Writing horror stories is a blast, but it’s not always easy to come up with new ideas. That’s why I’ve put together another list of writing prompts—horror story themed this time! If you’re feeling monsters, ghosts, killers, or just mystery and suspense, then I’ve got you covered with these writing prompts.
Take a look at some of these ideas, and you might find the inspiration for your next big story!
Writing Warmups for Horror Writers
This category doesn’t have any story prompts, so if that’s what you’re here for, you can skip to the next section. Instead, these prompts are exercises to help you warm up and practice some of the techniques you’ll use when writing in the horror genre!
- Describe a horrifying monster in as much detail as possible. Don’t leave anything up to the imagination with this beast.
- Write a monologue for a character who is afraid of something. They could be speaking out loud to comfort themself, speculating about what could be lurking in the dark, or something else.
- Write a scene in which several characters are accusing each other of something. Focus on the tension and the emotions, especially if characters are hurt that others don’t believe them.
- Describe a creepy old house. What are the elements that make it creepy, and how can you describe them in a way that would make your readers nervous?
- Write a scene in which a character is paranoid about being watched or followed. Maybe they’re walking home in the dark, afraid of an ex-partner, or just overthinking.
- Write a character’s reaction to finding a dead body. Be as authentic as possible in describing their thoughts, actions, fears, and subconscious reactions.
- Write a scene in which a character receives terrible news. Try to convey the emotions they would feel with intensity and authenticity.
- Listen to a horror movie soundtrack or horror ambiance track and write whatever it makes you think of.
- Write a series of letters, composed by one of your characters to a member of their family (or a close friend). They are going through something (such as an illness or an adventure) and cannot visit personally, so they send letters to explain their situation. Try to make your character’s writing style differ from your own, and utilize the unique pacing of the letters to build suspense and mystery over time. You can write the other character’s responses too, or not!
Horror Story Prompts
It’s not always easy to come up with ideas for writing horror stories, so I’ve created a small list of ideas for you! Feel free to use any of these, or take bits and pieces from several different ones. They’re a little longer than some of my other prompts, but I hope you find the additional context helpful!
- While exploring an abandoned house, you find a porcelain doll on the ground. You’ve always had an interest in creepy aesthetics, so you decide to take it home. Soon after taking the doll home, however, you begin to feel an overwhelming sense of dread and sadness that clouds your mind. In addition to that, you seem to be having terrible luck with everything you attempt. As it turns out, a girl went missing in your neighborhood a few years ago—and she has the exact same features as the doll, down to the same beauty mark on her cheek and the same scar above her eyebrow. She’s even wearing the same clothes that the girl was last seen wearing.
- You and your best friend have been buds since elementary school, and now, you go to college together. He’s always been the kind of person to leave parties early and flake out on plans to hang out, but you’ve gotten used to it so you rarely think much of it. That is, of course, until a recent news report announces that police are on the lookout for a serial killer with a physical description that sounds a lot like your friend. The announcement comes after a student at your college was found dead on campus—the same night your friend decided not to go to a party with you.
- A traveling carnival has come to your town, so you decide to check it out with some friends. You all have a great time together, but when you go to bed that night, your dreams are plagued by terrifying, murderous clowns. This goes on for a few nights before you bring it up to your friends, and they reveal that they have all been having similar dreams. You guys decide to investigate the carnival, and you find that it doesn’t actually exist, and no one else in town has any memory of it.
(Need some help writing about nightmares? Check out Writing About Dreams and Nightmares!)
- You bought a refurbished cellphone from a second-hand seller, but it’s been acting weird. You can’t afford to get it checked out, so when it randomly opens apps on its own, you simply close them and continue using it like normal. One day, as you’re sitting bored in a lecture or meeting, you decide to just watch your phone to see what it does if you don’t stop it. As it turns out, your phone has been trying to communicate with you this entire time! Well, more specifically, the ghost possessing your new phone has been trying to use apps and notes to get your attention.
- Your spouse has been acting a little strange lately, but for the most part, it is easy to brush it off like you’re overreacting. One night, however, you catch a glimpse of them in a mirror or around a corner, and what you see isn’t your spouse at all… it’s someone—or something—else impersonating them.
- You’re a doctor, and you recently saw a peculiar patient. They complained of grogginess, fatigue, and insatiable hunger. While examining them, you also noticed patches of necrotic tissue. You couldn’t formulate a diagnosis right away, but you suggested that the patient stays in a hospital until you can figure out what is wrong with them. One by one, hospital staff call in sick with similar symptoms, so you decide to move the patient into quarantine. However, when you get to their room, you discover the patient missing, with a nurse dead—and half-eaten—on the floor.
(Psst! Check out these other Zombie Writing Prompts!)
- You’re an amateur paranormal investigator, and you just received a commission to investigate a house. You decide to go alone. After a thorough investigation, you don’t find any signs of the supernatural, so you pack up and head home. Ever since then, however, you’ve noticed a little girl lurking in the shadows around your apartment. One time, you were even sure you saw her inside your room.
- You recently went to an island for vacation, and got to swim in some breathtaking underwater caves. Now, a few weeks later, you can’t stop thinking about those caves. You’re finding it harder and harder to control your impulses, and at times, it feels like you aren’t in control of your actions. Unbeknownst to you, a little parasite from those waters has taken up residence in your brain, and it’s changing the way you think and act.
- Recently, you’ve noticed the same man in many different places. You often see him on the subway on your way to work, in your favorite coffee shop, and even just walking on the street. You’ve noticed him watching you until you make eye contact with him, at which point he immediately looks away. One day, you don’t see him on the subway after work, and honestly, it’s a bit of a relief. That is, of course, until you get home and find that your front door has already been unlocked.
- You and your friends decide to trespass in an abandoned factory, just for fun. It’s terribly creepy inside, plus the old machines and spare scrap metal laying around makes it a bit hazardous. Soon, your group stumbles upon some evidence that someone has been living here: a dirty mattress on the floor, a cooler, trash, and several articles of clothing strewn about. You also, unfortunately, find several knives and devices that look like instruments of torture. You and your friends decide to leave quickly to avoid trouble, but get lost on your way to the exit. One creepy sound is enough to send several of your friends running, and now, you all have to find each other before you can find your way out.
- You wake up one morning, and you have no idea who you are. You can’t remember your past at all. In your quest to figure out what kind of life you’ve led up until now, you end up discovering evidence that you’ve committed crimes in the past. Many… many crimes. You aren’t sure if anything you’ve discovered is true, but when the police come looking for you, you have no choice but to run away. Now living the life of a fugitive, you slowly work to uncover the secrets of your gruesome past.
- You’d heard many rumors about vampires lately, but you aren’t a particularly superstitious person. Rumors are just rumors, after all. Or at least… that’s what you thought until one fateful night. You were walking home late at night, when you witnessed an attack—one man viciously stabbed another in the chest, and then fled the scene. Cautiously, you approached the wounded man, who still had the wooden stake sticking out of the center of his chest. He was alive, but barely. In his dying moments, he told you the truth about vampires: they exist, but they are being kept a secret, contained in a horrible asylum where they are experimented on. Very few vampires ever escape, and those that do get hunted like him. Just before he died, he begged you to spread the truth, and to save the rest of his kind.
- Your worst nightmare has come true: you’ve been kidnapped. You don’t know who your kidnappers are or what they want from you, but you do know one thing. They keep referring to you with a name that isn’t yours. No matter how much you try to convince them that they have the wrong person, they don’t believe you.
Writing Horror Stories
Horror is a vast and diverse genre, but it is riddled with clichés. However, you don’t have to come up with something completely original in order to make a good story. You can breathe new life into old, overused tropes by adding in surprising twists and new perspectives. If your characters pull their car over on a creepy road in the middle of the night, what are your readers going to be expecting? What can you do to surprise them instead? Subvert readers’ expectations, and your story will end up being much more memorable!
Keep it creepy, writers!