Calling all Horror/ Supernatural Writers – I need your HELP!


I am new to this genre, I know that the basic advice any writer gives is read, read, read and write about what you know.

The problem there is my vivid imagination, I have challenged myself to read 3 horror books and each time found bile actually rising in my throat!

I have friends who have read Stephen King (bow to the Master) since the age of 12; I guess I am just a scaredy cat.

I have researched around the genre in a technical/ craft type way. I also recently wrote a Friday Fictioneers Flash (100 words) receiver reception find it here. It started life as a 1000 short story, I have been prompted to write more and I envisage writing a serial of flashes to complete the whole story.

 I have read many bloggers who are experts in scaring me with their posts and excerpts and now I need your help, please!

 The following extract is a ‘writing exercise’ hence it’s formulaic and a little stilted I think, or too formal. I offer it to you for open critique – I would really appreciate feedback on this. What it feels like as a reader, how I can improve it. I am a novice in this field. Please post your advice on improving it – what works – what doesn’t…etc




I reach the clearing just as the light begins to fade; I have an hour or so before darkness will prevent me from going further. I stand still to check the area. It is not as big as I had hoped, trees dominate one side and my view beyond is blocked. It has snowed heavily this high up. The only sign of man is a small, wooden bench. It is covered in a thick layer of snow. No one has been this close to the woods in a while. The snow is deep and I can’t see any tracks or footprints nearby. I am exposed on three sides, but if no one has made it up the hill this far I should be safe.

Beyond the bench the wood seems quiet. Almost dead. The spindly trees are dressed in snow and I can see through them further than I hoped. The first six trees deep give me a clear vision of the edge of the wood. It’s a pity I can’t see any further.  I know I need cover, out here I am exposed, visible. I assess the wood, the trees are too thin to offer much protection and I don’t know what lies beyond, deeper in the woods. I am better off out here.

I shiver as a sudden cold chill slices through me, a twig snaps. The sound pierces the silence. I stand as still as I can, holding my breath. Frozen. I feel dizzy as my flickering eyes try to cover all ground, my throat is tight, and I daren’t swallow. It’s hard to see in this dim light, I am snow blind.

Slowly I crouch down in the snow, making myself smaller. I need to see this from another level. It had to be an animal.

15 responses »

  1. I think it’s a good start, especially if this is not your genre. You’ve asked this question at a perfect time because my friends over at Flash Fiction Chronicles posted this today ( and I think it might help. If you follow their tips to tighten this, it could work out to be a very engaging piece. You mentioned “the master” Stephen King (I too have been reading him for ages–I took a break for a while since his stuff got too gory. I came back full-force for the Gunslinger series though…): think about what is so engaging about his work–it is concise and the images are strong. That’s where you want to go 🙂 Can’t wait to see the next version!!

    • Fantastic, thank you! Will check the article. I think it lacks the actual character. It was an exercise in setting… Definitely need to get inside characters head. Will post the rewrites. 🙂

  2. I think it’s good to watch some of the older horror movies too, they seem to focus more on the story than any gore or horror and they weren’t allowed to show a lot of it so had to tell a scary story without showing the scary bits. I really like what you’ve written, there is nothing scarier than being lost in the woods with unfamiliar noises, but why are you there? Why are you alone? Being flung into a situation is a key element to horror, because it shows that this could happen to me, to my friends and family. And that is what is scary about it. 🙂 Look forward to reading more!

    • Thanks Carrie, great advice
      I have seen quite a lot of old films of this genre, they will help with the psychological tricks in my writing … And easier to stomach than gore and blood!

      • oh I agree! My fave horror book (at the moment anyway) is Hannibal, but I had to start reading it during the day because it gave me strange nightmares! There wasn’t too much gore (well, a little bit) but it is such a vivid and real story. Horror is much more fun to write, because at least you know what is going to happen 🙂

      • I imagine scenes that would be censored by any broadcast association, that’s why I struggle reading & watching the genre. I read silence of the lambs and was nearly sick, the film was laughable compared to the images mind produced.

    • Strangely I am not scared by writing the genre … I wrote my prequel during the bewitching hours… the same principle that makes it impossible to tickle yourself I guess, the brain is an amazing thing. I might consider horror on audio. I know I need to read it to write it well.

  3. Hello darling, I hope you don’t mind me coming by to critique an encourage you — First, the good: you build tension well, and your description of setting is wonderful. The bad/things to avoid: I have said it before and I will say it again — writing in the first person subjective present tense is the most Hunger Games-iest of crimes against prose.
    I did this, I did that, I see this…. it’s how we naturally think, and when you’re writing horror, it’s what comes most natural — as if we are just describing a nightmare — which is fine sometimes if you are describing a nightmare. But essentially it is poor and lazy writing — but don’t feel bad, because 90% of even published writing is lazy and poor. (I’m such a bitch, I know!)
    Try stepping outside your egocentric self (and I’m referring to everyone, darling, not just you — this is advice for writing, not an insult to you — I think you have a very good starting point here), and try telling the same story as an omniscient narrator. By doing this, you have different voices — Stephen King does this all the time — you can write the thoughts of your character in first person, but still have an omniscient, third person narrator.
    The advantage of this (for your story, for example) is that the narrator, being omniscient, knows what is in the woods, so you can give glimpses (not too much) of what might be there. You can play with dramatic irony — you can reveal things to the readers that the character doesn’t know.
    Think of all the horror movies you’ve seen where YOU know that the killer is in the closet (because the omniscient cameraman has shown you, but not the character). Think of the tension that is built because YOU know what the character does not. I mean, you’ve probably (like most of us) screamed at the TV screen to warn the character not to go into the basement, etc…
    Anyway, darling, take my two cents as they are intended — encouragement to what I think is a clever budding writer who should continue pursuing her craft and learning all she can.
    Much love,

    • Fantastic, thanks – exactly what I asked for and needed. I haven’t read nearly enough of this genre to be able to write it – I wanted to challenge myself because I am planning to extend a Friday Fictioneers Flash – You will be pleased to hear they are not 1st person!
      I am probably the only person on the planet who has managed to avoid – The Hunger Games, Twilight series, Sat Nav and the having no prior knowledge of the property slump!
      try telling the same story as an omniscient narrator. By doing this, you have different voices — Stephen King does this all the time — you can write the thoughts of your character in first person, but still have an omniscient, third person narrator.
      Great advice and this is how I have managed to write the prequel to the flash (before I read your post)
      Thanks for your help.
      (No offence taken @ all)

      • Do let me know when you post it, darling! Is it the same Friday Fictioneers I’ve just contributed to?
        Oh, and (I know this is conflicting advice!) don’t be afraid to use first person when it calls for it, just don’t ever let it be all you know how to do!

      • Ah, yes, I remember this — well, there are a couple of different schools of thought about this. Some people feel that flash fiction can be continuous — that you can tell a larger story in small chunks — and I guess that can work, as a series of postcards, like, that are part of a larger narrative, yet stand as independent scenes. While I am not utterly opposed to that idea, for me the challenge is to tell something that stands alone and feels complete (or at least as much as 100 words will let you be complete) within the confines of the 100 words, for example. It’s tough, and for me, the best stories are those that make you shake your head and re-count because you can’t believe a person said so much with so little. Good luck, I will be following your progress with antici………………


      • I am with you on that school of thought and have tried to complete the stories in 100 words. This one felt different, I would still consider this a stand alone flash. However, I feel inspired to take this small idea (a fraction of a thought) and create something different, bigger from this tiny acorn.
        The big tree may have very little to do with it – or it could be that I have unintentionally given you a small taste of something that has got taste buds going…

  4. Pingback: Writing Update – Online Writing, Planned Prequel to latest flash and a Plea for Help! | awritersfountain

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