The best horror writing prompts
A locked door, a creaking house, a shadow under the bed — horror can come from anywhere. It’s all about being able to tap into your own fear. But you know what’s even more scary to writers than screams, blood and gore? The terror of a blank page. That’s where our horror writing prompts come in.
Our prompts are here to give you inspiration, whatever type of horror story you’re writing. Whether your looming threats are demons, ghosts, monsters, witches, zombies, or simply something unknown lurking in the darkness, we’ve got the right ideas to spark your imagination and fuel your nightmares.
With that in mind, here are our top ten horror writing prompts:
- Start your story with a character looking out of a window in the middle of the night.
- An apparent coincidence occurs. Write a story about a character who suspects paranormal, spiritual, or criminal causes.
- Write a story set in a city where the power suddenly goes out, leaving everyone in darkness.
- Write a story that involves a reflection in a mirror.
- A mysterious benefactor will pay $100,000 to anyone willing to stay in a haunted house overnight.
- Start your story with the arrival of a strange visitor in a small town.
- Write about a character who doesn’t want to go to sleep.
- The phone won't stop ringing, but it's not plugged into the wall.
- You hear the crash of plates and a bloodcurdling scream coming from the kitchen.
- It’s 3 am and you don’t know where your children are.
Looking for more help to get your horror writing started? We've got you covered. Check out some of our free resources, handpicked to help you write a story that goes bump in the night.
- How to Master the 'Show, Don't Tell' Rule (free course) — To write a story full of suspense and mystery, you need to get the atmosphere right. Use our Show, Don't Tell course to master immersive storytelling, and make your readers feel like they're right there.
- Character profile template (free resource) — Whether your protagonist is a scaredy cat or misguidedly bold (do they not realize this is a horror story?), you'll want to know exactly what makes them tick. That's how you scare them! Use our character profile to create three dimensional characters, whether they're man, woman, child, or ghoul.
- How to Write a Horror Story: 7 Tips for Writing Horror (blog post) — Our horror writing bible. No matter what kind of story you're working on, you'll find the answers here.
Want more help learning how to write a short horror story? Check out How to Write a Short Story That Gets Published — a free, ten day course guiding you through the process of short story writing by Laura Mae Isaacman, a full-time editor who runs a book editing company in Brooklyn.
Ready to start writing? Check out Reedsy’s weekly short story contest, for the chance of winning $250! You can also check out our list of writing contests or our directory of literary magazines for more opportunities to submit your story.