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Perhaps their objective isn't just to stay alive, but to defeat their murderous nemesis while doing it — whether that’s another person, an evil spirit, or even themselves, if it’s a Jekyll and Hyde-type scenario. The more people the protagonist has to keep safe, the higher the stakes.
For instance, you might have a character trying to solve some mysterious murders that happened years ago, only to find out that they’re the next target!
The main thing to remember when it comes to horror — especially horror stories — is that straightforward stakes tend to have the greatest impact.
Says author Chuck Wendig, of his perfect recipe for horror: “Plain stakes, stabbed hard through the breastbone.”Your reader should feel a kinship with your main character, such that when the stakes are high, they feel their own heart start to beat faster.
This can be achieved through either first person or third person limited point of view.
In our era of highly commercialized crime and thriller novels, it may seem like zeitgeist-defining horror books are a thing of the past.
Indeed, Stephen King was once the perennial bestselling author in the world, and children in the 90s devoured books like The Blob devoured, well, everything.
And the first step is learning how to write a horror story.
The most important part of any horror story is naturally going to be its fear factor.
Clearly establish the main problem or motivation for your character(s), and what they have to lose if they don’t figure it out.
These stakes and motivations might involve: Survival.