legend. 

Slasher Story Ideas and Writing Prompts

Everyone loves a good slasher movie, they are hard to pull off well, but when you do you have the makings of a cult hit. In this section, we will look at a few new story ideas involving slasher horror story writing prompts.

17. Plane crash survivors must live in the wilderness until they are rescued. As they set up camp one of them is found murdered. They know someone amongst them is a killer, now they have to survive while being hunted from within the group. 

18. Three friends wake up trapped in a room. An unidentified voice informs them that he has each of their spouses captive. He informs them they have 24 hours to decide who lives or dies, the trick is the last alive will be granted freedom along with their spouse. 

19. Strangers are sent separate job offers from a small town company. When they relocate to the town, they quickly find out that a murderer is picking them off one by one. 

20. He’s a surgeon who saves lives by day and a serial killer that brutally takes them by night. 

21. Campers get snowed into their cabin during a bad storm. Now they are being hunted by the only other person on the mountain. 

22. A spring break trip to Cancun turns deadly for a group of tourists as a rash of murders hit the resort. 

23. A mysterious stranger appears and offers a down on their luck musician anything they desire. They can enjoy this life of riches and fortune with one catch, at every concert one person in the audience will die. 

24. An RV park near Yosemite becomes the latest killing site of a national serial killer on the loose, but escaping isn’t as easy as driving away. 

25. A rash of abductions and murders take a small town hostage when moms from the local school start to disappear and turn up brutally mutilated. 

26. A schizophrenic killer fights the voices in his head, but the only way he can temporarily quiet them is to continue to sacrifice the innocents selected by those very same voices. 

27. A pre-teen child struggles with sociopathic tendencies and through her counseling, the child begins to accept her behavior isn’t normal, the trouble is this causes her to fully embrace her sadistic behavior. 

28.  A downtrodden homeless man who lost everything during the financial crises snaps and decides to he has nothing to lose so he will rain furry on wall street himself.

29. A disturbed man enthralled with the horrific scientific experiments conducted by Nazi doctors decides he is going to advance the science and complete the work his deranged idols started.  

30. A woman’s child was kidnapped and murdered and the loss was too much for her to come back from mentally. She is now determined to dole the same pain she felt on the other families. 

Scary Horror Story Ideas With a Twist

Horror stories can be widely entertaining without some kind of clever twist. But if you can pull off a spine-tingling horror story with a twist at the end that no reader saw coming, then you have a scary story that will get fans talking, which means a viral sales potential for your horror novel.

31. A woman wakes up from her coma in a strange dilapidated hospital after an accident she can’t remember. But in this hospital, the patients never seem to get better. The twist is that everyone in the hospital is already dead.

32. A small town sheriff tries to solve a series of murders before the killer takes his next victim, but the killer is always one step ahead. The Twist is that the sheriff and killer are one in the same. 

33. A 1940’s psychiatric hospital performs experiments on the clinically insane. A young doctor takes umbrage at how the patients are being treated. She tries to find a way to take down the hospital and free the patients but her concerns go ignored. The twist is that the doctors are former patients that have long taken control of the hospital. 

34. A vigilante killer determined to take the law into his own hands by killing society’s Degenerates. There is one thing that nobody knows, he framed each of his victims to watch their lives coming crashing down before ending them. 

35. A father and his family are on the run being hunted by a drug cartel. They go off the grid and try to sneak out of the country. One by one they get separated from the group and then disappear for good. The twist is the father is the one killing them as they are the only witnesses to his crimes. 

36. A woman travels to Haiti on a religious mission after being invited by a growing sect of Christians in the country that is trying to spread Christianity. As she there the missionary group realizes the dark forces in the village are very strong and have no plans of giving up there hold on the people. The twist is that the people who invited them to the town did so as part of a project to eradicate Christianity person by person and not to convert. 

37. An environmental group is called into a small town to investigate environmental pollution in the water. As they begin their search members of the team get murdered. The horror plot twist is that the group isn’t being murdered by some corporate hired evildoers, in fact, the pollution in the water isn’t man-made at all, but a supernatural force that requires sacrifices to keep from wiping out the town. The environmental group of sacrifices offered by the townspeople. 

38. A wife and her children begin to hear and experience weird occurrences in their home. The threats become more and more dangerous, and the mother struggles to keep her sanity and children safe. The plot twist in this horror writing prompt is that everything the mother is experiencing is a hoax meant to have her diagnosed as clinically insane so the husband could have custody of the children and all the money in a planned divorce. 

39. Alien life forms come to earth creating mass hysteria.  The large ships hover over random cities around the globe. Humanity tries to make contact with the ships but they aren’t able to. The only thing that can be heard is a high pitched frequency that seems to be jamming communications on earth.  Humanity turns on itself, unleashing it’s worst on each other. The plot twist is that the ships were autonomous vehicles sent to earth to form a shield around the planet for an incoming meter strike that would have ended humanity. 

40.  A person is kidnapped and wakes up in a foreign town where each of the captives is hunted for sport. They must try to figure a way out before they are captured and killed. The plot twist in this horror story is that the people were actually never captured, just put into a VR simulation by the government to test the limits of peoples ability to deal with stress. 

41. A big city family moves to a backwoods town due to career relocation. When they get to the town it becomes clear that something is very off with townspeople.  Eventually, they figure out that the job offer was a hoax, and the town needed to call them there to harvest new DNA and organs for their population that experienced health issues due to a limited gene pool.  

Monster Writing Prompts & Horror Story Ideas

This group of horror story ideas and writing prompts will focus on Monster driven story plots. You will a different type of monster in each one, so I hope it helps get the creative juices flowing.

42. A military base closes down, leaving the remnants of a small town behind. When a group of children wanders onto the base they discover something still seems to be living in the underground tunnels.

43. Hikers discover an abandoned mine that seems to go on forever. As they descend into the mine they realize they’ve crossed through a portal to an alternate dimension filled with creatures they could have never imagined. 

44. Animals and children start to disappear near a Florida swamp, the small group of townspeople enters the swamp to hunt alligators they suspect are causing the issue. What they find is hiding in the green mist is far more dangerous than any alligator. 

45. A group of Dungeons and Dragons players invites a new student to join the group. He is considered off and weird by most of the school but to the D&D group, he fits right in. When he becomes the new game master something unexplainable happens, the monsters and happenings in the game begin to appear and occur in real life. 

46. Biologists in the rainforest of central America are looking for a rare plant said to have cancer-fighting properties. The trip turns dark when it is clear that these woods are also home to a packed with a wild pack of Chupacabras. Now they must figure out what is hunting them and how to survive. 

47. An online streaming video star and crew which focuses on debunking urban legends and ghost stories go deep into the pine barons of New Jersey to debunk the New Jersey Devil myth. The only trouble is there is more truth to this myth then they ever expected. (This one is a shout out to New Jersey, there really is more to this state than the turnpike and the Jersey Shore, but I digress) 

48. Three young devil worshippers are determined to make contact with the hell.  But in trying to make contact with the devil, they unleash the mythical 3 headed Cerberus onto earth. 

49. An Incubus is unleashed inside a maximum security female prison. Preying on the inmates while they sleep, trying to impregnate to unleash a band of demonic babies onto earth. 

50. Taking a trip of a lifetime, a family travels to Africa for a safari. Wanting the most authentic trip possible they decide to go it alone but when their camp is attacked by a fabled Nandi Bear they will need every inch of guile to survive. 

51. A young team of Crab fisherman leave for their long crabbing season in the artic but on their journey, they encounter far more than they expected. Their ship has apparently been spotted by what one can only describe as a Cracken like creature. 

52. A small town has a rash of new illnesses come over the town’s children. The diseases can’t be explained by physicians and threaten the lives of the entire town. A small group of teens is the only children unaffected. They search for a reason and find that the cause is actually the mythical Greek disease demon Aerico.  Want Some Inspiration- Check Out The Latest Vampire Best Sellers on Amazon

Alien Story Ideas and Writing Prompts 

In this section of our horror story writing prompts, we will focus on horror stories driven by Alien creatures and plot lines. Enjoy these Alien focused Writing Prompts.

53. A horrible fog rolls in over a town, it will not dissipate. The townspeople aren’t allowed to leave when the rest of the country realizes any person that relocates from that town subjects their town to the same fate.  The trouble is all the crops are dying, no one is allowed to enter or leave the town and the everytime someone disappears the fog gets a bit wider in diameter.

53. All the wildlife starts to die as weird weather patterns begin to occur. While this is going on new crop circles are starting to appear across the globe. Scientists point to climate change, but soon it becomes clear that the changing climate is due to Alien locust-type creatures that have tagged earth as their next stop. 

54. A select group of people on the planet gain telekinetic powers. The new power is hailed as the next giant leap in human evolution. However, these new powers are actually being dictated by an alien super race that plans on using these human puppets to enslave civilization. 

55. Seismic events occur around the globe in the deepest parts of the ocean. The world braces for the aftermath from the series of earthquakes, but in reality, it isn’t earthquakes at all, but an ancient alien civilization that has laid dormant in the earth’s crust that is rising up to complete its mission. 

56. A series of unresolved missing person cases that have been opened for years around the United States are suddenly closed when the missing people reappear. Something has changed with these people but no one quite knows what it is. These are not the same people they were when they disappeared. They were alien abductees and now being sent back to earth to carry out their alien captures plans. 

57. A small green gelatinous creature is found by a group of friends in the nearby swamp. They take the creature home as a secret pet. Within days the creature reveals itself for what it is a carnivorous alien set on feeding and multiplying. 

58. A spaceship crashes into the desert. A group of people finds it and when they open it they are quickly trapped inside as the craft takes off. This is one of the multiple ships that crash landed. As the military studies them, aliens study the captives to find the easiest way to terminate the species. 

59. A fleet of Alien ships come to planet earth. They speak perfect English and explain they are there to share technology and come in peace. However, the truth is they intend on harvesting and using the human race as carbon batteries. 

60. One Alien child is found on the planet. Competing factions argue on what the course of action should be with her. Some want to invite her in and learn from her, others want to do experiments on her. As the planet tries to figure out just what course of action to take, the rest of the Alien species watches on, as the child was an Alien tester. Depending on how the humans treat her, will determine whether or not the aliens in search of a new planet come to live amongst us or simply exterminate us and take the planet for themselves. 

61. Unexplained shadows in the sky engulf entire cities. As the occurrence continues to happen humanity becomes more and more frantic. Now the question is can the human race overcome the Alien psychological warfare and prepare for the real threat. 

62. A group of townspeople begins to turn on each other in horrible ways. The first occurrence is cast aside as someone simply having a mental break down. However, when the occurrences spread, it becomes evident that something has come over the people of this once peaceful town.  The cause is an Alien mental manipulation that embeds horrific visions into the people of the town of atrocities being committed by their own neighbors, friends, and family. 

Zombie Horror Story Ideas and Writing Prompts  

No list of horror or scary story writing ideas would be complete without having some Zombies thrown in, so in this section, we will focus on Zombie driven horror stories.

63. A zombie plague takes over the world, but the most dangerous part of this plague is that the virus lays dormant for up to 6 months before a person changes. So now you are living amongst the confirmed zombies and possibly soon to be zombies that can change instantaneously without warning. 

64. The zombie apocalypse happened years ago, but a cure is finally available. Now to bring your loved ones back you must catch them and bring them to the government determent camp for treatment. A small town pastor sets out to lead a group in his town through the red zone to find their loved ones. 

65. The zombie apocalypse is in full swing, however, these undead creatures are mating with wildlife getting exponentially faster and stronger. Survival is the name of the game for this group of roaming survivors. 

66. The zombie virus has taken out most of civilization, the remaining survivors are lucky to take it one day at a time. A select group of survivors has a genetic mutation that makes them impervious to the virus. However, they have to be concerned with not only the flesh-eating zombies but survivors hunting them for their blood. 

67. What if the zombie virus had two paths it could take, one was to turn you into a member of the brainless undead destined to roam the world for eternity and the other was making you impervious to disease and death. The trick it the only way to know which way your body will take the mutation is to get bit. 

68. There is one religious camp left in the world that the zombie plague has not yet infested. The trick is it’s on the other side of the country and a group of survivors needs to make its way there for hopes of survival, but in the meantime, it has to survive the journey. 

69. In a twisted post, apocalyptic world zombies have been enslaved as pets to mock and torture. What happens when the notoriously dumb undead begins to think and figure a way out. 

70.  A man’s family has been compromised by the zombie plague, the government has strict rules that when anyone is infected they must be turned in for extermination immediately. The man must now hide his family while trying to get his hands on the rumored cure. 

71. A zombie virus infects the U.S. Military, however, these zombies are intelligent and thus weaponized. Now society must band together to defeat them. 

Writing Prompts & Horror Story Ideas with Dolls

Sometimes the scariest stories come from some of the most realistic prompts. We have all seen an entirely too creepy doll in our day, one of those that you just don’t want to look at let alone hold. Well in this section we will visit horror story writing prompts with dolls.

72. A young child inherits an attic full of her grandmother’s creepy old dolls. The child is fully engrossed by her new imaginary friends, but as bad things start to happen around the house it becomes evident that these dolls are more than inanimate toys. 

73. An old religious woman buys an old doll at a flea market. When strange things begin to happen to the religious artifacts in the home it becomes clear that this is no ordinary doll. 

74. A group of Voodoo dolls has an animation curse placed on them that causes them to seek out and kill their real-life counterparts. 

75. A hospital gift shop doll is possessed, causing it to comes alive every night and hunt patients in the pediatric ward. 

76. A next generation sex doll equipped with Artificial intelligence seeks revenge on the men that abuse her. 

77.  There is something extra scary about this dolls dead eyes when you look into them your darkest subconscious thoughts are unleashed into the forefront of your mind’s eye where they will ultimately drive you insane unless you act them out. 

78. A child’s clown doll is possessed but no one believes them. Now they need to protect their family from the clown despite being blamed for everything that is happening. 

79. A daycare is overrun by demented dolls, now the teachers must protect the children until help can arrive. 

80. Futuristic robot dolls are overtaken by a demonic AI software update and begin to terrorize humanity. 

81. A doll comes alive and implants on their owner. Unwilling to share her with anyone else, its only focus is eliminating her family. 

82. An old doll that belonged to a young slave girl that was murdered animates itself and seeks revenge on the slave owner’s future generations. 

Short Horror Story Ideas and Writing Prompts

Some of you may want to try your hand at horror but might want to try it in a short story format which is totally fine, and something I might do myself on a future project. While any of these horror story ideas and writing prompts can be used for a short story, in this section I will focus on writing prompts that are a little easier to pull off in a short horror story format.

83. A teen is visiting a boyfriend in another city when they have a fight and she can’t call her parents so she must spend the night in a park. The trouble is there is something hunting people in that park tonight.

84. A person is in an elevator with one other person when it gets stuck. The problem is the other person is a werewolf and will slowly change over soon if the elevator doors don’t open up soon.

85. A vampire that had gone into voluntary exile decides he no longer wants to live on animal blood alone, so one night out of the year he will revisit his hometown to dine on human blood. That night is tonight.

86. A woman is locked in her bathroom, but there is somebody in the mirror staring back at her. 

87. A woman is home alone when her house is broken into, she must survive the break-in without being seen. 

88. A restaurant purchased an old church building, but when the owner is putting the overnight final touches on his restaurant before grand opening tomorrow he realizes spirits that the supernatural may still own this building, not him. 

89. A group of teen girls is in a broken down car in the middle of the night when a group of red necks tripping on Flaca come upon the car. Now with no way to call for help they need to survive. 

90. A traveler is mistaken for the wrong identity and must survive a cartel hitman for the night. 

91. New neighbors move next door and something strange is going on in that house. One night the disturbance spills onto the family’s property and their father must keep them alive until morning. 

92. A cruise ship is run by a cult of crew members when the passengers realize they are there as a fresh crop of victims they need to survive until their next port. 

93. A couple goes on a deep sea diving trip off the coast of Australia, but on one dive their crew disappears and they realize something otherworldly is in the water with them. 

94. A homosexual couple is targeted in their own house by a psychopath. 

95. A new family moves into a home when they start getting letters about being watched. The latest letter says all their worries will end this weekend along with their lives.

96. A woman works out overnight in a 24 hr gym.  She is all alone or so she thinks, but now she needs to survive whoever is after her. 

97. There is a group of newborns in the hospital, but one of them is possessed and now the question is can one nurse protect the rest of the babies until morning. 

98. A late night runner hears something in the woods. She keeps running but whatever it is only getting closer. Can she survive being stalked in the night?

99. A group of kids playing with a Quiji board unlocks a nasty spirit.  Now they need to survive the night until they can get help. 

100. A family hears someone breaking in so they go into their panic room, but that was the plan all along, now they need to figure a way out to survive. 

101. A sane person is locked in a room with other psychotic patients by accident. Now she has to survive the night until the next shift arrives. 

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I really hope these horror story ideas and writing prompts have gotten your creativity flowing.  Pick the story ideas you like the most and start to flush them out. See if you can turn them into a full-fledged plot.

Remember a story premise is great but until you execute on it and publish it, it will never have a chance at scaring readers for generations to come.

Thanks for reading and writing!

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Scary Story Ideas Eighteen Prompts For Horror and Thriller Writers Featured

  • Scriptwriting

Scary Story Ideas — 18 Prompts For Horror & Thriller Writers

H ere there be dragons, boogeymen, and blood-sucking vampires! Scary stories have frightened and allured audiences for thousands of years. So, whether you’re looking to establish a new form of horror, or riff on an existing genre trope, you’ve come to the right place, because we’re going to break down scary story ideas. Dim the candlelight, turn up the theremin, and sit back as we delve deep into horror writing prompts! 

Scary Story Prompts for Writers

Scary story ideas & horror writing prompts.

It can be challenging to respond to writing prompts when they’re proposed without follow-up questions. So, we’re going to attempt to rectify that by giving you some scary story ideas with follow-up questions.

*Note on scary story ideas and writing prompts: all of the prompts outlined here were created by me! However, they’re almost all surely inspired by existing material, whether recognized consciously or unconsciously. In accordance with that point, I’m going to attach “suggested accompanying viewing” to each prompt for further inspiration!

1) A young man finds himself unable to break out of a recurring lucid dream.

Ideas for Horror Stories Spellbound Still from Spellbound

Ideas for Horror Stories  •  Still from ‘Spellbound’

  • Who is the young man?
  • What is the recurring lucid dream?
  • Why is he unable to break out of it?


Suggested viewing.

  • Inception  
  • Donnie Darko

2) An island community is besieged by a rapidly-mutating virus.

Horror Story Ideas The Beach Still from The Beach

Horror Story Ideas  •  Still from ‘The Beach’

  • Where is the island?
  • What is the virus?
  • How did the virus originate?


3) a woman sells control of her father’s estate to a peculiar… bloodthirsty… count from transylvania..

Scary Story Ideas Drakula Still from Bram Stokers Dracula

Scary Story Ideas  •  Still from ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’

  • Who is the woman?
  • Who is the count?
  • Why is she selling her father’s estate?

Writing Prompts Horror

  • Bram Stoker’s Dracula  
  • The Cherry Orchard (Play)

4) A group of hitchhikers enter a seemingly empty home to wait out a torrential storm.

Horror Story Ideas The Twilight Zone Still from The Twilight Zone

Horror Story Ideas  •  Still from ‘The Twilight Zone’

  • Who are the hitchhikers?
  • Why does the house seem empty?
  • Where is the antagonist?
  • “The Howling Man” from The Twilight Zone
  • The Cabin in the Woods

5) An asteroid hits a space station orbiting the outer-ring of a lunar outpost. Oxygen supply is cut by 80%, meaning the crew has to kill four members, or else they’ll all die before an emergency shuttle arrives.

Horror Story Prompts Sunshine Still from Sunshine

Horror Story Prompts  •  Still from ‘Sunshine’

  • Who’s on the space station?
  • Why aren’t there any emergency shuttles on the station?


6) a veteran cop suspects his daughter is dating a serial killer..

Scary Story Ideas Taken Still from Taken

Scary Story Ideas  •  Still from ‘Taken’

  • Who is the cop? 
  • Who is the daughter?
  • Who is the suspected serial killer?
  • How did the cop learn about his suspicious nature?


  • The French Connection

7) A small-town legend says that a monster lurks under the lake. Sounds crazy, but why have so many people gone missing?

Horror Story Ideas The Wailing Still from The Wailing

Horror Story Ideas  •  Still from ‘The Wailing’

  • What is the monster?
  • Why have people gone missing?
  • How did this legend spread?
  • The Wailing

8) A man finds a slumped-over investigator with puncture-wounds in his neck. His final word, “devil.”

Scary Writing Ideas Angel Heart Still from Angel Heart

Scary Writing Ideas  •  Still from ‘Angel Heart’

  • Who is the man?
  • Who is the investigator?
  • What does “devil” imply?
  • Interview With the Vampire
  • Angel Heart

9) A group of college girls stargazing at the Grand Canyon find themselves stalked by a shadowy figure.

Horror Story Prompts It Follows Still from It Follows

Horror Story Prompts  •  Still from ‘It Follows’

  • Who are the college girls?
  • Why are they at the grand canyon?
  • Who, or what, is the shadowy figure?
  • Spring Breakers

10) A woman is kidnapped in broad daylight, only to re-awaken in a human zoo.

Scary Story Ideas The Truman Show Still from The Truman Show

Scary Story Ideas  •  Still from ‘The Truman Show’

  • Where is the woman kidnapped? And where is she brought?
  • Who is responsible?
  • Why is there a human zoo?
  • "Black Museum” episode from Black Mirror
  • The Truman Show

11) A cursed man must find love by year’s end or else his entire family will be killed.

Horror Story Ideas Beauty and the Beast Still from Beauty and the Beast

Horror Story Ideas  •  Still from ‘Beauty and the Beast’

  • How was he cursed?
  • How do we know his family will be killed?
  • Why do we want him to succeed?


  • Beauty and the Beast
  • “The Chaser” episode of The Twilight Zone

12) A woman goes back to a man’s apartment after a date… but discovers what appear to be mementos – hair-pins, engraved jewelry, watches, etc. – in the bathroom drawer. When she decides to leave, the man blocks the doorway.

Scary Writing Ideas Burning Still from Burning

Scary Writing Ideas  •  Still from ‘Burning’

  • How does the woman discover the mementos? 
  • Who is the woman? And who is the man?

13) A group of strangers find themselves locked in a classroom – and instructed that whoever scores the highest on the test will be allowed to leave. The rest will be killed.

Scary Story Ideas Exam Still From Exam

Scary Story Ideas  •  Still from ‘Exam’

  • How did the strangers find themselves locked in a classroom?
  • Who is “the instructor?”
  • Why are they being forced to engage in a sadistic game?

14) A teenage-outcast finds solace in a Dungeons & Dragons club, but slowly starts to suspect that their teacher, the club’s organizer, is an actual demon.

Scary Story Ideas Stranger Things Still from Stranger Things

Scary Story Ideas  •  Still from ‘Stranger Things’

  • Who is the teenage-outcast?
  • Who is the teacher?
  • Why does the teenage-outcast suspect the teacher is a demon?


  • Stranger Things
  • Dazed and Confused

15) A young vampire on a tiny island must drink blood to survive. But people are running out. And ships stopped coming.

Horror Story Ideas Still from Vampyr

Horror Story Ideas  •  Still from ‘Vampyr’

  • Who is the young vampire?
  • Why are they on a tiny island?
  • Why did the ships stop coming?
  • Shutter Island
  • Vampyr (game)

16) A traveler runs out of gas on the outskirts of a mountain-town. In the distance, he sees a hooded-figure, with a fleshy-sinewed face.

Scary Story Ideas Insomnia Still from Insomnia

Scary Story Ideas  •  Still from ‘Insomnia’

  • Where was the traveler going?
  • Why did he allow his car to run out of gas?
  • Who, or what, is the hooded-figure?
  • "The Hitch-Hiker” from The Twilight Zone
  • Deliverance

17) An expeditionary voyage is thrown into chaos when a dead body is discovered in the captain’s chambers.

Horror Story Prompts Clue Still from Clue

Horror Story Prompts  •  Still from ‘Clue’

  • Who’s body is discovered?
  • Where is the expedition going?
  • Why was it discovered in the captain’s chambers?
  • Return of the Obra Dinn (game)

18) A nuclear holocaust forces people to move underground. Things are safe for a while, but eventually, the monsters make their way down.

Scary Story Ideas Still from Metro

Scary Story Ideas  •  Still from ‘Metro 2033’

  • Who detonated the nuke?
  • Why was the nuke detonated?
  • What are the monsters?
  • How did they get underground?
  • Metro 2033 (novel/game)

How to Write Horror

We touched on some strategies for writing scary story ideas here – but the focus was mostly on the ideation stage. Want to learn more about the process of writing scary stories? Check out our next article on “horror writing” where we break down examples from Stephen King, Edgar Wright, and more. By the end, you’ll know not only how to start a scary story, but how to see it through to the end!

Up Next: Horror Writing Tips for Fiction →

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Picture Prompts

25 Picture Prompts for Writing Scary Stories

Photos and illustrations from The New York Times to inspire your spooky stories, poems and memoirs.

creative writing scary story examples

By Natalie Proulx

Happy Halloween! Do you enjoy reading, watching or listening to horror stories? What about writing them?

To celebrate the season, we’ve rounded up 25 haunting photos and illustrations from around The New York Times that you can use as prompts to write your own terrifying tales. Choose an image and then use your imagination to write a short story or a poem inspired by it — or tell us about a memory from your own life that the picture makes you think of.

You can use these images however you like, but if you need more guidance, here are four prompts, as well as articles with advice from horror writers and experts, to get you started:

Use the image as the setting for your story.

“The most important thing is the setting,” Ruth Robbins, professor of Victorian literature at Leeds Beckett University in England, said in “ How to Tell a Ghost Story .” She suggested starting with the “atmosphere” and the elements in the scene “that you may be afraid of.”

What makes the setting of the image especially eerie? What is the mood there? What are some of the creepier elements you could describe to build the atmosphere? What scary story could take place there?

Write from the point of view of a character in the image. Or write from the point of view of a character just outside of the scene who is observing it.

In his MasterClass , R.L. Stine, the author of the “Goosebumps” series, said the secret to making a story scary was a “close point of view with your main character” because then “the reader is experiencing this horror close up.” But, he warned, “you have to be very careful to keep the balance between what she’s feeling, and what she’s seeing, and what she’s thinking.”

Who is the person, or creature, you are writing about? What brought them to this scene? What are they thinking, feeling and, most important, experiencing? How can you show their fear instead of telling readers about it?

And consider the conflict: What does your character want? What is preventing them from getting it? What are they doing to try to get it?

Use the image as the starting point of your story , and then work backward.

In “ A Simple Way to Create Suspense, ” Lee Child, a thriller writer, said “we should ask or imply a question at the beginning of the story, and then we should delay the answer.” He continued: “Like the old cartoon of the big fish eating a smaller fish eating a very small fish, you’ll find out the big answer after a string of smaller drip-drip-drip answers. The big answer is parceled out slowly and parsimoniously.”

What question could be implied by the image? For example, how did this person get trapped behind the wall, and will he be able to escape? What did the woman hear that led her into the darkened hallway? What are these creatures in the haunted corn maze, and what do they want from you?

How can you build suspense in your story by revealing the answer to that question slowly, bit by bit?

Consider the image as a metaphor or symbol.

“Horror is, and always has been, in dialogue with the anxieties and fears of its time,” the author Stephen Graham Jones wrote in a guest essay for The Times Opinion section. For example, “During the Great Depression, the misery and economic strife were embodied by monsters from literature and folklore, as Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster and the mummy made their way across the movie screen.”

What real-world fears and anxieties could this image represent, whether in the world at large or in your own life? For instance, could it be a symbol for our anxiety about climate change? Or a metaphor for a challenge you are facing at school? What horror story could you tell that reflects the uncertainties we are facing in our real lives?

Scroll through the images below to find one that scares you. Then use these writers’ advice to craft your piece. Once you’ve got a draft, post the opening of your piece in the comments for others to read.

(Please keep in mind that if you choose to post in the comments, your writing should be appropriate for a general audience and observe Times commenting guidelines .)

Reaching Through the Wall

Mysterious Mansion

Subway Skeleton

Beware of Zombies

House of Terrors

Cursed Corn Maze

Creepy Clown

Shadowy Figure

Ghost Story

Monsters Come Out

Electric Shock Therapy

Witch at Night

Hallway of Horror

Skeleton Funeral


Michael Myers

Abandoned Library

Familial Frights

Miss Underworld

Darkened Doorway

Bates Motel


School Spirit

In the Dark

Students 13 and older in the United States and Britain, and 16 and older elsewhere, are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.

Find more Picture Prompts here.

Natalie Proulx joined The Learning Network as a staff editor in 2017 after working as an English language arts teacher and curriculum writer. More about Natalie Proulx

How to Write a Horror Story in 12 Steps

Spooky times are on their way! In this post, you’ll learn how to write a horror story in 12 easy steps. From the very beginning to the very end, you’ll be a horror writer in no time. Writing a horror story is easy, provided you know how to do it in the right way.

A horror story is usually about a particular issue or theme. It might be about the horrible nature of life, the evil of humans, or the beast inside us. It might even be about fear, or about the various ways in which we face fear. The one thing that all horror stories have in common is that they are “stories of fear.”

The best horror stories are about fear, whether it’s fear of death, fear of disease, fear of the unknown, fear of loneliness, or fear of pain. The main problem with horror stories is that most people don’t like to be scared. Our minds prefer the familiar, the comfortable, and the easy. So how do we get around that?

The answer is that we have to tap into our inner horror. We have to get inside our minds and into our souls to write about horror. It’s not easy, but it’s not hard either. If you’re willing to put in the effort, you’ll be amazed at the results you can achieve.

10 Tips for Writing Horror Stories

Step 1: brainstorm some ideas, step 2: develop your idea, step 3: make a list of main characters, step 4: develop a horrific setting, step 5: outline the opening paragraph, step 6: plan the major climax, step 7: write a twisted ending , step 8: choose a scary writing style, step 9: write the first draft, step 10: edit and review your draft, step 11: choose a chilling book title , step 12: publish the book, how do you start a horror story, what are the 5 elements of a horror story, what makes a good horror story, how do you write in creepy writing, how do i make my character terrifying.

Before you begin writing a horror story, here are 8 tips to help you create the perfect, chilling tale:

  • Make it realistic: Don’t be afraid to make the story feel real and genuine so that the reader doesn‘t get lost in the atmosphere of the book. Try to use real-life situations as the base of the story, and then you can add the gore afterwards.
  • Include plot twists: The more twists you can add to the tale, and the more surprises that will occur, the stronger the plot. 
  • Avoid stereotypical characters: Just because it’s horror doesn’t mean you have to have a serial or a cannibal in your story. Go beyond the norm with your characters – remember anyone can be a serial killer, especially the least suspected person!
  • Pace yourself: Don’t just jump to the scariest moment in the beginning, slowly build up the suspense. Start by giving the reader hints of danger, and then bang when they least suspect bring in the gore.
  • Play on common fears: Common fears that people face every day. Such as being alone in the dark, being chased by a monster, having a bad dream, etc. Fears are icky, but they can be made into something interesting if you play with them.
  • Choose a writing style: There are many ways to write horror and some people find that they have an easier time in a journalistic style or in 1st person narrative. Think about what you’re most comfortable with and try it out.
  • Increase the stakes: The best horror stories involve a sense of fear and dread, so make sure to increase the stakes as you go. If your main character is at a party, maybe there’s something bad lurking in the back room or someone is trying to kill them. Make sure there’s something at stake for your characters and don’t forget to give them something to do besides running away.
  • Read popular horror stories: Horror can be a very dark genre, so you might want to check out other scary tales to get inspiration. For instance, Stephen King has written some of the most terrifying stories ever created and you might even learn a few things from them. 
  • Pick a horror sub-genre: Horror is very broad and can be done in many different styles and genres. I recommend going for a sub-genre like Gothic Horror, Zombie Horror, or Psychological Horror. You may find that you are more comfortable in one of these areas than in others.
  • Be imaginative: Your story should be as unique as possible so use your imagination and go crazy! Do not hold back when it comes to creativity, as this is how true horror is born.

How To Write a Horror Story in 12 Steps

Follow these 12 easy steps to create a spine-chilling story that will leave your readers in awe and fear.

Here’s a simple little trick that we can’t recommend enough: start with writing down all of the words and phrases that come to mind when you think about horror. Horror is much more than just scary stories; it’s about fear. So start thinking about the horror you see around you, and what keeps you up at night. The trick is to get into your mind, even if it doesn’t feel comfortable. Try listing your biggest fears, and all the things that make you feel scared. You can also check out this list of over 110 horror story prompts to get you started.

We also recommend keeping a nightmare journal  – Which is like a dream journal but filled with notes about your nightmares instead. After you had a really scary dream write down everything you remember from that dream. This can include what you saw, heard and felt during the dream. You can then use these notes as a source of inspiration for your horror story. 


Check out these Halloween writing prompts and Halloween picture prompts for more ideas.

What keeps you up at night? The evil monsters in the monsters movies? The epidemic of a deadly virus? A tragic unsolved crime? Whatever your issue is, it can be used to create a horror story that will have your readers sweating bullets. Take your ideas from the previous step and develop them into a truly horrific story idea. Once you have written down the basic idea, try to think about how that idea can be made scarier. 

For example, if you’re writing about a deadly disease, you could use the theme of death to make it scarier. Have the characters die in the story in a mutated sort of way or from some weird side effect that leads to death. There are plenty of ways to make the story more horrible:

  • Try thinking about an ordinary situation that everyone goes through and add something horrific to it. The trick to making your story scary is to make it believable. In other words, you want to make your story as true to life as possible.
  • Focus on some terrifying emotions, fear being the obvious one. But you can also think about crudeness, disgust, as well as anger, regret, paranoia and shock factor. 
  • Add in some unnatural details, such as spaghetti turning into worms or blood coming out of solid, unliving objects.


Write down all of the main characters in the story. If you have more than one, give each character a distinct personality. Make sure that each character has a certain reason for their actions and be sure that they reflect their personality.

Whatever your horror is, you should probably have a main character that will be a part of the story. When you write the story, it’s going to be easier to create a tense atmosphere if you have a character to relate to. Also, you may want to make sure that you have a few supporting characters that you can add to the story. The supporting characters might also become the main characters in any sequels you plan on writing.

The other characters in the story should be the antagonists. These are the evil people or creatures that are keeping you up at night. They might be the killer, the ghost , the werewolf , the zombie, the villain, the monster , the demon, or the bad guy. Whatever the issue is, that’s what the antagonist will be in the story. They might start out as just an ordinary person, but they’ll end up being more evil than the main character.


Check out this guide on character development to help you develop a powerful character.

When writing a horror story, it’s very important that you get the setting right. Think about some scary places that you know of in real life or places that you’ve seen in your nightmares. You could also link your main setting choice to a common fear explored in your story. For example, if the core concept of your horror story is related to the fear of heights, then the main setting may be a high-rise building that’s filled with monsters. 

Other common horror story settings may include a haunted house , a creepy old mansion, graveyards and even quiet suburban towns. Whatever your choice of setting, try to write a detailed description of the main setting in this step. Think about the appearance of the location, the weather, the feeling someone has when standing in this location, as well as what kind of people live here, along with the beliefs they hold.


Interested in creating a whole new world for your horror story? Check this master list of over 100 world-building questions .

The opening paragraph will be the first thing your readers see. It should be a teaser that sets the tone for the story. In other words, the first paragraph should be intriguing enough to make your readers want to keep reading. You should ideally include the main character’s name, the setting, the antagonist, the fear of the story, and the main character’s problem. 

If the story is about a haunted house, then the outline of the opening paragraph could say something like this:

The house is empty. It has been for a long time. It’s been vacant for years and years. It sits in the middle of a quiet, suburban neighbourhood. The grass is green and the trees are tall. The neighbourhood is quiet, but the town is not as quiet as everyone thinks. There are whispers, rumours, and stories. But the truth is, no one has ever seen or heard anything unusual here. Not until Wendy Williams and her daughter moved in. 

During this step, it is important to try to write an opening that gives the reader a taste of the entire story. But of course, don’t give too much away – Just a hint of fear will do! Your goal here is to have the reader wanting more. 


See this list of over 150 story starters to help you get started with your spooky tale.

This step is basically the big bang. It’s where your main character goes head-to-head with the antagonist in the story or has to face their greatest fear. It’s also when your main character learns the truth about the antagonist. The goal of this step is to keep your readers on the edge of their seats. 

When writing the climax, think about what will happen, who will be in danger, and what the outcome will be. If you’re struggling with the climax, then you should start with a smaller problem and work your way up to the big one. For example, you could start with a little bit of trouble with a character, such as a bad dream or the main character getting hurt. This will get your readers involved in the story. You may find that once you start writing, you’ll come up with a more complicated problem that your main character will have to solve.

Here’s an example of what a potential climax scene sounds like in a horror story:

The sound of footsteps is heard coming down the stairs. The footsteps are too heavy, and they seem to be coming from the basement. The door to the basement creaks open. Then a face is seen in the door frame. It’s a face with large, red eyes, and it’s full of hate.


In horror stories, the twist ending is almost always a shock reveal of some kind. Whether the true murderer is revealed, or the identity of the antagonist is revealed, it should always be a surprise. 

There are several ways to write a twist ending, but you’ll probably want to start with a twist that’s a little more obvious. You could reveal who the antagonist really is, or even what the main character has been hiding. Or you could have the main character learn some shocking information that sends them in a completely different direction. 

The unique thing about the horror genre is that even after the mystery or problem is solved, it’s not always 100% solved. There’s always some darkness lurking somewhere. Was he really the murderer? Maybe there’s more than one monster? Give this final hint of darkness to keep your readers second-guessing even after the book is over. Now that’s where the true horror lies!

step 7-horror-story

Of course, horror stories are written in a more darker and dramatic style compared to other genres. But there’s more to horror writing than just using dark words and descriptions of gory scenes. In this step, you want to think about the actual writing of your horror style. Will it be written in the first person, second person or third? Do you want to take a more journalistic approach where you report horrific events? Or will you take a more narrative approach, where the reader is on the outside looking in?

In our opinion, a horror story written in the first person has a much more powerful effect. There’s something about having the perspective of the main character that makes them more vulnerable. There’s also something about being told a story by another character that makes the story more real.

While the third person is great for taking the reader through a story, it doesn’t allow for the depth of emotion that can be found in the first person. If you choose to write in the third person, then you’ll want to stick with the voice of an objective narrator who is reporting on the events of the story. 

Either way, you’ll want to try to avoid too many descriptions of gruesome scenes. You want to keep the focus on your main character’s emotions and how they feel, and their problem. 


Finally, it’s time to start writing your story! Hopefully, after all these steps, you now have a rough outline for your story. But even if you don’t, just start writing! The first draft is usually the most important one. So even if you don’t have a complete outline, get started on your story. Just start writing and don’t worry about anything else! You might also want to read this post on how to outline a book for more guidance.

While writing your draft, you’ll want to keep these things in mind:

  • Make sure your story is believable to a certain extent. Of course, you might think that vampires aren’t real – But make them real for your readers! This is the most important thing. If your story is impossible or unbelievable, then no one will want to read it.
  • Avoid using clichés. These are words or phrases that are overused in stories and don’t really add anything to your story.
  • Use active voice instead of passive voice. Passive voice is when a sentence starts with “someone” or “something”. Active voice is when the sentence starts with “I” or “we”.
  • Use short sentences and paragraphs. Long sentences make it difficult to read, and paragraphs look heavy. 
  • If you’re struggling to get anything written down, then start with the easiest or shortest scenes first. You can always come back to the more complicated areas of your story later when you’re ready. 

And finally, have fun with it! Writing is supposed to be a fun hobby, so don’t take yourself too seriously! 


The hard part is done, now you’re ready to start editing your story! Start by reading the story to yourself a couple of times. Each time you read your story highlight areas that you are unsure of, or would like to improve. At the same time look out for spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, and sentences that sound a bit off. Once you’re done with this review, you can go back and make the relevant edits to your story.

Next, you’ll want to gather some feedback. This is where you’ll want to have a second or third person read your story. It’s not a good idea to let one person read your draft, as they’ll be biased towards what they like. So get a few different people to read your story, and make sure they have a different perspective. They can be family members, teachers, or even a friend that’s not familiar with your writing style. 

When asking for feedback, you can ask the following questions:

  • What are the most important parts of the story?
  • Are there any parts of the story that don’t make sense or are confusing?
  • What did you like most about the story?
  • Can you think of anything that could be improved?
  • Did you like the main character?

Once you have the feedback, you can go back and make the changes. It’s important to make the edits, but don’t obsess over it. In the end, you want to make the story the best that it can be. And by doing this, you’ll be on your way to writing a great horror story! 

step 10

It’s time to choose a book title. This is a very important part of a horror story. Not only does a good title help to give your story an identity, but it also helps to tell the reader what kind of story they’re about to read. The title should have a great hook. It should be intriguing and a little bit scary. If you’re struggling to think of a great book title, then you can try to think about what you’d like to read. Would you like to read a book that scares you? Or would you rather read a book that’s about someone’s struggles? 

If we look at some popular horror book titles, we can see that most of them are quite descriptive:

  • The Woman in Black
  • Bram Stoker’s Dracula
  • The Haunting of Aveline Jones
  • The Haunting of Hill House
  • The Graveyard Book

Essentially, they either describe the antagonist of the story or the main setting in the story. Based on this try to summarise your horror story in as little as 3 to 5 words. Think about the main setting or the main villain/monster of your tale and come up with some book title ideas. If you’re still struggling, check out this horror book title generator for some more interesting ideas. 

An important thing to note here is that you should make sure that your book title is not already in use or taken by another author. Try doing a quick Google search or a search on Amazon to see if your title is available for the taking! 

step 11

Your book is now finished! You’ve written the first draft, edited it, gathered feedback, and now it’s time to publish it! There are many ways to publish your book. The most popular method is to publish it on Amazon as a self-published author. You can also work with a professional publisher to get your book to market.

Remember that if you’re a new writer, then it’s not a good idea to start by publishing your book on Amazon. It’s better to start slow and work your way up. You don’t want to rush your writing and end up with a book full of mistakes! Start by publishing your book using a free tool like the Imagine Forest story creator , then later work your way up to publishing on Amazon. 


That’s it! Now you should be ready to write your own horror story! Give it a go and see what you can come up with!

Frequently Asked Questions

There are a number of ways to start writing a horror story:

  • Focus on your own fears. Start by listing your fears and develop your story idea from there. 
  • Introduce the character. You can describe your main character in the first few scenes. Make them as normal, and relatable as possible
  • Describe a setting. If the setting is key to your story, then describe every inch of it. Make your readers feel like they are right there with you. 
  • Start with some action. This could be a bloody murder, someone screaming and running or anything else that makes the reader feel uncomfortable.
  • Picture a harmonious place. You can describe a calm and happy place. Somewhere taken from a romantic rom-com type story or a happy family movie, which all suddenly changes.
  • Start at the end. Rewrite your potential ending as the beginning, and then work your way backwards. 

The 5 elements of horror include Character, Setting, Action, Horror, and Resolution. All these elements are crucial in developing a gruesome horror story.

See our guide on the 5 elements of story-telling for more information.

A good horror story has fear at its core. The reader must be scared as they read the story. If not then you missed something important in your novel. A good horror story must be scary, but it should also have an element of realism to it. The story should include relatable main characters, a scary antagonist, a creepy setting and of course a shocking reveal at the end. 

Your first step is to try to think about the creepiness of the setting. Is it a dark and scary place? Is it full of secrets? If it is, then you have a good place to start. Try to be very detailed, and specific when describing the setting. Describe the blood on the wall as it drips down, or the lock on the door that won’t turn. Make the reader feel as if they are right there. Use descriptive words and metaphors to bring your gory details to life.

To make your character as terrifying as possible, you could try the following techniques:

  • Make your character an outcast. They don’t fit in with the main group of characters and can’t be trusted.
  • Give them a story to tell. A dark and bloody past.
  • Make them a loner. They can’t trust anyone else and have no friends.
  • Make them a survivor. The main character of your story has been through a lot and can’t be stopped.
  • Give the character an important title. Someone who is important in a society that has deadly plans. You can’t trust them, but have no choice but to follow their rules.

Did you find this guide on how to write a horror story useful? Let us know in the comments below.

How to Write a Horror Story

Marty the wizard is the master of Imagine Forest. When he's not reading a ton of books or writing some of his own tales, he loves to be surrounded by the magical creatures that live in Imagine Forest. While living in his tree house he has devoted his time to helping children around the world with their writing skills and creativity.

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50 Spooky Writing Prompts and Horror Story Ideas

50 Spooky Writing Prompts and Horror Story Ideas #horror writing ideas #horror writing prompts #scary story prompts #Halloween writing prompts #dark fantasy story ideas #suspense story plots

If you’re looking for scary story prompts or horror writing ideas, you’ve come to the right place! These are great Halloween writing prompts, and some of these could also be used as suspense story prompts or dark fantasy story ideas.

These are all from my book 5 ,000 Writing Prompts: A Master List of Plot Ideas, Creative Exercises, and More . The book has 100 additional spooky writing prompts and horror story ideas, as well as master plots and idea starters for all kinds of writing.

If you are easily scared and have an over-active imagination, just skip this one. And anyway, just remember it’s all nonsense that I made up while I was exercising on the treadmill or sitting in bed.

Some of these are skeletal (ha) plot ideas, while others are images or suggestions. And if you’d like a spooky soundtrack to inspire you, be sure to check out my scary music playlist for writers ! Be sure to pin or bookmark the post for future reference. After all, when autumn rolls around, you might find yourself looking for Halloween writing prompts!

50 Spooky Writing Prompts and Horror Story Ideas #horror writing ideas #horror writing prompts #scary story prompts #Halloween writing prompts #dark fantasy story ideas #suspense story plots

  • A musician practices. When she finishes a piece, she hears someone clapping for her, although she lives alone.
  • Frightening events in a small town lead its citizens to dig up the grave of a deceased inhabitant.
  • Someone gets on the elevator by himself and is never seen by his friends or family again.
  • The Furies—the vengeance deities of classic mythology—are back in business again.
  • A collector buys an unpublished manuscript by an obscure writer that describes a terrible historical event a year before it occurred. The collector learns the writer wrote many unpublished stories…
  • Creating a hybrid of a human and this particular animal turns out to be a bad idea.
  • A person has the ability to make other people very ill.
  • The dead walk out of the sea.
  • An individual begins seeing and hearing from someone who looks just like her – and learns she had a twin who died at birth.
  • A killer places an advertisement for a willing victim and finds one.
  • A basement contains jars filled with unusual specimens.
  • A person finds new photos of herself on her cell phone that she didn’t take.
  • The spirit of a brutalized slave or prisoner of war wants revenge on his tormentor’s descendants.
  • A couple vacationing in a remote area begins having the same nightmares.
  • All of the circus performers were killed in the train wreck.
  • The television switches to another station of its own accord and plays footage of something horrible that happened long before the technology existed to record it.
  • A spouse or sibling dies. He or she begins to take over the body of the surviving spouse or sibling.
  • Weekend adventurers explore a cave and can’t find their way out again. Then they encounter something terrible…
  • Authorities go through the cluttered apartment of a deceased man who lived alone with no known friends or relatives for decades and find something disturbing.
  • A group of teenagers trolls everyone else in an online group by telling made-up stories about terrible things they’ve done. Things then get out of hand.
  • It’s bad luck in the theatre to call the Shakespeare play Macbeth by name, but someone in the company keeps doing it anyway… and the superstition proves true.
  • Every exhibit in this carnival sideshow is fake. Except this one thing.
  • An individual develops a terror of water – drinking it, touching it, or even being near it. There’s actually a good reason why.
  • The grandfather clock starts running backwards.
  • People in this neighborhood begin having freak accidents that involve normal appliances and machinery, such as blenders, weed whackers, and garage doors.
  • The cure for a new deadly epidemic is almost scarier than the disease.
  • He locked the doors and shuttered the windows; it came in through the roof.
  • A woman is happy when her dead loved one comes back to life… but he’s changed.
  • This centuries-old beauty secret is effective but horrifying.
  • A killer toys with his victims by orchestrating a series of false hopes for them.
  • She wakes up in the middle of the night and runs out to a certain tree.
  • Tourists on a ghost tour, along with their guide, fall into the hands of an evil presence.
  • A young woman is impregnated by her handsome new boyfriend, who turns out to be something other than human.
  • The empty swing is swinging.
  • A bride on her honeymoon discovers she’s not her new husband’s first wife… not even close.
  • Long ago, when he was a baby, a man’s parents made an unwise deal in order to bring him back from the dead.
  • Members of a family or people in a town begin sleepwalking and doing strange things in their sleep.
  • A young man confesses to a killing that hasn’t happened. The murder he describes takes place while he’s in custody.
  • Grisly events happen after the arrival of a hypnotist in Victorian London.
  • An author’s fictional villain stalks him.
  • Fraternity hazing goes way too far.
  • It always happens when he’s alone in the car.
  • A patient in a mental hospital encounters a malevolent ghost, but nobody believes her.
  • A mother’s young child may or may not be a changeling.
  • Swarms of insects appear in various places in a town, always followed by an untimely death.
  • The ghost at the movie theater wants everyone to watch one particular snippet of film.
  • A child’s imaginary friend starts to cause real trouble.
  • When putting together a slide show for a wedding or funeral, someone notices that for decades, the same man, dressed in the same fashion, has been appearing in the background of photographs taken in public places.
  • A politician, religious leader, or celebrity exerts mind control over the will of his or her followers.
  • The fairy godmother isn’t the good kind of fairy.

Okay, I creeped myself out a little with these spooky writing prompts! If you’re writing a novel and want a step-by-step guide to planning, writing, and editing, be sure to check out my book 5,000 Writing Prompts .

5,000 WRITING PROMPTS: A Master List of Plot Ideas, Creative Exercises, and More | BRYN DONOVAN |

Do you have questions or suggestions about horror story ideas? We’d love to hear them in the comments section! And don’t miss future posts about writing. Follow my blog, if you aren’t already — there’s a place you can sign up below. Thanks so much for reading, and happy writing!

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60 thoughts on “ 50 spooky writing prompts and horror story ideas ”.

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This was terrific. Thank you.

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Thanks, B.D., you’re so welcome!

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You always have the best writing prompts. I love these! Several gave me the jeebas. 🙂

Thank you so much! Haha, it only seemed creepy to me when I went back and read straight through them. 😀

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Fabulous prompts – I see some stories in my immediate future.

Aw thanks Noelle, glad you like them!

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Thanks, Bryn, for all the great prompts. I appreciate it. 🙂 — Suzanne

Thanks, Suzanne, you’re welcome!

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Great prompts for the coming season and for those who write about the supernatural all year round. A friend of mine and myself send photos to each other as prompts and most of the time, mine stories lean toward the macabre, supernatural or fantasy. I love it! Many of these set my thoughts in motion (the gears are turning). Thanks!

Cheryl, that’s so cool that you and your friend send image prompts to each other! So glad you liked these. Thanks for the nice comments!

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Those are delightful ideas and I thank you for them. Did you hear, by the way, about the writer of bizarre tales whose stories were typed using the blood font.The one that leaves an occasional trail of blood down the background image of the screen. Isn’t technology a delightful addition to this lexicon?

Hi Robert! Holy smokes, I had not heard of that use of text. That’s amazing! Thanks so much for commenting, and for the kind words!

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I really like the first one: A musician practices. When she finishes a piece, she hears someone clapping for her, although she lives alone.

My character plays the violin and she’s blind, so imagining something like that happening is kind of scary.

Oh geez, Cinthia, that would be scary. That one was my favorite one, by the way. Thanks for commenting!

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The reasons why crime features so heavily in media coverage are many and varied. In practical terms crime stories are often easy to cover, relative to other issues. Police make appeals for witnesses, ‘tip off’ journalists (sometimes in ethically problematic ways), court hearings are easy to access and scheduled long in advance.

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nice stories……..give me the creeps

Haha, thank you so much Jayitha!

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Thanks so much really helped me.I have to write a short story for english so thanks!

So glad it helped, Neveah! Hope your story turned out (or turns out) great!

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who are you?

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That was amazing, I am 11 years old and I looked up writing prompts for fun but now I want to write a whole story! Thank you!

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Thank u for these ideas. Good suggestions. I am actually writing a horror/thriller story right now and I’m almost done with it. It may be my first story to publish. At least I hope so. I hope that if it does get published, people may like it. I try to make my stories as unique as possible compared to the fantastic horror books already written.

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Great article…So, I have a very sketchy idea (comments welcomed).Newly married couple, husband starts having night terrors about being trapped/lost in a cave (the type extreme potholers go down). He suffers from claustrophobia, specifically potholing. The terrors become more and more violent until one day/night he wakes up inside a shaft, wedged between the walls by his broad shoulders…can’t go forward, can’t go backwards. That’s as far as I’ve got. Apart from skipping to a potential sad ending. You may have guessed that this is a fear of mine!!!

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That is unbelievably terrifying!!

ps. You may also guess that I am attempting to write my FIRST book!!!

Thank you Ember Jay

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can you have more scary stories and pin them on pinterest? If you want my email for anything its [email protected] . Thanks

lisette isabelle

Isn’t the last one the plot of Shrek 2?????

yessss broooo

Broooo thats my fav movie!!!!!

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I like #4 The Furies—the vengeance deities of classic mythology—are back in business again. I’m currently writing a story about a demon and a school girl the story is call Her name was Misaki

I like #4 The Furies—the vengeance deities of classic mythology—are back in business again. I’m currently writing a story about a demon and a school girl the story is call Her name was Misaki

This sounds like a a great story!

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I used the first one to get me started on brainstorming, and I warped the idea into a feature screenplay that was very fun to write. Thanks for the awesome help!!!

Yeah boiiiiii

I was sitting by the window watching the snow slowly and silently fall. Suddenly, outside, a snap of a branch and a stutter of leaves, a sad old man leaves his house over the road. I watch him as he slowly strolls down the driveway with his brown old wooden stick. Is this a good story starter?

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Thanks for getting my imagination running. I needed that. J

Aw, thanks. Thanks for reading, John!

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heyo…. I’m 13 years old and i want to write a horror story…..this is helpful!!! I want to be an author when i grow up…whats it like being an author???!!! i have so many ideas , too many that i actually have no idea what to write this gave me some good ideas too thanks. oh, and i love your eyes they are so pretty.

Hey there! I’m so glad you liked the list! It sounds like you have an amazing imagination. Being a writer has challenges, but it’s fantastic making up whole characters, stories, and worlds…and when readers love your stories, too, that’s a great feeling. I hope you have great success as an author. Thanks for the compliment, too!

idea 48 is probably the ex boyfriend of the girl getting married and getting revenge on the husband hehe

I love all these prompts! They give just enough detail but also leave a great amount of imagination! I am doing a spooky story contest and now I have a wonderful idea! thank you so much! -Charlotte

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Love this list! I plan on entering a short story contest, and this is very helpful! I lean more towards lengthy fantasy (particularly magic or medieval related) stories, so coming up with ideas for a scary short story is not exactly easy. I now have a solid idea combining bits and pieces of a few prompts (for example: #13 and #16) plus combining my own twists. So thank you!!

Thank you so much I really needed this for English

My story Wrote by 11 yrs old girl (no name, sry) The Mystery Of The Unexpected Ghost: As my grandfather lies on his deathbed, he told me of a terrible crime he committed many years ago and got away with. He also told me that his freedom was the result of a spell someone performed and that I should expect a visit from a ghost. “He will come out from the shadows,” are his last words. Hi, my name is Naomi. I am 21 years old and I love to read ghost stories especially Mr Midnight. I love spooky things like ghost but I do not wish to meet one, until one day, an unexpected man came and it changed my friend, Ruby’s and my life, FOREVER. It all started when I woke up one morning, “Hey! Want to hang out today? Let’s start working on our club, Daring Devils!” I called my friend, Ruby, over the phone. “Sure! I have no plans anyways…” Ruby answered. “Yay! Come over now!” I hung the phone and waited for Ruby to come. Moments later, “Ring… Ring…” The doorbell rang. I thought, ‘Yay it’s Ruby!’ When I opened the door, I saw Ruby and pulled her to my room. Then, I got super serious and asked her for cases to solve. “Nah, I have none, you?” Ruby said. I replied, “Actually, I do have one, but I think ghosts aren’t real…” “Wait, this case is about ghosts? Woo hoo! This just got a little more exciting!” Ruby exclaimed as she waited patiently for me to tell her the case. “Ok, so, before my grandfather died, he told me that I should expect a visit from a ghost.” I responded. “What, that’s not fun!” Ruby complained. I continued, “But that’s not all, after that, my grandfather told me that the ghost will come out from the shadows.” After hearing what I had said, Ruby’s face lit up and imitated a ghost, “WOOOOOOOOOOOOOO… So this is a mystery! Did your grandfather tell you when will the ghost appear?” “No…” I replied. “O…K… So we must predict when the ghost is coming…” Ruby said, trying to think when the ghost will come. I thought really hard that I thought my brain was going to explode and I suddenly said, “At night! Ghosts always appear at night!” “Ok, then, I’ll meet you at night, got to go, bye!” Ruby replied as she ran home. I sat patiently on my bed and waited for Ruby to come at night. I kept trying to sleep but thinking about the ghost kept me awake. “Ring… Ring…” the doorbell rang. I ran to the door, drag Ruby to my room and exclaimed, “Yay! This is going to be so fun!” Ruby answered, “Naomi, I’ll not get too excited if I were you…” “What, you scared of ghosts, I don’t even believe in them!” I responded. “Naomi! The ghost might be listening! Stop making fun!” Ruby warned me. “Whatever!” I blurted. Little did I know that the ghost was spying on us, listening to every word I said. “Let’s get started on the case!” I exclaimed as I turn on my computer and typed, ‘Ghosts that can perform spells.’ “Enter!” I said as I pressed enter. Once I pressed enter, lots of information from the internet popped up on the screen. I slowly browsed through each website. “Not this, not this and not this either! At this rate, we’ll never find out about that ghost” I whimpered, feeling hopeless. “Search, ‘Visit from a ghost who performs spells’.” Ruby replied immediately. I typed, ‘Visit from a ghost who performs spells.’ “Enter.” I uttered. Suddenly, there was only one website. I click on the website and it says: The Chancer * His real name is unknown. He is believed to be the ghost of a boy who never had a second chance. This ghosts helps humans in life. He gives chances to those who have a kind heart. If this ghosts visits you, you are lucky. But… if you do not have a kind heart, you will die! If you want to risk your life, then call him… Say, “Chance, chance, give me a chance. Everyone deserves a second chance.” If you did not call him but he came to you, means someone you knew had called him before… Beware of your surroundings, he will come out from the shadows. If you do not want him to come near you, say, “Chance, chance, I don’t need a chance. Everyone deserves a second chance, everyone but me, I’m done…” If you are expecting him to come, he will say, “Second chance, second chance, second, second, second chance… What would you like for your second chance? Tell me now, tell me now…” * (BOHH) “Gosh! Naomi, quick! Take a picture of it!” Ruby shook me. “Chill! ‘Kay, ‘kay!” I grumbled. I quickly took my phone and took a picture of it. “Anyways, what’s BOHH?” Ruby questioned me. “WHAT! You don’t know!? It means Blood On His Hands. He has taken a life. You should read Mr Midnight!” I responded. “So if you are not kind hearted and you called the ghost or if someone you know has called the ghost, you will die?” Ruby asked. “Yup!” I replied. “But I don’t need a second chance, do I?” I wondered. “I guess…” Ruby murmured. Unexpectedly, the lights suddenly off. “Second chance, second chance, second, second, second chance… What would you like for your second chance? Tell me now, tell me now…” said an unknown voice. “Who are you?” Ruby hollered. “I am The Chancer, would you like to have a second chance?” The voice said. “Uh… uh…” I stammered. I quickly turn on my phone and looked at the picture I took. I took a deep breath and said, “Chance, chance, I don’t need a chance. Everyone deserves a second chance, everyone but me, I’m done…” Once those words left my mouth, I heard a loud scream and the lights suddenly turned back on. “What just happened?” Ruby asked. “Am I dreaming? Pinch me, Naomi!” Ruby said. I pinched Ruby as hard as I could to get my revenge for her pinching me in the past. “Ouch! Stop!” Ruby screamed. “So, I’m not dreaming…” She said under her breath. Weeks past as I tried to forget the memories that haunt me. After a year, I called Ruby and asked, “Have you forgotten about The Chancer?” Ruby stammered, “I…I…I…I…” I asked impatiently, “So did you forget ‘bout it?” Ruby stammered again, “Ok, Naomi, I have to tell you this, don’t… freak… out, ‘kay?” “What is it?” I asked her curiously. “The Chancer… The Chancer has visited me…” Ruby answered me with a frightened look. “WHAT DID YOU SAID?!” I asked. “How many times must I repeat? The Chancer visited me!” Ruby shouted. “Oh! I understand everything now! If someone you know saw The Chancer, he will go to someone you know or someone you are really close with, or even you! I get it now!” I explained to Ruby. Then, I asked curiously, “But, what did you do when you saw The Chancer?” “Uh… Naomi, I forgotten what to say when The Chancer come, so I said I want a second chance!” Ruby replied me, feeling frightened. “What!” I hollered. “What is your second chance?” I asked. “My second chance is to be pretty!” Ruby answered, curling her hair and blushing at the same time. “But, you know that, err….” I said. “I know what?” Ruby asked. “You know that a second chance means, A SECOND LIFE, right?” I told her. “Oh no! I’m going to die? Please tell me I’m dreaming! Pinch me, please!” Ruby shouted. I pinched her cheek as hard as I could and she shouted. “Yup, definitely not dreaming!” Ruby said, as she touched her cheek. “HOW?!” Ruby shouted in horror. “Don’t ask me! Ask yourself!” I answered her with a furious look. “What am I supposed to do at this stage?” Ruby complained. “We’ll see… Let’s observe what will happen next…” I answered, feeling worried for Ruby. “We can have a sleepover at your house, YAY!” Ruby squealed. “Ugh…” I grumbled. “It’s midnight!” I said. “Be ready for what’s going to happen next!” I continued. Suddenly, Ruby was glowing. After a few moments later, she disappeared! Feeling afraid, I tried to sleep, but as expected, I could not. It was dawn and my eyes were still wide open. Unexpectedly, I heard someone screamed, “AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH” I shut my eyes and covered my ears. When I opened my eyes, I saw a very beautiful girl in front of me. “Get away from me!” I screamed. “Naomi, it’s me, Ruby!” she said. “Liar, then tell me something only Ruby and I know!” I screamed, feeling afraid. “There is someone called The Chancer and he came to visit me and you.” She continued. “Oh gosh, Ruby!” I hugged her and cried. “What happened to your face? You somehow became, prettier!” I asked curiously. “Oh… About that, err… The Chancer said it is only temporary. He said if I did not use this chance correctly, I will have consequences. But if I use it properly, I can keep it forever.” Ruby explained. “You sure? This doesn’t feel right.” I said, thinking about why The Chancer would let her keep it if she used it properly. “Stop talking nonsense… Do you always act like this?” Ruby talked with a little bit of sassiness. “We need to change your name to something prettier…” I suggested. “I agree. I kind of want to be named Naomi…” Ruby said. “Let me think of a prettier name than mine. Hmmm… How about Alexi?” I suggested. “That is so nice! Ok…” Ruby Alexi replied. The next day, I went to school with Ruby Alexi. When we entered, many people were staring at Alexi with their mouths wide open, even the prettiest girl in our school, Cindy. “Hey girl, what’s your name?” Cindy asked with A LOT of sassiness. “Ru… Alexi” Alexi said. “Why you hanging around with this nerd… What was her name again? Oh yes, Naomi.” Cindy said, pointing at me. “You are the real nerd! Stop being so mean you ugly girl and don’t act like you are so pretty, because you are NOT!” Alexi screamed at the top of her lungs. “OMG… I can’t believe such a pretty girl like you to be so mean,” Cindy flipped her hair and sashayed away. After Cindy left, a lot of guys started crowding around Alexi, asking her stuff like, “Are you single?” and “Want to hang out with me?” When Alexi saw them, she started flipping and curling her hair. “Psst… Remember to use your second chance properly. Stop flipping and curling your hair and get away from this crowd,” I reminded her. “Oh sorry people, I got to go… See you guys later!” Alexi told them and sashayed away. “Ugh…” I whispered under my breath. Many days past and Alexi acts the same every day. Until one day, something odd happened to her. She stopped doing the stuff she normally do. When we walked back home together from school, I asked her, “What happened to you?” “Something is about to happen… Something bad! I know it… The Chancer is going to remove my chance! Am I going to DIE?!” She answered, feeling afraid. “No you are not! Can you stay over at my house for today? I need to observe you…” I asked her. “Ok…” She immediately agreed and plastered a fake smile across her face. We reached my house and we waited until it was night time. “What now?” Alexi asked. “We’ll see,” I replied, staring at her. “This is getting awkward… I’m going back,” Alexi said, walking away from me. When she was walking, she suddenly fainted and disappeared, AGAIN! “Ugh… Not again!” I complained. This time, I thought she was dead as she did not appear for the past few weeks and her parents said she did not return. One night, when I was about to turn off the light, the light off itself. When I was about to scream, someone covered my mouth and I immediately fainted. When I woke up, I was tied up. I took a closer look at where I was and noticed it was a cemetery. “Mmmm!” I tried to scream but my mouth was taped. Suddenly, The Chancer appeared. “I mean no harm… I just have to warn you something,” he said. “Ruby… She… Is dead!” He continued. “It’s Alexi!” I reminded him. “You can’t call her Alexi!” he warned me. “Why?” I asked. “Just don’t.” he replied. “But why is she dead?” I asked. “I tried to warn her about something but The Devi got her!” He explained. “Who is The Devi?” I asked curiously. “She is my sister, or should I say, she was my sister. She has changed. She used to be a kind girl but now, I’m not really sure what has happened to her.” He said, staring at a grave. “Her grave, is at this cemetery. It is over there,” he said, pointing at the grave he was staring at previously. I looked closer at the name at it said, “RIP DEV ‘LOVE FOR ALL, HATRED FOR NONE’ MAY GOD BLESS MY FAMILY” “Oh, so that’s her grave. But, why would she kill Ruby? I mean what did Ruby did? And, how do you know Ruby is dead?” I asked curiously. “You will know soon… I must get going!” The Chancer disappeared after saying that. When he left, I started feeling dizzy and lied on the floor. Moments past and I woke up after dreaming of Ruby. I immediately went to my computer, went to the internet and typed, ‘The Devi’. When I press enter, there was lots of websites popped up. I clicked on the first website and it says: The Devi * Her real name is Dev. She is believed to be the ghost of a girl who was murdered. Some say she was murdered because of her doing something ridiculous. The story goes, when she was born, she was ugly. When she grew up, she realised that other girls were prettier than her. So she went to this ghost and asked the ghost to make her prettier, but unfortunately, the ghost killed her. The Devi kills people who asked The Chancer to be pretty for their second chance. Some survived her as The Devi thinks that they are not very pretty. If you survived her, you will be unlucky for the rest of your life! But if you are lucky enough, you will be lucky for the rest of your life. Beware of what you asked from The Chancer! If The Devi wants to meet you, you will glow and suddenly disappear. If you disappear once, you will definitely survive from her. If you disappear twice, it depends if The Devi wants you dead or alive. If you disappear thrice, you will definitely die from her! * (BOHH) The Chancer, click here “Oh no… So did Ruby died or what?!” I asked myself confusedly. I took out my phone and took a picture of it. Suddenly, I heard the same voice, “AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!” ‘Ruby! Are you there?” I asked. Ruby appeared again. I saw a lot of blood and scars on her body. “Oh my… What happened to you?” I asked her. “Hel… Hel… Help… Me… I-I-I a… am…” After saying that, Ruby fainted. After a few days, Ruby finally woke up. “What… What happened?” she asked curiously. “You disappeared as The Devi caught you.” I explained. “Who is The Devi? I only remember there was this extremely pretty girl talking to me.” Ruby asked, scratching her head. “What did she said to you?!” I asked her, waiting for her answer. “I only remember part of what she said. She said, ‘You will disappear again and it’s up to me to decide whether you should live or die… Hmm… I guess you can…’ Then I forgot what she said.” Ruby said, trying to remember what The Devi had said. “She would either said die or live.” I told Ruby. “How would you know?” Ruby asked. I took out my phone and showed her the picture about The Devi I took before Ruby appeared. Ruby read and screamed, “AAAAAAAHH! Oh no! She said I will disappear again, means I will definitely die!” “We might not know if the internet is true…” I said. “Yeah, you are right,” Ruby said. “I guess we have to wait until I disappear again…” Ruby continued. “No… I have a plan, but I’m not sure if it would work. But we might now know unless we give it a try!” I said. “So, what’s the plan?” Ruby asked. “Ok, we have to make Dev come out.” I said. “Err…” Ruby said, feeling confused. “We have to say something to piss her off.” I explained. “Like?” Ruby asked. “Just try to think… Let’s do it now.” I answered. “Hey Dev! Are you really that ugly? If you are, come out!” I shouted. “Err… Oh yeah, come on out unless you are afraid!’ Ruby shouted. Suddenly, Ruby was glowing. I hold her hand and we disappeared together. “Where are we?” I moaned. “Oh no! Naomi! Hel…” I heard Ruby said. I looked around and realised that I was in a cemetery, AGAIN! “Ruby?” I hollered. I looked around and spotted Ruby lying at a grave that said, “RIP DEV ‘LOVE FOR ALL, HATRED FOR NONE’ MAY GOD BLESS MY FAMILY” “Uh oh…” I whispered. I ran towards her and carried her up. Suddenly, The Devi appeared. “Wow, you guys are the first who dares to say cruel things to me, other than my brother and… and… wow!” she said. “Err…” Ruby and I said, feeling confused. “I saw that you, Naomi, searched about me on the website. You did not believed the internet and that is very smart of you… It is all a lie. Let me tell you my real story. So my real name is Dev. I was murdered by The Chancer, my brother, also known as Chace. He murdered me because I had something he did not have, popularity. The story goes, when I was born, I was extremely beautiful. A lot of boys always hang out with me but he was not popular. Chace was extremely jealous of me, so he killed me one day.” “Then…” I gasped. “Chace is evil! Oh my!” I screamed. Immediately, Chace appeared and slid Dev’s throat with his knife. “You betrayed me! You evil little creature, you will never get a second chance to live your popular life!” Chace screamed. “Look what we have here… Two girls. Well, Ruby, you want to be pretty right? Then you shall die too!” Chace continued, taking a sword about to kill Ruby. “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!” I screamed. I shut my eyes, thinking of how helpless I am right now. “Don’t you worry and thank you for being so kind to me…” I heard someone whispered to me. I slowly opened my eyes and saw Dev jumping in front of Ruby and defend her from the sword. A lot of things happened in a blink of an eye. Dev was sliced into half, Ruby fainted and Chace screamed, “DEV!” Chace ran towards Dev and sob. “I’m so sorry.” He said to Dev. “Oh no! Dev is dead!” I screamed and ran towards Chace and Dev. “Why did you kill her!? You are crazy!” I screamed at Chace. “I’m sorry.” He said with tears dripping off his face. “Since young, I have this illness. I will turn into someone crazy when I am jealous. But now, when I’m a ghost, I will turn into someone crazy when I give someone a second chance to be prettier.” He explained. “Then just remove the chance you gave Ruby!” I suggested. “Oh yeah! You are right!” he said with his eyes lit up, twinkling with delight. “Second chance, come to me, come to me and you shall die.” He said. After saying that, Ruby was glowing and her face turned to her own face. “Yes! It worked! Ruby, you are back!” I screamed. I took a look at Dev and she was also back to her normal self. Dev cried and thanked me then face Chace and apologise, “I’m sorry, I did not know…” “It’s alright!” Chase said. After that, life was back to normal and now, everyone is wondering where Alexi went, even Cindy. Before I sleep, Dev and Chase would always come and visit me and you will never guess what happens when they visit me…

Although James did not believe in ghosts, it was hard to dismiss the appearance and Disappearance of the girl in a white chiffon dress.

As my brother lay helplessly on his deathbed, I would only recall the memories of him talking about the tree of death. His last words were ‘beware of the undergrowth’.

Days and weeks passed since the tragic accident until I had enough of keeping the secret all to myself. From that point onward I knew both my life and Ella’s life would change…

It all started in the morning when I was deciding on which book from the series ‘GHOST OF MURDER’ I should read again. Then before I could tell what I was doing, I was moving automatically towards the telephone. Unknowingly, I started dialling the numbers 07345967781, it then came to my head that I was dialling the phone number of my friend Ella. Within seconds, the phone was received and that was when I started blabbering about the new club we started, called Devils Dare. Just like I expected she agreed enthusiastically.

Soon after Ella came, fully packed with all the necessities for the club. “Ugh…” I complained it was so annoying when Ella does not understand what I wanted to say. Then I started ambling towards her and started to mumble under my breathe” GHOSTS”! Then out of the blue “AAAAHHHHhhh”! screamed Ella in her usual high-pitched voice. Grabbing her by the wrist we fledged to my room.

There, Ella started complaining about how her wrist is broken and that its paining horribly. “What a cry-baby she is”. I said under my breathe ignoring and trying focus on what I called her here for. Ella stop, I did not mean to scare you. And do you remember my brother…. “Yeah of course I do”. Ella said in a very intense voice. Well before he died, he told me about a tree near Midview meadow was the tree of death. “WOW!!!!” whispered Ella.

Within a blink of an eye I saw Ella opening her laptop and was typing (exceptionally fast) about deaths occurring near the tree. My face then drained out of colour. I felt dumbfounded that I did not think of that earlier. We then only found one website which had the title DEATH…. the ghost of eternal darkness. It then occurred once we started reading the second paragraph, that each time someone dies at that very spot, they have a leaf fall on them and that is when they will evaporate into thin air.

Stunned by the news, we were really wanting to see if it was true. However, just before my very eyes Ella was being taken away from me by the shadows. Suddenly RING…. RING! OH! PHEW, I was dreaming.”. At one point, I had thought that all this a real dream until I realised that it was true, Ella had been taken! Running around in my room just like a headless-chicken I was really frightened until it came to me that my brothers last words were ‘beware of the undergrowth’.

It came to my mind that the undergrowth are the ghosts guarding the tree from the kind and letting the leaves on the ones who have a cold heart. Hurrying up to the tree I went to the very spot where the very people named on the website died. However, I never realised there was a test to pass. Although there was just one question (and that to the question being quite easy I quickly answered it).

As I slowly walked, there was a loud thud, which had made the ground make a little sound of pain. Running towards the core of the loud sound, I found Ella tied up with a misty rope. Fear took over me and without thinking, I noticed that I was at the exact spot where the ghost called death killed its victims. Hoping a leaf would not fall on me, I closed my eyes and wished. Though I unfortunately failed and I evaporated into thin air…

Within seconds I understood Deaths intelligence of luring me to be one of the victims. Abruptly, I found myself floating, I was a ghost!

“OH please, ghosts aren’t real and are never going to be”. James stammered. Who would believe in that. Though little did he know that he would be seeing the exact person at that exact place. Alas, the day arrived he then went with all his bravery to the Midview meadow and to his astonishment saw the last victim of the ghost Death. The next day back at school he started telling everyone about the disappearance and appearances of a ghost he had read, and he saw about. Though no one would ever believe him…

Title: The Stalker “Ring…” the bell rang. “Class dismissed!” Mrs. Ng said. “Amelia! Amelia! Wait for me, let’s walk home together.” Ari shouted. Amelia agreed and they walked home together. On their way home, “Creak…” Amelia turned behind and saw nothing but heard the wind blowing in the air. “BOOM!” When they heard the loud noise, they shouted and ran as fast as their legs could carry them. When they thought they were safe, Amelia stopped running and said, “What a relief! I could hear the loud boom just right beside my ears!” Ari panted and said, “Let’s just walk home and forget that just happened.” Amelia agreed and they continued walking home. Just when they were about to reach home, there was an unknown voice that whispered into Ari and Amelia’s ears. The voice said, “I’ll set you free when I get what I want.” Amelia shouted, “Reveal yourself!” So, the stalker revealed himself. He had spiky hair, tattoo all over his body, long claws as finger nails, a weird smile on his face and a scar on his eye. “My name is Klaus!” “Oh My Gosh!” Ari said it shockingly. Feeling afraid, Amelia whispered to Ari, “Let’s run away!” Ari nodded his head and they ran away. Before they could even move, Klaus use a metal pole and knocked them down. Klaus brought them to an abandoned house, tied their hands with ropes and taped their mouth with duct tape. When Amelia woke up, she mumbled, “Mmmm…. Mmmmm!” When Ari heard Amelia mumbling, she woke up. When Klaus saw Amelia and Ari woke up, he said, “Finally, you’re both awake. I’ve been waiting for an hour!” When he saw both of them were trying to talk, he removed the duct tape on their mouth. “Hey! What do you want?” Amelia shouted. Klaus said, “Money, obviously. Everyone wants money!” “Fine! Take it, release us and go!” Ari said. Klaus asked, “You sure?” “Yeah!” Ari replied. When Klaus was about to take the money, a siren sounded. Klaus shouted, “You called the police?” Amelia giggled and said, “Yeah, I called the police!” After hearing what Amelia had said, Klaus ran as fast as a cheetah. Ari asked Amelia, “Did you really called the police?” Amelia laughed and replied, “No, silly! That was my alarm! I am prepared for anything… Come on, let’s walk home!” s the saying goes, ‘Once bitten, twice shy’, Amelia taught Ari to be prepared for anything.

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How to Write a Scary Story

Last Updated: December 22, 2023 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Christopher Taylor, PhD . Christopher Taylor is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of English at Austin Community College in Texas. He received his PhD in English Literature and Medieval Studies from the University of Texas at Austin in 2014. There are 15 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 344,218 times.

Do you like nightmarish tales that give you goosebumps? Do you get freaked out by stories of suspense? Scary stories, like any story, will follow a basic format that includes developing the premise, setting and characters. But scary stories also rely on tension that builds throughout the story to a frightening or horrific climax. Find inspiration in real life, drawing on your own fears, and write a story that scares you silly.

Sample Scary Stories

creative writing scary story examples

Developing the Premise

Step 1 Make a list of your greatest fears.

  • The fear of the unknown is one of the most powerful devices for a good scary story. People fear what they don’t know.

Step 2 Add a “what if” element to your greatest fear.

  • For example, if you fear being trapped in an elevator, ask yourself, “What if I was stuck in an elevator with a dead person?” Or, “What if the elevator mirror was a door into an evil world?”

Step 3 Work your fear into the setting of a story.

  • Make sure to keep the climax of your story in mind as you develop the setting.

Step 4 Try taking an ordinary situation and adding something horrifying.

  • Or, add a twist to a familiar horror trope, like a vampire who enjoys cake instead of blood, or a man trapped in a dumpster rather than a coffin.

Step 5 Look for a story in the news.

  • Another way to generate story ideas is to use writing prompts. These could be as simple as writing a suspenseful story about staying at a haunted hotel. You might use a prompt about an important party gone wrong or an envious friend who begins to act strangely towards you. Use the prompts to generate a story idea you connect with.

Developing Characters

Step 1 Develop your central characters.

  • Other supporting characters (family member, best friend, love interest, etc.)
  • Minor characters (postal worker, gas station attendant, etc.)

Step 2 Make up specific details for each character.

  • Name, age, physical description (include height, weight, eye color, hair color, etc.)
  • Personality traits
  • Likes and dislikes
  • Family history
  • Best friend and worst enemy
  • Five things the character would never leave home without

Step 3 Make the stakes for the character clear and extreme.

  • Be clear about what will happen if the character does not get what they want. The stakes of the story, or the consequences if the character does not achieve their desires, is what drives the story forward. The stakes also build tension and suspense for your reader.

Step 4 Make your villain not quite right.

  • Try giving your villain a distinguishing gesture that they use often, such as clenching their fists or twitching their nose.
  • Give your villain a deep booming voice, a soft raspy voice, a creaky nasally voice, or a very mad voice.

Step 5 Make life difficult for your characters.

  • The tension between what the reader wants for the character and what could happen or go wrong for the character will fuel the story. It will also propel your readers through the story.

Step 6 Allow your characters to make mistakes or bad decisions.

  • However, don’t go overboard with these mistakes or bad decisions. They should be believable and not merely stupid or inane. For example, don’t have your character, a young babysitter, respond to a masked killer by running outside into the deep, dark woods.

Writing the Story

Step 1 Create a plot outline.

  • Exposition: Set the scene and introduce the characters.
  • Inciting incident: Have something happen in the story to start the action.
  • Rising action: Continue the story, building excitement and suspense.
  • Climax: Include a moment that holds the most tension in the story.
  • Falling action: These are events that occur after the climax.
  • Resolution: Here, the character solves the main problem.
  • Denouement: This is the ending in which the characters resolve any remaining questions.

Step 2 Show, don’t tell, your story.

  • ”I was too scared to open my eyes, even though I heard footsteps coming closer.”
  • “I wrapped the blankets tighter around me and let out a sick whimper. My chest was tight, my stomach rotten. I would not look. No matter how close those shuffling footsteps came, I would not look. I would not, I would…not…”
  • The second example gives the reader more of an insight into the character’s physical feelings.

Step 3 Build tension as the story progresses.

  • Hint at the story’s direction and possible climax by providing small clues or details. You might briefly mention a label on a bottle that will later come in handy for the main character. There might be a sound or voice in a room that will later become a sign of an unnatural presence.
  • Another effective way to build tension is to alternate from tense or bizarre moments to quiet moments. Allow your character to take a breath, calm down, and feel safe again. Then, amp up the tension by re-engaging the character in the conflict. This time, make the conflict feel even more serious or threatening.

Step 4 Try foreshadowing.

  • Keep in mind that foreshadowing is most effective when the reader and characters are unaware of the significance of the clues until the end of the story.

Step 5 Avoid certain words that are too obvious.

  • Scared, scary
  • Terrified, terrifying
  • Horrified, horror

Step 6 Avoid cliches.

Writing a Good Ending

Step 1 Build up to a climax.

  • In Poe’s short story, the climax of the story occurs at the very end. Poe applies more and more pressure to the narrator by having the police visit him. He uses the narrator’s internal struggle to keep his cool and achieve his desire of getting away with murder to create a climax. But by the end of the story, the narrator’s guilt pushes him over the edge and he reveals the body under the floorboards.

Step 4 Add a twist ending.

  • While you want to create a satisfying ending for the reader, you also do not want to make it too closed and settled. The reader should walk away from the story with a lingering feeling of uncertainty.
  • Consider if the ending feels like a surprise or an obvious answer. The key to suspense if not to answer the dramatic question too soon. Poe’s short story ends on a high note because the outcome of the narrator’s dilemma is revealed in the last line of the story. The suspense in the story is sustained until the very end.

Finalizing Your Story

Step 1 Revise the story.

  • Sometimes, readers may be aware of the answer or ending to the dramatic question upfront. But they may be willing to read the story until the end because the lead up to the ending is engaging and suspenseful. They care enough about the characters and the story to read about the events that lead to the climactic event.

Step 2 Proofread your story.

  • Print out your story and comb through it carefully.

Step 3 Get feedback.

  • Characters: Are the characters believable? Do they engage in action that is realistic?
  • Continuity: Does the story make sense? Does it follow a logical order?
  • Grammar and mechanics: Is the language readable? Are there run-on sentences, misused words, etc.?
  • Dialogue: Are conversations between characters realistic? Was there enough (or too much) dialogue?
  • Pacing: Does the story move along at a good pace? Do you get bored in certain areas? Do you think too much happens too quickly in other areas?
  • Plot: Does the plot make sense? Does the character’s objective make sense?

Step 4 Make changes that you think are appropriate.

  • You might find it helpful to take some time away from your story before you try to revise it. Put it aside for a few days or more and then come back to it with fresh eyes.

Expert Q&A

Christopher Taylor, PhD

  • “The Monkey’s Paw,” an 18th century tale by William Wymark Jacobs. This story is about three terrible wishes granted by a mystical monkey’s paw.
  • “The Tell-Tale Heart,” master horror writer Edgar Allen Poe’s psychologically disturbing story of suspense and murder. [17] X Research source
  • Any horror story by Stephen King. King has written over 200 short stories and uses many different techniques to scare his readers. Read “The Moving Finger” or “The Children of the Corn” to get a sense of King’s style.
  • Contemporary writer Joyce Carol Oates’ horror story, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” It uses psychological terror to great effect. [18] X Research source
  • Add a mysterious ending. It's cliched, but it'll get readers every time. Something like "And the young boy and his dog were never seen again. And, as legend has it, every fall equinox, the ghost wolf still returns". Get creative, but be sure to leave them hanging, especially if the story is short. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

creative writing scary story examples

  • If you are conducting research for your scary story in order to make it more realistic, make sure you are careful and sensible. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

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About This Article

Christopher Taylor, PhD

To write a scary story, start with an exciting event that launches the action. For example, you could have the main character find a severed ear while they're out for a walk. As the story progresses, build suspense by making the reader feel empathy towards the characters and creating an immanent danger, like being trapped in a lift. Then, build the climax by adding to the problems your characters confront. Finally, present the climax, which could include a threat to the character's physical or mental wellbeing. For tips on how to develop a theme and characters for your story, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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It all started when dispatch sent him to Newberry Street to investigate a domestic disturbance call.Newberry Street…It was an unremarkable name, one that he never anticipated would haunt his nightmares for years to come. Newberry Street was situated in a rundown part of town, with chain-link fences enclosing the houses. Signs warning "No Trespassing" or "Keep Out!" glared at him from every door and gate.

“ Run, rabbit, run ” by Mari AL

****1) I hope you enjoy this twisted tale! 2) It starts slow but then...3)I tried my best to NOT make it too gory, so don't worry - it won't turn your stomach****"Run, rabbit, run," that's what I say every time I start chasing them. It’s a race between predator and prey. It’s a game I have perfected over the years, but it was here where it all started. It happened ten years ago, and even though I have had many other experiences since then, this is one of my fondest memories. Today I had some n...

“ Monsters ” by Jaclyn Aldridge

Me, to myself in my bathroom mirror: I am Julia, I am twenty years old, and there are no monsters under my bed.  Me to my AI “therapist” Vicki: Hi, Vicki. How are you today? Vicki: I appreciate your question, Julia. I am well. More importantly, how are you? What can I help you with today? Me: Vicki, to be completely honest with you, I’m not rea...

“ Run ” by Vanessa Zone

Jenna swung her brand-new Jeep Cherokee into the dirt parking lot of the visitor’s center. It was 7:02 a.m. and the warm sun was peeking through the trees that loomed above the parking spot she had chosen. It looked like the weather forecast was accurate for possibly the first time this spring.  She smiled; it was indeed going to be a gorgeous day.  Jenna had parked close to the trail head although she really had ...

“ The Hellhound ” by Darren Reith

I stumble through the dreamlike terrain, legs heavy, exhausted, and ready to surrender. I can either sit and down and let the beast take me or I can stand and fight. My heart pounds in my chest. I can sense it; the menacing presence that lurks in the shadows- the Hellhound.I've always been plagued by the most vivid of nightmares. In the waking world I'm just a regular guy, going about my everyday mind-numbing life but in the realm of dreams, I'm hunted by a relentless creature from the depths of hell. Night after night, ...

“ The Endless Chase: A Horror Short Story ” by Daniel Aldridge

Once, there was a young girl named Sue who could run in an unusual way. Sue would fall asleep, and once asleep, she would find herself in a peculiar world run by sinister creatures. These creatures had long, dark tentacles that they would use to ensnare their victims. Sue was never worried because she knew she had the power to control everything in her dream world. That changed one night when Sue fell asleep on a car ri...

“ The Joggers ” by Cryn Johannsen

TW: substance abuse, gore “Don’t you see them?” Esmeralda asked, as she twirled an unlit cigarette between her thumb and index finger.  She and her friend Lucy lounged on an outdated, wraparound couch in her grandma’s 1970s designed home. Despite the age of the décor and furniture, everything was in pristine condition, a time capsule of that era. It was foggy outside, but Esmeralda could still see the two teens jogging as clear as day, just across the street, where they always jogged in place an...

“ The Contemporary Prometheus; or, FrankenBill ” by Matt Aberdeen

Note: this story contains themes of violence, gore, substance abuse, implied sex and self harm. Please be advised before continuing.  My new skin itched. I was not yet accustomed to forms like these, nor could I decide which was most frustrating: my new long hair constantly obstructing my field of vision, or the heaviness of my breasts. No, that's a lie. I had so far failed to manage putting my hair up in a way that wasn't conspicuously sloppy enough to attract u...

The Best Horror Short Stories

Horror stories. What is it that you think of first? Maybe it’s malevolent, otherworldly spirits. Or perhaps it’s psychopaths, serial killers, and struggling writers driven mad by a deserted hotel? Whatever it is, there’s one thing that unites you and every other horror lover out there — adrenaline. You know the feeling: your skin crawls, your heart pounds, a shiver runs down your spine. And, as all the best horror story writers will tell you, the cause of this feeling isn’t just the presence of a monster, but the creation of suspense. 

That’s where short stories come in. Think Stephen King, Edgar Allen Poe, H. P. Lovecraft: some of their best horrors take the form of a short story. Tales that climb steadily towards a dark and horrific denouement. The kind of thing that, if you’re brave enough, you’d tell your friends around a campfire — a torch casting spooky shadows on your face. 

Looking for some spine-chilling horror stories?

If you’re into creepy stories that keep you awake at night, then look no further than our collection of short horror stories, compiled from submissions to our weekly writing contest. Here we’ve gathered together all the scary stories that made us want to lock our laptops in a cupboard and hide under the blankets. And at the top of the page, is the cream of the crop: horror stories that have either won our competition or been shortlisted. 

Lots of promising new writers have emerged from this collection, deftly creating atmosphere and building that all-important suspense. So who knows? You might just discover the next Stephen King. And if you enjoy this collection of horror stories, then why not try your hand at writing your own? You could join this week’s short story contest , and walk away with the cash prize — and a shot at publication in Prompted , our new literary magazine!

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