Horror Fiction Essay Outline

Every Bike Ride by Duncan Long

10 Horrifying Horror Story Prompts

Here are 10 horror story prompts that should give you the chills, and get you writing something scary. Warning if these don’t scare you, you are most-likely a zombie, vampire, werewolf or ghost. If you are unaware of being one of the undead, seek medical attention immediately.

  1. You have had a strange feeling for a few days now. Today you’ve been feeling very energetic and tired at the same time. You sit, exhausted and full of energy, at your desk. Your arm has been itching. It’s killing you now. You look at your forearm and see it for the first time. Something is moving under your skin. It is shifting around. Your muscle spasms and you realize there are dozens moving toward the surface.
  2. You open your eyes to complete darkness. The last thing you remember is the dog running out into the road, the brightness of the day light, and your car headed off the road. As your head clears you realize you are hanging upside down. Your feet and legs are completely mobilized. You can hear something breathing in the room.
  1. Your driving on a country road. It is late at night. You are far from home. You realize, as you check your mirrors, there is a man you do not know, hiding on the floor of your back seat.
  2. It’s 3 am. Your room is dark, but you can see that there is someone, standing at the foot of your bed. You can just make out that he or she is wearing a clown costume, and you are pretty sure, from the glare and the little bit of reflection, that it has a knife.
  3. At 3 am you wake up out of a very sound sleep. You hear the ice cream truck outside of your house. And you realize, the sound that woke you up, was the sound of your 4 year old daughter, letting the screen down slam, as she left the house.
  4. You are running late. After quickly getting ready, you rush out of the house and to your car door. A sound gets your attention, and for the first time this morning you look at your surroundings. There is a fully grown male lion, just a few feet from you. Your car door is still locked.
  5. You are falling. The 737 is a 100 yards above you. You hear the rush of the wind, and it’s so cold. You realize you are still holding your baby.
  6. The worst cramps you have ever had set in on your biceps. Your arms are twisting. You feel your ankles popping. It came on so suddenly. You drop to your knees, looking through your bedroom window, you see the full moon. You hear a little voice behind you, “Mommy?” (or “daddy”)
  7. You are frozen with fear. You open your eyes, the tent is dark. But you can feel the heavy weight of a large tarantula covering one eye. Through the other eye you can see the shadows, from the moonlight, of 100s if not 1000s of other spiders covering the tent.
  8. The man leans into you. There is a dark red almost black color to the whites of his eyes. He is so close his nose is almost touching your nose. You can feel his breath when he says, “We all have it in here. We are all infected.

We are looking for submissions to our horror story contest!!!! Submit your creepy story here.

If you would rather write horror poetry, try our Horror Haiku Contest.

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10 Horrifying Horror Story Prompts Here are 10 horror story prompts that should give you the chills, and get you writing something scary. Warning if these don't scare you, you are most-likely a zombie, vampire, werewolf or ghost. If you are unaware of being one of the undead, seek medical...

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Image by Lucius B. Truesdell, via Wikimedia Commons

Though the term “weird fiction” came into being in the 19th century---originally used by Irish gothic writer Sheridan Le Fanu---it was picked up by H.P. Lovecraft in the 20th century as a way, primarily, of describing his own work. Lovecraft produced copious amounts of the stuff, as you can see from our post highlighting online collections of nearly his entire corpus. He also wrote in depth about writing itself. He did so in generally prescriptive ways, as in his 1920 essay “Literary Composition,” and in ways specific to his chosen mode---as in the 1927 “Supernatural Horror in Literature,” in which he defined weird fiction very differently than Le Fanu or modern authors like China Miéville. For Lovecraft,

The true weird tale has something more than secret murder, bloody bones, or a sheeted form clanking chains according to rule. A certain atmosphere of breathless and unexplainable dread of outer, unknown forces must be present; and there must be a hint, expressed with a seriousness and portentousness becoming its subject, of that most terrible conception of the human brain--a malign and particular suspension or defeat of those fixed laws of Nature which are our only safeguard against the assaults of chaos and the daemons of unplumbed space.

Here we have, broadly, the template for a very Lovecraftian tale indeed. Ten years later, in a 1937 essay titled “Notes on Writing Weird Fiction,” Lovecraft would return to the theme and elaborate more fully on how to produce such an artifact.

Weird Fiction, wrote Lovecraft in that later essay, is “obviously a special and perhaps a narrow" kind of "story-writing," a form in which “horror and the unknown or the strange are always closely connected,” and one that “frequently emphasize[s] the element of horror because fear is our deepest and strongest emotion.” Although Lovecraft self-deprecatingly calls himself an “insignificant amateur,” he nonetheless situates himself in the company of “great authors” who mastered horror writing of one kind or another: “[Lord] Dunsany, Poe, Arthur Machen, M.R. James, Algernon Blackwood, and Walter de la Mare.” Even if you only know the name of Poe, it’s weighty company indeed.

But be not intimidated—Lovecraft wasn’t. As our traditional holiday celebration of fear approaches, perhaps you’d be so inclined to try your hand at a little weird fiction of your own. You should certainly, Lovecraft would stress, spend some time reading these writers’ works. But he goes further, and offers us a very concise, five point “set of rules” for writing a weird fiction story that he says might be “deduced… if the history of all my tales were analyzed.” See an abridged version below:

  1. Prepare a synopsis or scenario of events in the order of their absolute occurrence—not the order of their narrations.

This is a practice adhered to by writers from J.K. Rowling and William Faulkner to Norman Mailer. It seems a an excellent general piece of advice for any kind of fiction.

  1. Prepare a second synopsis or scenario of events—this one in order of narration (not actual occurrence), with ample fullness and detail, and with notes as to changing perspective, stresses, and climax.
  1. Write out the story—rapidly, fluently, and not too critically—following the second or narrative-order synopsis. Change incidents and plot whenever the developing process seems to suggest such change, never being bound by any previous design.

It may be that the second rule is made just to be broken, but it provides the weird fiction practitioner with a beginning. The third stage here brings us back to a process every writer on writing, such as Stephen King, will highlight as key—free, unfettered drafting, followed by…

  1. Revise the entire text, paying attention to vocabulary, syntax, rhythm of prose, proportioning of parts, niceties of tone, grace and convincingness of transitions...

And finally….

  1. Prepare a neatly typed copy—not hesitating to add final revisory touches where they seem in order.

You will notice right away that these five “rules” tell us nothing about what to put in our weird fiction, and could apply to any sort of fiction at all, really. This part of the admirably comprehensive quality of the otherwise succinct essay. Lovecraft tells us why he writes, why he writes what he writes, and how he goes about it. The content of his fictional universe is entirely his own, a method of visualizing “vague, elusive, fragmentary impressions.” Your mileage, and your method, will indeed vary.

Lovecraft goes on to describe “four distinct types of weird story” that fit “into two rough categories—those in which the marvel or horror concerns some condition or phenomenon, and those in which it concerns some action of persons in connection with a bizarre condition or phenonmenon.” If this doesn’t clear things up for you, then perhaps a careful reading of Lovecraft’s complete “Notes on Writing Weird Fiction” will. Ultimately, however, “there is no one way” to write a story. But with some practice---and no small amount of imagination---you may find yourself joining the company of Poe, Lovecraft, and a host of contemporary writers who continue to push the boundaries of weird fiction past the sometimes parochial, often profoundly bigoted, limits that Lovecraft  set out.

Related Content:

H.P. Lovecraft’s Classic Horror Stories Free Online: Download Audio Books, eBooks & More

Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown (Free Documentary)

Stephen King’s Top 20 Rules for Writers

Writing Tips by Henry Miller, Elmore Leonard, Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman & George Orwell

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness


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