13 Horror Story Ideas & How to Generate Your Own

Posted on Oct 20, 2023

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Written by Bella Rose Pope

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For many writers, coming up with horror story ideas can be challenging. How do you come up with ideas and develop them into the types of stories that exist being told around a campfire?

Inspiration comes from many places for different writers. While some can visit the store and walk about with a horror story idea about five things they saw, another person needs time out in nature to spark the same type of influx in story options.

But you don’t have to wait for inspiration to strike. You can go out and get it to come up with your own story ideas on your own time. I’ll teach you how!

Here’s what else you’ll learn about horror story ideas:

  1. Horror Story Premises
  2. How to Come Up With Horror Story Ideas
  3. List of Horror Story Ideas
  4. The Idea Isn’t Everything

Horror Story Premises Are What Sells

The premise of your book, no matter if you’re writing a horror novel or another genre, is what will ultimately sell it. Sure, the book cover helps and ensuring it’s in the right categories with the right keywords is vital (for self-publishing specifically), but the premise is what people can relate to.

Think of the premise as a one-line description of your horror story ideas. How can you summarize the story into simple terms?

You’ll often find these in the form of a “what if” style question, but that’s not always necessary.

How to Come up With Horror Story Ideas

We get ideas from all over the place, and most often when we’re not paying attention. Even horror story ideas, while terrifying, can come from average, everyday life for some people.

But there are many avenues to discover things to write about, and here are some methods for coming up with your own horror story ideas.

1. “What if” statements

Using the “what if” simply opens the mind. You get ruminating on an action and its consequences.

What if a serial killer hid in the street sewers?

That’s a what if statement that assumes a lot of additional information. How do they hide there? Why? It gives you a setting that you’ll visit often (the street), and creates a sort of atmosphere that you’re never safe while out and about. Ask yourself random question where you pair horror elements together.

2. Writing prompts

There are many horror story writing prompts out there for you to use. These are often less based off a premise and more presenting a situation for you to expand upon. The entire point of writing prompts is to get you thinking in creative ways based on interesting scenarios that are already present.

So you’ll often find horror story ideas with these, and expand the ideas into something more unique with a few of these other tips.

You can check out the lists online, starting with this one.

3. List your own fears

The most potent source of inspiration lies within your own fears and anxieties. Many horror story ideas begin this way. Reflect on what keeps you awake at night, the phobias that make your heart race, and the shadows that send shivers down your spine.

Is it the unknown lurking in the dark, the claustrophobic confines of isolation, or perhaps the dread of losing control? Unearthing these personal horrors will infuse your story with genuine, relatable terror. Plus, you might just get over your fear in the process.

4. Use common settings

A lot of fear can be triggered when you give someone a new fear about something they encounter every single day. This was the case with Stephen King’s It. Something we normally don’t pay any attention to (street drainage) is now ever-present because of the fear from these types of horror story ideas.

Take something most people don’t notice or are so used to they grow blind to—like the grocery store—and create a situation within that. The next time your reader goes to the grocery store, they will surely remember your book.

The same is true for typical settings that are meant to be safe. Making them dangerous in your story adds to the fear.

Horror Story Ideas Common Settings

5. Tap into the paranormal and supernatural

Introducing supernatural elements allows you to transcend the boundaries of the real world and they make for really cool horror story ideas. It could be ghosts, demons, curses, or otherworldly entities. Blend the supernatural seamlessly with reality, making it feel like an inescapable part of the story’s fabric.

This interplay between the known and the unknown is a cornerstone of effective horror. You’ll have readers thinking about all the things they don’t know, and even create new fears in them because of working outside of “existing” norms.

6. Use true history to craft the story

History has a ton of dark events and ancient myths that can serve as fertile ground for horror storytelling. Delve into folklore, legends, and unsolved mysteries. Reimagine them through your unique lens, adding new layers of terror to age-old tales.

You can even decide to write a true story from history, but make it into a fictional retelling. That’s what they do with movies “based on true events”. Using that at the beginning of your horror story ideas can make it scarier right from the start—because the reader knows that if it happened once, it could happen again!

List of 25 Horror Story Ideas

As with any writing prompt or list of horror story ideas, make them your own. Take an idea or angle from an item below and then tweak away until if feel exciting to write about!

It’ll help you end up with the most creative and true-to-you idea.

  1. A family moves into a historic home, only to hear unsettling whispers emanating from the walls, revealing dark secrets.
  2. A child inherits an antique dollhouse, and soon, the miniature inhabitants seem to come to life, mirroring the family’s own horrors.
  3. A solitary lighthouse keeper experiences ghostly apparitions and eerie phenomena while tending to the beacon.
  4. A strange mist envelops a town, erasing memories and revealing the dark pasts of its residents.
  5. A group of friends stumbles upon an abandoned carnival in the woods, where the attractions come alive at night.
  6. An antique mirror reflects twisted versions of reality, showing the darkest desires of those who gaze into it.
  7. A therapist discovers that her patients are all experiencing the same horrifying nightmares, which seem to be connected to a sinister force.
  8. A series of cryptic messages lead a group of adventurers to a forgotten tomb, where an ancient evil awaits their arrival.
  9. A photographer captures eerie figures in her photos, only to realize they are the souls of the deceased trying to communicate.
  10. A remote village is struck by a curse that renders all its inhabitants mute, making the cries of the unseen horrors even more chilling.
  11. A librarian discovers an ancient, forbidden section of the library containing books written by the damned.
  12. A small town is plagued by a series of gruesome murders, all occurring during the nights of the blood-red moon.
  13. A group of paranormal investigators accidentally tears a rift between the living and the dead, unleashing vengeful spirits.
  14. A deadly epidemic sweeps through a town, but the source of the infection is far more sinister than anyone could imagine.
  15. A lake known for its perfect reflections begins to show distorted images, foretelling of impending doom.
  16. A reporter investigates an abandoned asylum, only to realize that the tormented souls within still echo through its halls.
  17. A group of explorers becomes stranded on a remote island, where they uncover the horrifying remnants of an ancient civilization.
  18. A lone traveler picks up a hitchhiker on a desolate road, only to discover the passenger is not quite human.
  19. A dense forest harbors malevolent creatures that only appear when darkness falls, preying on lost wanderers.
  20. A writer seeking solitude in a cabin by the creek begins to experience inexplicable phenomena, driven by an ancient presence.
  21. A coastal town is haunted by the vengeful spirit of a drowned woman, whose haunting melody lures sailors to their doom.
  22. A group of friends spend the night in an infamous haunted house, only to discover that the legends are far from fiction.
  23. An ancient mask, once worn by a malevolent deity, is unearthed, bringing a curse upon anyone who comes into contact with it.
  24. A musician discovers an old composition said to summon an otherworldly presence when played, leading to a terrifying encounter.
  25. A paranormal investigator is called to a grand estate, where a centuries-old curse manifests in the form of vengeful apparitions.

The Idea Isn’t Everything

You can have the most original, interesting list of horror story ideas and can still write a bad story if you don’t do it justice. There’s a reason the phrase, “ideas are a dime a dozen” is so popular. Everybody can have interesting ideas.

What’ll set you and your book apart is how you execute that idea, and how well you craft your novel. If you want to learn more about what else goes into a novel after the idea, check out this free class:

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