What Makes Horror Horrifying?

This question was asked via our Writer’s Carnival Twitter account by one of our Twitter followers, and members, who goes by the handle of ‘TheAuthor’.  And what a great question!  What does make horror writing so horrifying?  The elements of horror stories all center around one basic emotion, and that emotion is fear.  The purpose of a horror story is to investigate the things that scare us most and try to offer a reason why. This can range from your typical villains, such as the demon, vampire, ghost, you name it, or it can be more real, like a serial killer or being lost in the wilderness with no supplies.

Horror has been around for centuries, too.  It’s not as though it’s a new phenomenon.  We’ve seen it in the classics like Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven and Bram Stoker’s Dracula.  How about The Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving or Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.  We’ve been chasing the fear through the generations and it’s not likely to stop anytime soon.  This is a widely popular genre and it’s interesting to discover the reasons why we have fears of the unknown, and why we like to be reminded that death and danger lurk everywhere.  Is it to make us feel more alive?  To realise how good we have it? Who knows…

So, in your opinion, what is it that makes a horror story horrifically horrifying? Is it the psychological spin? The not knowing? Or is it more basic for you, like facing the unknown monsters that lurk within the shadows of the world?  What makes you tremble and want to sleep with the light on at night?  Do you think true horror lies in the graphic slasher books or when danger comes from the least expected situations?

Share your thoughts in the comments below! What do YOU think makes horror stories horrifying?   And after joining in on this discussion… why not try writing your own horror story?  Write about what scares you most and then post it for feedback in the Horror Category/Genre for feedback!

Author Notes

4 Comments for “What Makes Horror Horrifying?”

Melissa Pierce


I think the things that are realistic and could actually occur are more horrifying to me, both psychological and physical.

Stephanie Anders


I think paranormal characters can be really terrifying. They come from the realm of the unknown or what we fear comes after this life. We’ve seen a trend over the last few years of movies and books dwelling on this particular fear.

Raymond Tobaygo


Good morning, Anisa

Excellent, informative post on the varied aspects of writing horror stories. Being one who writes horror stories, I prefer a mix of psychological and physical triggers that my character(s) face. One of my favorite authors is Lovecraft.

Take care and stay safe,



I think anything that gets a readers mind searching for a way out of a situation can be termed horror. The reason being that whatever is occurring is obviously a frightful occurrence to that particular person. So what may be horror to one may not be to another.

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