YA 101: The “Horror” genre

A lot of people love a good fright now and then.  There’s something liberating about confronting the fears that scare us the most and living through the terrifying ordeal to tell the tale.

The master horror story-teller to me is Stephen King. The movies have a lot to be desired in most cases, but his books are spine tinglers.  My husband, to this day, cannot watch or read, MISERY.  THE SHINING terrified my oldest son.  I thought CHRISTINE was pure genius, and let’s not forget THE STAND (even if it was a collaborative piece).

But what makes for a great horror story?  Does there have to blood and guts and gore?  The answer is simple:  No.  In fact, some of the best horror stories aren’t bloody at all; they simply take your mind to that place you don’t want to go.  They tap into your ultimate fear and drag you through it, kicking and screaming, forcing you to face the absolute terror from the safety of your own home.

So, what are the key elements to writing horror?

  • Leave as much to the reader’s imagination as possible.
  • provide lots and lots of suspense
  • wind up the story with a satisfying conclusion
  • create believable characters
  • keep even pacing, and
  • provide suggestiveness in descriptions verses giving a blunt, full force gross out.

Finding adult horror can sometimes be a challenge when trying to find suitable books in this genre for teens to read, so what are some good YA horror novels?  Try these if you’re looking for amazing chills:


What are you afraid of?

For me, it’s these critters…

Palmetto bugs!  Even this picture gives me the eebeejeebies!  I guess that makes me entomophobic.

They’re nasty, they’re big.  they have hairy legs.  They fly, they crunch and spew yellow belly juice when you step on them.  They literally terrify me to the point of tears even though I can kill them very easily.  I’ve even incorporated that fear into one of my main characters in a story I’m working on, and it’s been a challenge to address and face my own fears through him.

So what are you afraid of?  If you’re a writer, do you tap into your own fears when you write your characters and settings? I would love to hear your thoughts.