Halloween is always a great time to start thinking about writing a Horror screenplay, novel or short story. It’s a date on the calendar that never changes, plus Horror is always in demand around this time. So Halloween can act as a brilliant motivator for writing that Horror piece you’ve always meant to … Plus you can use the same date **next year** as your deadline. Perfect!
So, without further ado, here’s a starter kit on all things Horror to get you going. Gooooooooood luck!
1) Learn From The Classics (AND The Clangers)!
If you want to write a particular genre, you need to immerse yourself in it … Horror is no different. Classic books, movies and TV shows are classics for a reason. It doesn’t matter if you personally like them or not. You need to ASSESS them and work out why they hit their target audience so well.
You also need to see the movies and TV shows and read the books that don’t quite hit the mark as well. What is it that falls flat? What could have been done to improve them? I’m not talking about gut feelings here, I’m talking CRAFT. Also, read case studies – this is the internet, there’s plenty of them! Here’s a few to get you started:
- How IT Demonstrates The Enlightening Power of Subtext
- 10 Screenwriting Lessons From THE EXORCIST – Part 1 and Part 2
- The Powerful Lesson ALIEN COVENANT Teachers Writers
- 2 Important Lessons LIFE (2017) Can Teach Screenwriters
- Book Versus Film (And Beyond!): WAR OF THE WORLDS
- Stephen King’s THE SHINING – Which Is Better?
- Book Versus Film: Stephen King’s IT
- Stephen King’s MISERY – Adaptation Under The Microscope
- Movie or Book? SILENCE OF THE LAMBS
- Book Versus Film: I AM LEGEND
This Halloween, make sure you get your watchlist and ‘to be read’ pile together! You need to know what has gone before to hit your target audience right in the face.
2) Find Out The Difference Between Horror and Thriller
I’ve worked with too many writers who *think* they’re writing a Horror … But really they’re writing a Thriller (and vice versa!). Before you begin on your own Halloween Horror journey, make sure you know the difference. Check out this post, What Is The Difference Between Horror & Thriller?, plus this one too: A Case Study (WIND CHILL).
3) Find Out What Is Possible On A Budget
There’s a reason Horror screenplays are popular with producers. They’re in demand and they can make at very low budgets … Especially because it’s one of few genres that DON’T ‘need’ a star attached. But lots of writers are clueless about writing low budget. Here’s a great post with the lowdown of what to avoid: Top 5 Mistakes Writers Make With Low Budget Horror.
4) Write Great Openers And Visuals In Your Horror
Look, Horror needs great visuals. It is non-negotiable. If you think about the iconography of authors like Stephen King, the images he conjures up are just sublime … It’s no wonder so many of his books have become movies and TV series. Check out the new series on Amazon Prime of The Purge begins, HERE. Just make sure you don’t write THESE GROAN-WORTHY OPENERS.
5) Avoid The ‘Classic’ Mistakes Of The Genre
Like any of the other genres, make sure you avoid Horror classic clangers. Two-dimensional characters, endless strings of gruesome scenes and highly derivative concepts are just three. Find 5 more, here: 8 Mistakes That Will Kill Your Horror Screenplay DEAD.
6) Invest in Your Concept
Horror stories have some of the most memorable concepts around. Even if people HATE horror, there is a good chance they know the classics … Even if they have never seen or read them! That’s no mean feat. So make sure you invest in your concept! Top 5 Concept Mistakes Writers Make
7) Dodge Weird Tropes and Genre Pet Peeves
Like every genre, Horror has more than its fair share of recurring motifs that turn up TOO MUCH. If you think it’s bad in published or produced stuff, you should check out the spec pile! If I read one more ‘mysterious guy at funeral’, my head is going to EXPLODE. Check these out – and avoid:
8) Make Your Dialogue Pull Its Weight
Contrary to popular belief, B2W does NOT hate dialogue … I actually love dialogue, but it has to be GREAT! But what does that mean? Well, dialogue has to a) reveal character and b) push the story forward. A bit like everything else, really! Here’s a great case study of Horror movie dialogue to get your synapses firing: Top 10 Scary Movie Lines And Why They Work.