You know the risks, and you’re ready to take on the challenge. Writing horror is a tough field, writing it in short form, a challenge, and doing both well, the only reason to be a writer. Here are 10 things to think about and try when writing your next short short story in horror:
1. Know Your Publisher: Most writers put together a story with a goal in mind. So take look around and find a publication that will offer you what you want. There are a number of great places to submit your story, but know that each publication and each editor has different requests and that not all plot ideas will work in all settings and many, but not all, publishers want what will sell over quality any day.
2. Know Your Reader: If your determined to submit a short story to a publication, then know what the readers expect. Horror isn’t the same for all publications, so spend some time doing some research thinking about what the readers of that publication want.
3. Shorter Can be Better: Think of a short story as a snapshot of the best parts of a novel blended together. You don’t need pages of dialog or setting up scenes, because as a short story writer, you can do it all just as well in half the words.
4. Write it All: Write everything that comes to mind. Don’t worry about what ideas work and which ones don’t. It will be easier to take everything and cut it down than it will be to add things in later. What you’ll be left with is the best of what you need to pull off your short story.
5. Pick a Great Place: Think about a setting that sets up your plot for you. You can make a big impact on the pacing and necessity of explaining the plot to the reader by choosing the perfect place. Think of things that are naturally creepy without necessitating explanation.
6. Symbolism is your friend: Put in things that the reader will catch onto without explanation. This is the perfect opportunity to pull in old objects, crazy writing and other physical objects or events that have obvious implications.
7. Only Explain What You Need to: Writers should think about what they need to detail and what they don’t. Anything that is naturally explained by it’s being doesn’t need to be detailed, save those words for the action.
8. Get to it: It’s okay to start off fast, and it’s a great idea to let the action show who your characters are and why readers should care.
9. Diction Counts: Choose simple but strong words. If you can say it with one word then do so. Forget phrases like very tired and go for a simple exhausted instead; be thinking euphoric instead of extremely happy. Try to imagine a verb without adverbs; there is usually a better option anyway.
10. Make the Reader Your Priority: Forget about the publication when you’re done, if you’ve planned your writing and chosen strong elements, then it’s out of your hands. What isn’t, is the choice to think about the how the reader is going to feel when they are done. Do not be afraid to slash your own work, make the reader’s excitement your concern.
It’s a whole new world, and it’s highly competitive. You want to get published, you have to please the editor, you want to get read, and then you have to please the reader. When writing a short story in horror, let the mechanics, structure and plot please the publisher, and let your characters, actions and setting please your audience.