Open paperback book in black and white with Chapter 1 written on Left page and a man screaming in black and white on right page with either age spots all over page or blood stains.

Now that we’re in the thick of Spooky Season, it’s time to curl up with a horror novel and watch scary movies. When you think of horror, you probably think of works by Stephen King  – the king of horror! However, do you ever wonder why this genre is so popular or why disturbing stories intrigue us? Let’s go over the genre’s history, book recommendations, and how you can come up with your own horror ideas!

History of the Horror Genre

We can all thank Horace Walpole and Mary Shelley for being the respective parents of the horror story. Written in 1765, Walpole’s Castle of Otranto is now considered the first English Gothic novel. During the 18th century, many authors began including supernatural elements into their writing – think of Frankenstein. Because people were terrified of monsters, ghosts, and witches, writers used these fears to entice audiences into reading their stories.

Haunted houses became prominent horror symbols in Edgar Allan Poe’s work – so eerie with their creaking doors and apparitions! Well into the 19th century, vampires like in Dracula became sources of fear and interest. This was not only because of the harm that vampires could do but also because the genre of horror evolved.

Over time, the bestselling horror stories have scared people most when they are in relatable settings or have common situations. When these ordinary occurrences take a supernatural turn for the worst is when they become scary. For example, Bird Box (now on Netflix) spotlights a woman doing everything to protect two children from a futuristic apocalypse. Putting yourself or your loved ones into the characters’ shoes, is more terrifying than reading the dangers surrounding these characters. When situations leading up to the jump-scare moment seem familiar, it grows even scarier to place yourself in the story!

Halloween Horror Book Recommendations

Since you now understand where horror came from and why it’s so captivating, let’s cut to the chase… Here are some spooky recommendations perfect for your Halloween reading! For young readers, Gaiman’s Coraline could be a great introduction to the horror genre. It follows a pre-teen protagonist and her encounters with the supernatural. However, if you don’t want to commit to an entire book to creep you out, that’s understandable! Plenty of Poe’s short stories capture the spooky essence, like “The Tell-Tale Heart” which will leave you with many questions. Note: unreliable narrators are key to the horror genre to keep you guessing as to what is really going on!

Highlighting the haunted house symbol, Ray Bradbury – author of the well-known, Fahrenheit 451 – wrote The Halloween Tree. Set on the night of Halloween, this story follows a group of boys who rely on their guts and friendship to find their missing friend. If you’re looking for more witches than haunted houses, look no further than the classic Shakespeare play, Macbeth.

There are many books about the Salem Witch Trials that have plenty of material destined to entice you! Searching for ghosts? Let one of Stephen King’s newer horror stories, Later, guide the way in the author’s fast-paced and sarcastic writing style. In this book, King highlights his protagonist’s uncanny ability to communicate with the ghosts of recently deceased people that only he can see. Many authors use ghosts as a form of horror, and the communication between the real life and the afterlife through ghosts is something we all fear – if we believe in ghosts, of course – with every shadow we notice or gust of wind we feel.

Where to get ideas for horror stories

As we’ve now learned, most of the scariest ideas come directly from our surroundings. So, when considering how you can write your own horror stories, start with what you know! Consider these questions:

What are you afraid of?

Digging into your own fears could help create your own most terrifying scenarios! For example, I am deeply afraid of butterflies; so, if I wanted to write a horror story, I would find a way to include creatures that move as sporadically as butterflies to create a sense of fear. Did you know that the author of a famous horror novel, later adapted to a film called The Exorcist, was inspired by a real exorcism?

What creepy places have you seen or visited?

Even if a house you’ve stayed the night at didn’t seem scary at the time, can you think of any “what if” questions to add some fright to the scene? Many writers are inspired by places they visit on vacation, university campuses, or childhood homes. Imagine a place that always seemed a little out of place to you, and that could be scary enough!

Which kind of stories in the news terrify you?

Unfortunately, a lot of today’s current events could be great inspiration for horrifying stories. By looking at serial killers or disturbing murders in the news, you could get the perfect material for a successful murder mystery!

Why do your worst nightmares remain stuck in your head?

I know most of us have woken up from an awful dream, out of breath, shocked at the monsters that our unconscious brains have created… but could we write about that? You may not be surprised to know that many writers find their dreams and nightmares to be great fuel for their stories. Author of the Twilight series, Stephanie Meyer, came up with her bestselling concept after having a dream about a girl talking to a vampire. If you’ve ever had a dream that you still think about, try adding some supernatural elements into it, and you may have a great horror story!

Discover Books hopes that you’ve learned more about the horror genre, and get a better appreciation for stories that we want to let live on! By checking out our suggested horror recommendations in time for Halloween and the rest of fall – or any other books you’re interested in – you’ll get the best prices for great stories. If you’re a fan of the horror genre, you may want to check out the mystery genre as well. Happy Halloween, and, as always, happy reading!

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