10 Wikipedia Pages Every Horror Writer Needs To Read

We horror writers draw inspiration from everything.

Every. Thing.

Wes Craven credited A Nightmare on Elm Street to a story he read in the local paper. While the paranormal portion of The Amityville Horror may have been fictionalized, the shootings that occurred were not. Sometimes a real tragedy or mystery can act as a vehicle for the message we want to send, for the themes we want to emphasize. Last time around we talked about using Reddit for inspiration, and now we’re turning to Wikipedia for our nightmare fuel. From urban legends to hell-on-earth medial conditions to unexplained incidents, there’s plenty of eerie fodder for the next Great Horror Author to chew on. Brew a cup of coffee and slip down the Wikipedia rabbit hole as you read 10 Wiki pages that will inspire your next great horror story.

10 Wikipedia Pages Every Horror Writer Needs To Read for Inspiration Dyatlov Pass Aokigahara Hinterkaifeck Mary Celeste Capgras Delusion Goiania Accident Cotard Delusion Dancing Plague Tamam Shud
1. The Dyatlov Pass Incident – In 1959, nine experienced hikers trekked across the Ural Mountains. They were later found dead, having torn out of their tents from the inside and ran out into the night under-dressed for the freezing nighttime temperatures. Weird details surrounded the states that the bodies were found in.

2. Aokigahara – Also known as “The Suicide Forest”. You can probably guess why it has that name.

3. Hinterkaifeck – A mass murder in rural Bavarian Germany. Don’t read this one before bed.

4. Mary Celeste – In 1872, an American merchant ship was found adrift in the Atlantic, fully provisioned, but completely devoid of her entire crew.

5. Capgras Delusion – “…a disorder in which a person holds a delusion that a friend, spouse, parent, or other close family member (or pet) has been replaced by an identical-looking impostor.”

6. The Goiania Accident – In 1987, some thieves stole something neat-looking out of an abandoned Brazilian hospital. Within the next 4 weeks, 4 people died and an entire town was exposed to significant levels of radiation. Moral of the story: if it’s glowing, you should probably leave it alone.

7. The Cotard Delusion – A medical condition in which the sufferer, convinced that they have died, denies their own existence.

8. The Dancing Plague of 1518 – A case of mass hysteria in the Holy Roman Empire that compelled many people to dance themselves to death.

9. The Tamam Shud Case – Also known as The Mystery of the Somerton Man, this unsolved case from 1948 starts with an unidentified man found dead on a beach in Southern Australia. It gets weirder from there.

10. The Bunny Man – Reminiscent of Pennywise the Clown, this urban legend involves a man in a rabbit costume, wielding an axe or hatchet.

After you’re done creating your terrifying tale for the masses, be sure to stop by our roundup of online resources for horror writers to see where you can send that story.

What would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments below.

10 Horror Plots That Need To Die

 

Last month, we at Horror Writers successfully hosted our first horror flash fiction contest. We received a slew of entries covering every horror sub genre imaginable. Goreporn, southern Gothic, dark fantasy, even zombies made their way into the submissions inbox. I had the honor of judging the entries and while some submissions never made it past my inbox, I quickly began seeing some of the same plots pop up over and over again. While the twists were novel the first time I read them, they quickly became old hat by the third and fourth submission using the same plot device. Read on to see if that story you’ve been brewing is as original as you thought it was.

10 Cliched Horror Fiction Writing Plots That Need To Die

1. “The Shyamalan Revelation”: Guy does mundane things, but then OMG HE’S BEEN DEAD THE WHOLE TIME. This was by far the most common plot device I’d read among the entries. If you don’t have anything new to add to this cliche, please, for the love of horror, stop it.

2. “The Gothic Victimization”: People are in a haunted place, with no other point to the story beyond that. Spooky things happen to flat characters who are there just to be spooked.

3. “The Jonestown Plot”: The naive protagonist joins a new religion (often via a Craigslist ad), which turns out to be a cult that kills and/or sacrifices it’s newest members.

4. “The Exterminator Deception”:  A man narrates his day as if he’s an exterminator, referring to his prey as “vermin”, “bugs” or “rodents” and then after he dispatches them it becomes clear that the exterminator was actually killing humans the whole time.

5. “The Home Buyer’s Caveat”: A young couple embarking on a new life together buys or inherits a home that turns out to be built on an ancient burial ground, mass murder grave site, or crime scene. As seen in “Poltergeist.”

6. “The Adorable Harbinger”: A bringer of death and suffering is disguised as something cute and innocent, like a child or a fluffy pet. It kills everyone and escapes at the end of the story. As seen in the Adipose episode of Doctor Who.

7. “The Table-Turner”: A predator (maybe a pedophile, maybe a pickpocket) stalks his/her prey, and the prey turns out to be a vampire/demon/supernatural entity. As seen in the Stephen King short story, “Popsy.”

8. “The Soothsayer Dismissal”: A realtor/fortune teller/child will warn about bad juju present, but the protagonists rationalize every strange event until it’s escalated to the point that someone dies or they need to call a medium/priest.

9. “The Dallas”: Unsettling, weird things happen, and it all turns out to be a dream or the insane visions of an unstable narrator. This offshoot of The Shyamalan Revelation is both a cop-out and a letdown to readers. As writers, we’ve all written ourselves into a plot corner at some point. Put in the work and get your characters out in a believable manner.

10. “The Victim Strikes Back”: A bullied kid is now grown and takes bloody vengeance on his/her past tormentor. In the beginning you think that he’s some cold, heartless murderer until the backstory is revealed, then…he’s still a cold, heartless murderer, just one who’s been bullied before.

 

I’ve seen these tropes used in some outstanding horror stories, and used well. The trope was subverted, or the story was self-aware and satirized the cliches in horror, as we’ve seen in films like Tucker and Dale vs. Evil and Cabin in the Woods. Sometimes a more creative writer will use the trope as a tool, a cog in a much bigger nightmare. In those cases it makes for a great story worth telling, but the harsh reality is that these ten plots made up the bulk of submissions that I received. In an era when anyone can self-publish their work online and call themselves an author, the need for originality is of the utmost importance.  We can do better than these dreadfully common tropes, for the greater good of the genre.

7 Ways to Lose a Writing Contest

 

It’s done. You’ve finished your beautiful, haunting work of art and for once, you’re happy with the result. You’re confident enough to not only share your story, but to put it up against countless others in a competition to see who has the best storytelling skills. You decide to enter a writing contest.

Entering a writing contest raises questions: How do I stand out among the sea of entries? What are the judges looking for? Will they even look at my entry?

I recently judged submissions for Horror Writers’ first flash fiction contest, and had the opportunity to see what it was like on the other side of the table. Within hours of opening for submissions, my inbox was flooded with entries from both new and published authors, all with a story to tell. I reached out to a few friends who served as judges for writing contests in the past and learned how to make my task easier. Now that the contest is over and the winner has been chosen, I can share some tips with you.

Any contest judge or slush reader will tell you: when we’re sitting under a mountain of submissions and only have a few open slots for winners, we are reading to reject.

I’ll say that again: we are reading to reject.

Writing Contest Tip for Horror Writers

You may have a stellar story that is sure to keep readers up at night, but if you don’t present that story properly, the judge won’t look past the title. Here are 7 ways to lose a writing contest:

1. Don’t bother with proofreading. If you’re of the mind that true art is effortless and copyeditors are for losers, then feel free to send in that rough draft as a final submission. Judges don’t want to spend their time correcting basic grammatical errors in order to make your story readable. A sloppy story WILL get passed over for a weaker story that’s more polished and tightly written.

2. Don’t bother with following submission guidelines. Format predicts quality, straight up. When a publication sets forth rules on how your email should be titled, story format, and so forth, they aren’t just trying to make their job easier (though that is part of it). They are checking to see who can follow basic instructions. If I decree that email submissions look like this: CONTEST SUBMISSION: [TITLE]-[WORDCOUNT], and I get something titled “Hey, here’s my story I hope you like it”…I’m not even going to open the email. In our last flash fiction contest, I threw out 3 submissions for this exact reason.

3. Feel free to ignore word count limits. Go ahead and send in that 4,500 word masterpiece to that microfiction competition. The judge will hate you with the fire of a thousand suns and will make a mental note (and possibly a physical one) to never support your work in any way, ever.

4. Start your story slowly. Judges often pass the biggest judgment on the first page of a piece. If we don’t care about what happens next, we stop there. For flash fiction, it’s the first paragraph. For microfiction, it’s the first sentence. Our inbox is full of more submissions, and we are looking to whittle down the submisssion to a small group of finalists. A quick way to weed out the weakest entries is to discard any story where the beginning fails to make us want to continue. So, if you’re trying to avoid that lucrative contest prize, don’t draw your reader in or begin with a bang.

5. Keep your character as flat as possible. Don’t worry about developing them or making your reader care about them. It makes it easier for the contest judge to check out of your story early on, and discard your entry in favor of one that features a compelling protagonist.

6. Hit your reader with the same thing they’ve read a thousand times before. That plot twist you saw in The 6th Sense is not only a crazy turn of events, it’s also a great way to guarantee that your submission gets tossed right into the trash folder.

7. Leave your reader hanging. Psst: We can tell when you got dangerously close to hitting your word count limit and panicked. Maybe you spent so much time on character development (see #5) that you ran out of room in the end. Whatever the reason, your judge will be frustrated that they invested in the story only to get slapped with an unsatisfactory resolution. They’ll tell their friends. They’ll tell their cat. They’ll also hit “delete” on your submission.

In a writing contest, it’s not enough to have a really great story concept. The sheer volume of entries limits the amount of time that each judge can dedicate towards absorbing your work. As a result, it becomes important that you not only polish your work and keep it compelling, but you must prove that you can follow simple instructions. These are the best ways to guarantee that your story will get the attention it deserves.

Have you committed any of these contest-writing sins? Let us know in the comments below.

50+ Essential Subreddits for Horror Writers

Most folks today are at least aware of Reddit. “The front page of the Internet” is both an endless source of information, and a notorious time-waster. You can find whole communities dedicated to even the tiniest of niches, and it turns out that horror writers are no exception.

When we previously posted a list of 10 great online resources for horror writers, Reddit was originally at the top of that list. However, I found that it wasn’t enough to drop a link to the home page of the website; there are many, many nooks and crannies to search through. Some subreddits only have 4 subscribers, or haven’t posted anything new in months. Those places aren’t particularly helpful to those of us working on our latest story, so I’ve rounded up 63 subreddits that have a fair following and an active community.

Whether you’re looking for boogeyman inspiration or a good conversation on the common themes in Stephen King’s works, these horror havens are a great way to enhance the quality of your Reddit newsfeed.

 

*Note: Always check the sidebar in each subreddit for their posting guidelines, especially in the Places to Post Your Stories section. If you get banned for violating the rules, no one will see your literary masterpiece!*

Lit & Authors
r/StephenKing
r/Lovecraft
r/CliveBarker
r/HorrorLit

Art & Inspiration
r/ImaginaryHorrors
r/ImaginaryCarnage
r/ImaginaryDemons
r/ImaginaryBehemoths
r/ImaginaryBeasts
r/ImaginaryMonsters
r/ImaginaryWerewolves
r/ImaginaryLeviathans
r/creepy
r/UnresolvedMysteries
r/oldschoolcreepy
r/serialkillers
r/skulls
r/paranormal
r/CemeteryPorn
r/unnerving
r/EvilBuildings
r/TheDepthsBelow

Cinematic Horror
r/Horror
r/ClassicHorror
r/Horror_Filmmakers
r/UMCU (Universal Monsters Cinematic Universe)
Places To Post Your Stories
r/NoSleep
r/TheChills
r/TrueScaryStories
r/WritersOfHorror
r/Horror_Stories
r/Creepypasta
r/UrbanMyths
r/ScaredShitless
r/ShortHorror
r/ShortScaryStories
r/TheNightmareFactory
r/WelcomeToHell
r/DarkTales
r/OneParagraph
r/FlashFiction
Specific Monsters
r/Skinwalkers
r/Vampires
r/Werewolves
r/Demons
r/OuijaBoards
r/Ghosts
r/Zombies
r/Cthulhu

On Writing
r/Writing
r/WritingHub
r/Screenwriting
r/ShutupAndWrite
r/KeepWriting
r/WriterResearch
r/ShortStoriesCritique
r/LibraryOfShadows
r/WritersOfHorror
r/Fanfiction
r/HighSchoolWriters
r/WritingPrompts
r/Worldbuilding
r/SelfPublish

5 MORE Horror Films Every Horror Writer Should Watch

Last month, I talked about movies that all horror writers must watch to help them become better storytellers.  Learning what makes good horror stories work so well can give an incredible boost to your own writing in the same way that absorbing more books (both good and bad) can help you hone your craft. Here is another roundup of films that deliver the scares and are worth watching with a pen and paper at your side.

How To Watch Films With A Storyteller's Eye

**Obligatory disclaimer:  I acknowledge that these films may not be for everyone. I chose these films for specific reasons that were helpful to my own writing, reasons that I’ve laid out below. I also grant that the reasons I list below are not the only thing that make these films effective. I can’t say with a straight face that cinematography didn’t play heavily into Event Horizon , or that the sweeping score and striking imagery didn’t affect my experience watching A Tale of Two Sisters . However, I tried to focus on things that could cross mediums, into writing. **

 

 

 

 

Event Horizon – This genre-straddling tale takes us to the far reaches of space (and beyond) as we follow a rescue crew investigating a spaceship’s disappearance into and subsequent return from a black hole. This film is a classic Eldritch horror set in space, and, like any solid horror story, makes effective use of atmosphere in order to set the stage and keep the audience in a state of dread from the very beginning. We get a sense of eerie isolation and bad juju vibes from the jump, and I credit screenwriter Philip Eisner for that.  The setting and tone create incredible narrative tension far before the blood starts to spill, building dread and priming the audience for what’s to come. While the cinematography certainly adds to the pulse-pounding viewing experience, it would all be sound and fury without the haunted house story that lies at Event Horizon’s core.

Ravenous – I chose not to put up the trailer for this film because it would taint your viewing experience. Seriously, don’t get me started on that trailer. Don’t even look it up on YouTube; the thumbnails are mostly spoiler-laden. It’s widely agreed among many horror fans that this is a film best viewed for the first time with as little prior knowledge as possible. All you need to know is that it’s a period film (19th century) steeped in murder and madness. On your subsequent viewing, take note of its use of gallows humor to punctuate its most savage, brutal moments. Embracing the humor in dark moments can work to relieve tension and aid in pacing.

Frailty – This 2001 film, written by Brent Hanley and directed by (and starring) Bill Paxton, follows FBI agent Wesley Doyle as he tracks a serial killer known as The God’s Hand Killer, when a man walks in claiming to know the identity of the killer and the location of some bodies. Without spoiling the amazing ending, I’ll say that this film is full of effective plot twists, and deftly reverses the audience’s expectations time and time again. This film also makes great use of the unreliable narrator to keep the viewer guessing, and subtle foreshadowing makes the ending so much more satisfying and the movie so much more rewatchable.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kv30PSVkWKU

Devil – A group of strangers in New York end up stuck together in a high-rise elevator, and…strange things begin to happen. Some of them get hurt, and they all begin to turn on each other as authorities outside the elevator work to save the trapped passengers. M. Night Shyamalan is known for his twist endings, but this 2010 film shines for a different reason; its efficient use of pacing. The events unroll in real-time, keeping things crisp and urgent for those watching at home. The time constraint not only keeps tension tightrope-taut, it allows the actors to take their performances up to 11; their respective characters react believably, becoming increasingly paranoid and desperate to survive in the 50-ish on-screen minutes they have in that cramped space.

A Tale of Two Sisters – This 2003 film is a stellar example of intricate plotting. The Tale tells of a pair of sisters recovering from a mental breakdown at an imposing Gothic house, with their tired father and sinister stepmother. An airtight narrative structure leaves no room for fluff, only vital elements of the puzzle. Everything means something: a piece of furniture, an article of clothing, a persistent sound. Screenwriter/director Jee-woon Kim took a single event and broke it down, to be served to the audience at a perfect rate, in a perfect manner. The result is a mesmerizing journey into one person’s heart of darkness.

When we as writers watch films through a storytelling lens, we can figure out what makes a good story work. We can then translate that into our writing and improve our craft. Have you come across a film that has helped you spin a better yarn? Let us know in the comments below!