No one’s perfect, not even the writers here at SpookBrain; I should know, I’m one of them. That being said, we’ve been around the block a few times, spending countless hours refining our craft and editing story after story. With all that experience comes wisdom (some semblance of wisdom at least), and what is wisdom if it is not shared?
Here are ‘3 Tips’ we guarantee*** will improve your horror stories. Use this advice at your own risk. You may end up scaring the shit out of yourself.
***please note SpookBrain cannot actually guarantee your writing will improve and can not be held liable if your writing comes out terribly
1. Avoid ‘No-No Words’
You’ve probably seen them a million times, “suddenly”, “and then”, “out of nowhere”. In the industry, we refer to these as ‘no-no words’; obvious and simplistic transitions to new and unexpected events.
For example, an author might write, “Suddenly, the killer broke through the door and attacked Mackenzie.”
A better way to write this would be, “The door cracked open in a shower of splinters. With sickening speed, the killer broke through, attacking Mackenzie with a serrated knife.”
In the second example, we used descriptions to set the scene. This helps to further engage the reader in your work, helping to paint a vivid picture in their mind. Replacing “no-no” words with these types of descriptor sentences will go a long way in helping to improve your stories.
In summary, avoid “no-no words” at all costs and try your best to describe what’s happening — rather than relying on a cheap crutch.
2. Show Don’t Tell
As an author, it is important that you don’t tell the reader everything. For example, rather than writing “Mike was scared”, allow the readers to make an inference by writing something like, “Mike’s bottom lip trembled, his eyes as wide as saucers.”
Readers don’t want their hand held (not all the time at least). They want to dive deep into your world and experience everything it has to offer. If you keep the story at the surface level and spoon feed the plot to the reader, it doesn’t allow your audience to deeply engage with the material. Not to mention, it’s much more fun to ‘show’ rather than ‘tell’.
Be creative. Find different and interesting ways to build and define characters, setting, and plot. You’re creative output and enjoyment will increase with every passing sentence!
3. Grammar Matters (and resources to help)
This may sound obvious, but hear me out. I know amateur writers don’t have access to boatloads of editors, unlike their professional counterparts. That being said, it is far from impossible to craft something ‘professional’ written, but that shouldn’t necessarily be the goal. Find your benchmark for editing and reach it. Just understand that different platforms have different standards, and it is incumbent on you to suss that out.
The goods news is there are resources out there to help you! Take the time to edit and revise, use free editing programs like Grammarly, or ask your friends and family to give it a once over. For those of you posting on NoSleep, there’s also awesome and helpful communities like NoSleepWorkShops.
Bad grammar and poor syntax can ruin otherwise great stories. It can break the sense of connection and immersion for the reader. Trust me when I say, ‘Grammar Matters’ (oh god, I’ve become my father…)