How To Write A Book On Horror Genre – Do’s & Don’ts

Have you noticed that whenever we hear the word “Horror,” most of us experience some spooky or uncanny feelings, but why does it happen? Actually, our minds associate the word horror with several unpleasant aspects such as the fear of unknown & dark elements, ghosts & paranormal activities, black magic, psychological terror and even death & paranoia. So, this is the primary reason why only a minor fragment of the readers’ community likes to read the Gothic Literature. However, we need to understand that the horror genre is nothing else other than just a part of the writers’ imagination. Many of us will find this unusual or eccentric but some people believe that reading horror genre helps them to confront their fear, which in turn provides them with a great sense of peace. Well, in this particular article, we shall explore the basics of writing a book on horror genre along with the necessary Do’s as well as the Don’ts of this genre!

Introduction to the Concept of Horror Genre

Interestingly, the horror genre thrives on chills and nightmares. It delves into our deepest fears, both primal and contemporary. Horror stories might feature monstrous creatures or explore the supernatural, preying on our fear of the unknown. Violence and death can be central themes, but horror can also be more psychological, digging into anxieties about isolation, paranoia, or the darkness within ourselves. Social commentary often creeps into horror, reflecting anxieties about war, social injustice, or technological advancements. Ultimately, horror is not just about scaring us. It can provide a safe space to confront our fears, offering a sense of catharsis and empowerment by letting us face the darkness in a controlled environment.

Difference between Horror Genre & Gothic Literature

While, both horror as well as gothic literature share a dark and unsettling atmosphere, they are not interchangeable. Here is a breakdown of the key differences between these two captivating genres –

Core Focus

  • Horror: Focuses primarily on eliciting fear, dread, and disgust in the reader. It explores our primal anxieties about the unknown, death, violence, and the monstrous. Scary creatures, psychological torment, and suspenseful situations are hallmarks of the genre!
  • Gothic Literature: Creates a brooding and unsettling atmosphere, often using elements of mystery, romance, and the supernatural. While it can be scary, the fear is often secondary to exploring broader themes like the darkness within human nature, the corruption of power, and the weight of the past.

Origin and Influences

  • Horror: Has roots in ancient folklore and mythology, with stories of monsters, ghosts, and demons passed down through generations. Modern horror draws inspiration from scientific anxieties, psychological theories, and social commentary!
  • Gothic Literature: Emerged in 18th century England, drawing inspiration from medieval romances, the concept of the sublime, and the emerging interest in the psychological. It often features elements of the supernatural, but the true horror often stems from human actions and societal pressures.

Settings and Characters

  • Horror: Can take place anywhere, from isolated cabins in the woods to bustling city streets. Monsters or supernatural threats can be external or internal, representing anxieties of the time period.
  • Gothic Literature: Often features grand, decaying mansions, desolate landscapes, and gloomy settings that symbolise the characters’ internal struggles. Characters are frequently haunted by past sins, family secrets, or societal expectations!


  • Horror: Explores themes of fear, death, the fragility of sanity, and the monstrous potential within humanity. It can also serve as a social commentary, reflecting anxieties about war, technology, and social change.
  • Gothic Literature: Delves into themes of good versus evil, the supernatural, the weight of the past, and the corrupting influence of power. It can also explore the societal roles of women, class divisions, and the nature of madness!


  • Horror: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Stephen King’s The Shining, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House.
  • Gothic Literature: Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights.

Overlaps and Evolution

  • There is some overlap between the two genres. Gothic literature can be quite horrifying, and some horror stories incorporate gothic elements!
  • Horror has evolved significantly over time, incorporating elements of science fiction, psychological thrillers, and even dark humour.

The Do’s and the Don’ts of Writing a Horror Genre Book

The horror genre, with its ability to evoke fear, suspense, and a delicious thrill, continues to enthral readers. But, crafting a truly terrifying tale requires more than just jump scares and gruesome descriptions. To become a master of chills, aspiring horror writers need to navigate a delicate balance between the tried & tested methods and the  real innovative ideas!

The Do’s

  • Embrace Your Fears: Delve into what scares you the most. Whether it is the unknown, the darkness within, or the fragility of human existence, tap into your personal fears to create a story that resonates with a primal level in your readers.
  • Develop Believable Characters: Horror thrives on relatable characters. Invest time in crafting characters with flaws, vulnerabilities, and motivations that readers can connect with. Their struggles and choices will heighten the emotional impact of the horror they encounter!
  • Build Suspense Slowly: Do not rush the scares. Horror is about building tension, creating a sense of unease that gradually escalates. Utilise foreshadowing, atmospheric descriptions, and a slow reveal of the true horror to keep readers on the edge of their seats.
  • Explore Different Types of Horror: Horror is a diverse genre. From psychological thrillers to supernatural chills to creature features, explore various sub-genres and find the one that resonates most with your voice and story!
  • Ground Your Story in Reality: Even the most outlandish horror stories benefit from a foundation in reality. Ground your narrative in relatable settings, familiar situations, or contemporary anxieties to make the horror feel all the more terrifying.

The Don’ts:

  • Rely Solely on Jump Scares: Cheap scares may elicit a momentary jolt but lack lasting impact. Focus on building genuine tension and atmosphere to create a sense of dread that lingers long after the reader turns the page!
  • Fall Back on Clichés: Overused tropes like haunted houses, possessed dolls, and vengeful spirits can leave readers feeling uninspired. While there is nothing wrong with revisiting classic themes, strive for originality in your approach.
  • Graphic Does Not Equal Scary: Excessive gore and violence can be gratuitous and ultimately numbing. Horror thrives on suggestion and the power of the imagination. Let your readers fill in the blanks to create a truly terrifying experience!
  • Neglect Character Development: Flat, one-dimensional characters diminish the impact of the horror. Invest time in developing characters with distinct personalities, motivations, and backstories.
  • Forget About Logic: While horror can be fantastical, a complete disregard for logic can alienate readers. Establish a set of internal rules within your horror world and ensure the events, actions, and outcomes remain consistent with those rules!


In conclusion, writing a successful horror novel requires a balance between innovation and established conventions. By embracing your fears, crafting believable characters, and building suspense, you can create a terrifying tale that lingers long after the final page. Remember, horror is about more than just scares, as it is about exploring the darkness that resides within us all. So, delve into the shadows, confront your anxieties, and unleash the horror that awaits within you. After all, the most terrifying stories often lie within the depths of our own imaginations. Now, go forth, unleash your inner horror writer and may your nightmares inspire spine-tingling tales since, the horror genre is eagerly waiting for a fresh voice.

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