Halloween is tonight, and the editing and writing staff at Midnight Publishing is more than ready to celebrate! In between bringing Halloween movies and Snickers bars, we started talking about book genres that give us the chills: ghost stories, horror, dark fantasy, and the newest genre that’s really taken off in the past few years—domestic thrillers. When seemingly “perfect” people are suddenly thrown into a dark, twisted plot that involves intrigue, betrayal, and murder. Successful examples of this style include Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. Often, the narrator and other characters can behave in unreliable, odd ways that push the reader to investigate and pose their own hypotheses as they continue turning the pages. The genres of horror and thriller (and their subsequent variants) are not only exciting stories for fans to enjoy, but they can offer a chance to really practice some of the most important facets to writing a compelling novel: complex, deeply relatable characters, meaningful scenes that keep a fast pace, and world building that’s concise and important. Let’s explore these facets more deeply:
1. Your Characters Must Have the Freedom to Become Multifaceted
When you’re writing in the horror or thriller genre, you can’t show all your cards at once. In fact, you want to deter your readers from finding out who the true villain is right away, so every character is going to demonstrate flaws and traits that could either be construed as “good or evil.” That provides you with the added opportunity to really explore some complexities in your characters, so that when you finally reveal the true antagonist of the story, your readers are genuinely surprised. Without ruining the ending for either of the thrillers cited earlier, both Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train go in directions that are completely unexpected—and that’s what makes them so well executed.
2. You’ll Practice the Art of “Making Each Scene Count”
Another way that writing in these genres helps to strengthen your writing skills is by ensuring that every scene ties into the overall plot—even more so than with fantasy, contemporary fiction, or paranormal romance. This happens because horror and thriller books are meant to pull the reader further and further into the final revealing climax, and that doesn’t leave much room for dalliances, subplots, or bunny trails (unless they’ve intentionally been placed there to throw the readers off track!).
3. Your World Building Will Grow More Refined and Concise
When you’re writing in the horror or thriller genre, not only does each scene count, but each facet of the world counts when it comes to creating a mood. Ever watch horror movies and notice how they’re first filmed in bright, cheery hues? Then as things grow worse, they take on a shadowy tint and every little rustle, breath, and creak makes your hair stand up. Without music and visuals to simulate these mood changes, authors must rely on concise, evocative descriptions of the setting to instill fear and tension for the readers. When you include a seemingly “meaningless” detail, it must always tie into the overall plot in a vital way.
For more resources on how horror writing can make you a better author, check out these posts:
How Horror Fiction Can Make Us Better Writers – Kristen Lamb’s blog
The Horror Genre: On Writing Horror and Avoiding Clichés – Writer’s Digest
Whether your genre is thriller, horror, contemporary, or non-fiction, Midnight Publishing’s award-winning editors can help to polish and perfect your manuscript for the next publishing step! We serve clients in Phoenix, Arizona and worldwide, so contact us for a free sample edit and see why we’ve been trusted with over five million words.