Screenwriting Blog
Posted on by Victoria Lucia

6 Tips for Writing a Horror Screenplay in Traditional Screenwriting

Top 6 Tips for Writing a Horror Screenplay

Horror! It’s a genre that, when it’s great it’s great, but when it’s bad, wow, it can be painfully bad. So how does one write a good horror movie? What are some things to keep an eye out for? How do you know if it’s scary? Here are some tips to help you get your Stephen King on!

  • Know the Horror Screenplay Structure

    Is your film a slasher movie? A monster movie? A ghost story? Familiarize yourself with other movies like it. The more familiar you become with a specific type of movie, the better you’ll understand an audience’s expectations and be able to work those to your advantage.

    Take “Scream,” for example, written by Kevin Williamson, a movie that is very much a slasher film. “Scream” is a self-aware film that acknowledges the genre and type of movie it is. It’s then able to poke fun at things that commonly happen in slasher movies, or turn genre-tropes on their head, doing the unexpected. The film is only able to do these things because the writer is acutely aware of the slashers that came before it.

  • What scares you?

    It’s always a good idea to work from personal experience, and the odds are very high that whatever gives you the heebie-jeebies gives other people the creeps, too! Plus, people respond to authenticity. If you’re terrified of enclosed spaces and you explore that in your story, audiences are likely to pick up on the real fear you’ve imbued in your script. 

  • Empathy for the characters

    Feeling for and through the characters is one of the most important aspects of a horror movie. The audience can feel and experience something scary and horrible at a safe distance through the characters. Nothing makes for a more satisfying horror movie experience than when the audience feels empathy for the main character and is rooting for them.

    It’s essential to a horror movie for the audience to care whether our characters live or die. Be sure to flesh out your characters well enough, so that the audience will identify with and root for them!

  • Pay attention to your antagonist

    The antagonist in a horror movie is everything! A horror movie can live and die (in the box office) based on the strength of its antagonist. There’s much to consider for your bad guy: Do you reveal details or leave the audience in the dark about them?  Are they continually lurking in the shadows, or do we get shots of them in all their gory glory?  

    Are they based on something that already exists, or is this an original creature?

    Put in the work and craft the most memorable bad guy possible. 

  • Atmosphere

    The atmosphere can do so much work in terms of creating tension for the audience. There aren’t many other genres where the payoff is so high just for having a palpable atmosphere.

    You want to use the atmosphere to set the stage for scares! Build a world in which the audience feels nervous, uneasy, and ready for a fright. Take the time to craft the type of environment that will allow for scares to pay off later.

  • Test it out on friends and family!

    Horror is a great genre to try out on friends and family. While they may not be screenwriting experts, they should be able to feel a level of terror just by reading your script.

May your words be creepy and full of scares!

You may also be interested in...

Give Writer's Block the Boot!

10 tips for restarting your creativity

Give Writer's Block The Boot - 10 Tips For Restarting Your Creativity

Let's face it - we have all been there. You finally find the time to sit down and write. You open up your page, your fingers hit the keyboard, and then...nothing. Not a single creative thought comes to mind. The dreadful writer's block has returned once again, and you are stuck. It's important to remember - you are not alone! Writers around the world are plagued by writer's block every day, but it is possible to overcome these feelings of blankness and keep moving forward! Here are 10 of our favorite tips for restarting your creativity: Try writing in a different location. Do you always write at your desk? At...

10 Tips for Writing

Your First 10 Pages

10 Tips For Writing The First 10 Pages Of Your Screenplay

In our last blog post, we addressed the “myth” or rather FACT about the first 10 pages of your screenplay. No, they are not ALL that matter, but they are certainly the most important ones when it comes to getting your entire script read. For more information on this, check out our previous blog: “Debunking the Myth: Are the First 10 Pages All That Matter?” Now that we have a good understanding of their importance, let’s take a look at a few ways we can ensure these first few pages of your script shine! Set up the world your story takes place in. Give your readers some context. Set the scene. Where...
6

Tips for SettingStrongWriting Goals

6 Tips for Setting Strong Writing Goals

Let’s face it. We’ve all been there. We try to set writing goals for ourselves, and we totally fail. It can be hard to work on your screenplay when you have another full-time job, a family to take care of, or any access to the biggest distraction of all…the Internet. No need to feel bad; it happens to us all. Let’s look to the future and start leaving those feelings of disappointment behind! Let’s set some strong writing goals using these 6 tips! 1. Create a calendar. While it may feel frustratingly time consuming, take an hour and write your goal deadlines out on a calendar. This can be a physical, paper calendar...

Comments