101 Terrifying Horror Story Prompts

creative horror stories

Welcome to the story den of horror, scares, and the macabre.

Most writers are often asked, "Where do you get your ideas from?" A majority of the time, writers find it difficult to answer that question.

We get our ideas from a plethora of sources — news headlines, novels, television shows, movies, our lives, our fears, our phobias, etc. They can come from a scene or moment in a film that wasn't fully explored. They can come from a single visual that entices the creative mind — a seed that continues to grow and grow until the writer is forced to finally put it to paper or screen.

In the spirit of helping writers find those seeds, here we offer 101 originally conceived and terrifying story prompts that you can use as inspiration for your next horror story.

They may inspire screenplays, novels, short stories, or even smaller moments that you can include in what stories you are already writing or what you will create in your upcoming projects.

But beware! If you scare easily — and have active imaginations like most writers do — turn up the lights and proceed with caution...

1. A girl goes missing in the woods, and her parents find only a decrepit and scary doll left behind. They soon learn that the doll is actually their daughter. And she's alive.

2. New residents of an old neighborhood are invited by their friendly neighbors to a Halloween party. The neighbors are vampires.

3. A family dog runs away from home. He returns a year later to the delight of his family. But there's something different about him. Something demonic.

4. A girl goes missing. Fifteen years later, her parents get a call from her older self. But they listen in fear because they killed their daughter that dark night years ago.

5. A man reads a novel, soon realizing that the story is his very own — and according to the book, a killer is looming.

6. A scientist clones his family that died in an airplane crash — but soon learns the repercussions of playing God.

7. A man wakes up bound to an electric chair.

8. A man wakes up in a coffin next to a freshly dead body.

9. A woman wakes up to find her family gone and her doors and windows boarded up with no way to escape.

10. A man afraid of snakes is shipwrecked on an island covered with them.

11. Serial killers worldwide are connected by a dark web website.

12. The world's population is overtaken by vampires — all except one little child.

13. A woman afraid of clowns is forced to work in a traveling circus.

14. An astronaut and cosmonaut are on the International Space Station when their countries go to Nuclear War with each other. Their last orders are to eliminate the other.

15. A treasure hunter finds a tomb buried beneath the dirt.

16. A young brother and sister find an old door in their basement that wasn't there before.

17. Winged creatures can be seen within the storm clouds above.

18. A man wakes up to find a hobo clown staring down at him.

19. Residents of a town suddenly fall dead while the dead from cemeteries around them rise.

20. A doctor performs the first head transplant — things go wrong.

creative horror stories

21. A man is texted pictures of himself in various stages of torture that he has no memory of.

22. A girl wakes up to find a little boy sitting on his bed, claiming to be her younger brother — but she never had one.

23. A scare walk in the woods during Halloween is actually real.

24. A bartender serves last call to the only remaining patron, who is the Devil himself.

25. Earth suffers a planet-wide blackout as all technology is lost.

26. A boy's stepfather is actually a murderous werewolf.

27. Something has turned the neighborhood pets into demonic killers.

28. A priest is a vampire.

29. A woman wakes up with no eyes.

30. A man wakes up with no mouth.

31. A monster is terrified by the scary child who lives above his bed.

32. An astronaut jettisoned into the cold of space in a mission gone wrong suddenly appears at the doorstep of his family.

33. A woman answers a phone call only to learn that the voice on the other end is her future self, warning her that a killer is looming.

34. A boy realizes that aliens have replaced his family.

35. A woman wakes up in an abandoned prison that she cannot escape.

36. A bank robber steals from the small town bank that holds the riches of witches.

37. A door-to-door salesman circa the 1950s visits the wrong house.

38. Deceased soldiers return to their Civil War-era homes.

39. Kidnappers abduct the child of a vampire.

40. An innocent circus clown discovers the dark history of the trade.

creative horror stories

41. A homeless man is stalked by faceless beings.

42. A spelunker stumbles upon a series of caverns infested with rattlesnakes.

43. A group of friends is forced to venture through a chamber of horrors where only one is promised to survive.

44. He's not the man she thought he was. In fact, he's not a man at all.

45. Suburbia is actually purgatory.

46. Someone discovers that we are all actually robots — who created us and why?

47. She's not an angel. She's a demon.

48. An old shipwreck washes ashore.

49. A sinkhole swallows a house whole and unleashes something from beneath.

50. A man has sleep paralysis at the worst possible time.

51. A woman out hiking is caught in a bear trap as the sun begins to go down.

52. Naked figures with no faces stalk campers in the woods.

53. An astronaut is the sole survivor of a moon landing gone wrong — only to discover that the moon is infested with strange creatures.

54. A woman is wrongfully condemned to an insane asylum.

55. A mother's baby will not leave its womb and continues to grow and grow and grow while doctors try to cut it out but can't.

56. Friends on a road trip stumble upon a backcountry town whose residents all dress up as different types of clowns.

57. Tourists in Ireland retreat to an old castle when the country is taken over by greedy and vengeful leprechauns.

58. A boy on a farm makes a scarecrow that comes alive.

59. A figure dressed in an old, dirty Easter Bunny suit haunts the children of a town.

60. The abused animals of a zoo are unleashed and wreak havoc on a small town.

61. A deceased grandma's old doll collection comes alive.

creative horror stories

62. Little Red Riding Hood was a vampire.

63. Somebody clones Hitler and raises him as a white supremacist.

64. A pumpkin patch comes alive — beings with heads of pumpkins and bodies of vines.

65. An endless swarm of killer bees wreaks havoc on the country.

66. Christ returns to Earth — at least that is who people thought he was.

67. A natural anomaly brings all of the country's spiders to a horrified town.

68. A woman finds old 16mm film from her childhood and sees that she had a sister — what happened to her?

69. Something ancient rises from an old pond.

70. A woman suddenly begins to wake up in somebody else's body every morning — each day ends with her being stocked and killed by the same murderer in black.

71. An Artificial Intelligence begins to communicate with a family online, only to terrorize them through their technology.

72. A family buys a cheap house only to discover that an old cemetery is their back yard.

73. Years after the zombie apocalypse subsides, survivors discover that the epidemic was caused by aliens that have appeared to lay claim to the planet.

74. A woman has memories of being abducted by aliens — but she soon learns that they weren't aliens. They were...

75. A boy has a tumor that slowly grows into a Siamese twin — the older they get, the more evil the twin becomes.

76. A cult that worships history's deadliest serial killers begins to kill by copying their methods.

77.  Stone gargoyles suddenly appear on the tops of buildings and houses of a small town.

78. A family on a boat trip stumbles upon an old pirate ship.

79. A winter snowstorm traps a family in an abandoned insane asylum.

80. A little girl comes down from upstairs and asks her parents, "Can you hear it breathing? I can."

creative horror stories

81. A town is enveloped in unexplained darkness for weeks.

82. A jetliner flies high in the sky as Nuclear War breaks out below.

83. Children discover a deep, dark well in the woods — an old ladder leads down into it.

84. A child sleepwalks into their parent's room and whispers, "I'm sorry. The Devil told me to."

85. As a woman showers, a voice comes from the drain whispering, "I see you."

86. A child finds a crayon drawing of a strange family — it's inscribed with the words we live in your walls .

87. All of the cemetery's graves are now open, gaping holes — the dirt pushed out from underground.

88. A woman is watching a scary movie alone on Halloween night — someone, or something, keeps knocking at her door.

89. Someone is taking a bath as a hand from behind the shower curtain pushes their head into the water.

90. A farmer and his sons begin to hear the laughter of children coming from his fields at night — no children are in sight.

91. Someone looks out their window to see a clown standing at a corner holding a balloon — staring at them.

92. Mannequins in a department store seem to be moving on their own.

93. What if the God people worshiped was really Satan — and Satan had somehow kept God prisoner?

94. A man dies and wakes up in the body of a serial killer — and no matter how hard he tries to stop killing, he can't.

95. A prisoner awakens to find the prison empty — but he's locked in his cell.

96. A woman jogging stumbles upon a dead, bloody body — she then hears a strange clicking sound and looks up to see a dark figure running towards her.

97. A girl hears laughter downstairs — she's the only one home.

98. An Uber driver picks up the wrong person — and may not live to tell the tale.

99. There's someone or something living and moving up in the attic — but it's not a ghost.

100. A child's imaginary friend is not imaginary.

101. The reflections that we see of ourselves in the mirror are actually us in a parallel universe — and they are planning to do whatever it takes to take our place in this world.

creative horror stories

Share this with your writing peers or anyone that loves a good scary story.

For some more scares, check out ScreenCraft's  20 Terrifying Two-Sentence Horror Stories and  8 Ways Horror Movies Scare the S*** Out of Audiences!

Sleep well and keep writing.

Once you're inspired, take your idea to the next level and  Develop Your Horror Movie Idea in 15 Days .

Ken Miyamoto has worked in the film industry for nearly two decades, most notably as a studio liaison for Sony Studios and then as a script reader and story analyst for Sony Pictures.

He has many studio meetings under his belt as a produced screenwriter, meeting with the likes of Sony, Dreamworks, Universal, Disney, Warner Brothers, as well as many production and management companies. He has had a previous development deal with Lionsgate, as well as multiple writing assignments, including the produced miniseries  Blackout , starring Anne Heche, Sean Patrick Flanery, Billy Zane, James Brolin, Haylie Duff, Brian Bloom, Eric La Salle, and Bruce Boxleitner. Follow Ken on Twitter  @KenMovies 

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creative horror stories


159 Horror Story Prompts to Get You Started Writing Scary Tales (Organized by Genre)

By: Author Paul Jenkins

Posted on September 5, 2022

Categories Writing , Inspiration , Storytelling

Do you love to write horror stories? If so, then you’re in luck! In this blog post, we will provide inspiration via 159 horror story creative writing prompts that will get your creative juices flowing. Whether you are a beginner or experienced writer, these prompts – categorized by horror genre – will help you create spine-chilling tales that will send shivers down your readers’ spines. So what are you waiting for? Get started writing your scary story today!

25 General Horror Writing Prompts

Before we get into the categorized prompts, here are 25 general horror story ideas that you can use to get started writing:

25 Horror Screenplay Ideas

Looking for ideas for horror screenplays? This list will help inspire your writing.

37 Science Fiction Horror Prompts

If you’re a science fiction and horror fan, then you know that the two genres go together like peanut butter and jelly. Both genres deal with things beyond our understanding, and both can be pretty scary.

27 Halloween Night Horror Prompts

The veil between this world and the next is at its thinnest on Halloween night. Strange things can happen on Halloween night…and that’s why it’s the perfect time for horror writers to get their creative juices flowing. Here are 25 horrifying prompts to get you started.

18 Haunted House Horror Prompts

The haunted house trope never gets old, no matter how often it’s been done. A home is supposed to be a safe environment, so when horror strikes, it’s terrifying. A haunted house is a way to go if you’re looking for a classic horror story setting.

17 Paranormal Activity Horror Prompts

10 Plot Twists for Horror Stories

What makes a good horror story? Is it the suspenseful build-up, the scares, or the twists? We think it’s a combination of all three. And when it comes to twists, there’s nothing quite like a good plot twist to send your readers’ hearts racing.

The Structure of a Great Horror Story

A horror story is, at its core, a story about fear. It’s designed to scare the reader, to get their heart racing and their blood pumping. But to do that effectively, a horror story needs to be well-structured. Here are the key elements of a successful horror story.

The first and most important element of a horror story is the hook. This is what will grab the reader’s attention and persuade them to keep reading. The hook should be scary, but it shouldn’t give too much away-you want to leave the reader wanting more.

The Buildup

Once you’ve hooked the reader, it’s time to start building the tension. This is usually done through suspenseful writing and creepy description. Remember to keep things vague-you don’t want to give away too much too soon. The goal is to keep the reader guessing until the end.

Eventually, you’ll have to give the reader a good scare. This is where all your build-up pays off. The scare should be shocking and unexpected, but it must also make sense within the story’s context. A sudden jump scare might be effective in the moment, but if it doesn’t make sense in the story’s larger context, it will just end up feeling cheap and manipulative.

The Resolution

Once you’ve given the reader a good scare, it’s time to start wrapping things up. The resolution should provide some answers for the reader. Still, it shouldn’t tie everything up in a neat little bow-a bit of ambiguity can leave the reader unsettled long after they’ve finished reading.

A horror story is a daunting undertaking for any writer-but with these simple tips in mind, you’ll be well on your way to crafting a truly terrifying tale. Just remember: keep things vague, focus on building tension, and don’t be afraid to go for the jugular when it comes time to write that big scary scene. Happy writing!

The Potential Weakness of a Horror Story

A horror story is only as good as its ability to scare the reader. If a story fails to frighten, its purpose has failed. However, there is such a thing as being too scary. If a story is so horrifying that it turns the reader away, it has failed. So, how does a writer strike the perfect balance?

The first step is to understand what scares people. This will differ from person to person, so it’s important to do your research. Are you writing for an audience who loves being scared out of their wits? Or are you writing for an audience who enjoys more subtle scares? Once you know your audience, you can begin to craft your story accordingly.

It’s also important to remember that not all scares have to be based on blood and gore. Sometimes, the scariest stories are the ones that prey on our deepest fears. For example, a story about a mother who loses her child in a store would be much more terrifying than one where a monster kills someone.

Another potential weakness of a horror story is that it can often be predictable. The best way to avoid this is to subvert the reader’s expectations. They take them in a completely different direction when they think they know what will happen next. This will not only keep them guessing but also ensure they’re always on their toes.

A horror story can only be successful if it finds the perfect balance between being too scary and not scary enough. Understanding what terrifies your audience is the first step in achieving this goal. From there, you need to ensure that your story keeps them guessing until the end. By following these simple tips, you’ll be well on your way to writing a horror story that will leave your readers truly terrified.

What Are Common Horror Writing Themes

The supernatural.

One of the most classic horror themes is the supernatural. This can take many forms, from ghosts and vampires to witches and zombies. All these creatures have in common is that they strike fear into the hearts of even the bravest men and women. If you want to write a truly spine-chilling story, consider making the supernatural an integral part of your plot.

Serial Killers

Another popular theme in horror is the serial killer. This type of character is usually driven by mental illness, making them even more dangerous and unpredictable. Often, serial killers will target a specific type of victim, making their crimes all the more personal for the reader. If you’re looking to write a gruesome tale, consider making a serial killer the main antagonist of your story.

Isolation is a powerful tool for any writer, but it’s especially effective in horror stories. When your characters are cut off from the rest of the world, whether by choice or circumstance, it provides an opportunity for things to go very wrong very quickly. If you want to ramp up the suspense in your story, consider having your characters face their fears alone.

The Apocalypse

The apocalypse is another classic horror theme. Whether it’s a zombie apocalypse or an environmental disaster, there’s something inherently terrifying about watching civilization crumble before your eyes. If you want to write a truly harrowing tale, consider setting your story during or after the world’s end.

Body Horror

Body horror is a type of horror that focuses on gore and Mutations rather than scares and suspense . . . although it can certainly have both! This type of story is usually more graphic than other types of horror, so it’s not for the faint of heart. But if you’re looking to write a truly gruesome tale, body horror may be just what you’re looking for.

These are just five of the most common themes and tropes in horror fiction . . . but they’re far from being the only ones! Whether you play off one of these themes or come up with something completely original, remember that the most important thing is to write what YOU enjoy reading.

What Makes a Character Terrifying

To create a truly terrifying character, you must ensure they’re well-rounded and believable. They need to be three-dimensional, with hopes, dreams, and flaws like any other human being. However, one key difference between a regular person and a truly terrifying character is their motives. While regular people might have good or bad intentions, terrifying characters always have malevolent motives. Here are some things to remember when creating a scary character for your latest horror story.

What Do They Want?

First and foremost, what does your character want? Their goal should be something sinister, something that will cause harm to others. It could be as simple as wanting to cause pain or as complicated as wanting to take over the world. Whatever it is, make sure it’s something that will send chills down your reader’s spine.

How Far Will They Go?

Secondly, how far will they go to get what they want? Will they kill? Torture? Maim? There’s no wrong answer here, but the more gruesome their methods are, the more scared your readers will be. Think about movie villains like Freddy Krueger or Michael Myers; they’re so terrifying because they have no qualms about inflicting pain on others. Your character should be the same way.

What Makes Them Tick?

Once you know what your character wants and how far they’ll go to get it, you need to figure out why they want those things. What drove them to this point? Was it a tragic event from their past? A dark secret they’re keeping hidden? By understanding what motivates them, you can create a truly believable-and truly terrifying character.

Remember, anyone can be scary if you give them enough motivation. So get creative, dig deep, and let your imagination run wild. With these tips in mind, you’re sure to create a horror story that will have your readers sleep with the lights on for weeks.

Fate and Coincidence in Horror Story Writing

As a horror writer, you know that one thing that makes your stories so spine-tingling is the element of fate and coincidence. When everything seems to be going wrong for your characters, and they can’t catch a break, readers can’t help but feel a sense of dread. But how do you ensure that your story’s coincidences are believable and not just contrived? Here are a few tips to integrate the two into your story idea.

The first thing to remember is that not all coincidences need to be explained. Sometimes it’s better if they’re not. If everything in your story is specifically tied together, it can feel forced and unbelievable. Mystery can go a long way in making your spooky story more suspenseful.

That being said, certain types of coincidences should be avoided altogether. For example, if two characters who have never met before just happen to run into each other on the street, that’s probably not going to sit well with your readers. Or if a character discovers something important just by happenstance rather than through their efforts, that can feel like cheating.

Generally, the best way to avoid contrived coincidences is to ensure that every event in your story serves a purpose. Ask yourself why this particular thing is happening and how it will affect the characters and the plot. If you can’t come up with a good answer, then maybe it’s time to rethink that scene.

By following these tips, you can make sure that the coincidences in your story are believable and add to the suspense rather than taking away from it. Keep things mysterious, but make sure everything serves a purpose. With a little bit of effort, you can create some truly spine-tingling horror stories that your readers won’t soon forget!

Scary Story Ideas Eighteen Prompts For Horror and Thriller Writers Featured

Scary Story Ideas — 18 Prompts For Horror & Thriller Writers

H ere there be dragons, boogeymen, and blood-sucking vampires! Scary stories have frightened and allured audiences for thousands of years. So, whether you’re looking to establish a new form of horror, or riff on an existing genre trope, you’ve come to the right place, because we’re going to break down scary story ideas. Dim the candlelight, turn up the theremin, and sit back as we delve deep into horror writing prompts! 

Scary Story Prompts for Writers

Scary story ideas & horror writing prompts.

It can be challenging to respond to writing prompts when they’re proposed without follow-up questions. So, we’re going to attempt to rectify that by giving you some scary story ideas with follow-up questions.

*Note on scary story ideas and writing prompts: all of the prompts outlined here were created by me! However, they’re almost all surely inspired by existing material, whether recognized consciously or unconsciously. In accordance with that point, I’m going to attach “suggested accompanying viewing” to each prompt for further inspiration!

1) A young man finds himself unable to break out of a recurring lucid dream.

Ideas for Horror Stories Spellbound Still from Spellbound

Ideas for Horror Stories  •  Still from ‘Spellbound’


Suggested viewing.

2) An island community is besieged by a rapidly-mutating virus.

Horror Story Ideas The Beach Still from The Beach

Horror Story Ideas  •  Still from ‘The Beach’


3) a woman sells control of her father’s estate to a peculiar… bloodthirsty… count from transylvania..

Scary Story Ideas Drakula Still from Bram Stokers Dracula

Scary Story Ideas  •  Still from ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’

Writing Prompts Horror

4) A group of hitchhikers enter a seemingly empty home to wait out a torrential storm.

Horror Story Ideas The Twilight Zone Still from The Twilight Zone

Horror Story Ideas  •  Still from ‘The Twilight Zone’

5) An asteroid hits a space station orbiting the outer-ring of a lunar outpost. Oxygen supply is cut by 80%, meaning the crew has to kill four members, or else they’ll all die before an emergency shuttle arrives.

Horror Story Prompts Sunshine Still from Sunshine

Horror Story Prompts  •  Still from ‘Sunshine’


6) a veteran cop suspects his daughter is dating a serial killer..

Scary Story Ideas Taken Still from Taken

Scary Story Ideas  •  Still from ‘Taken’


7) A small-town legend says that a monster lurks under the lake. Sounds crazy, but why have so many people gone missing?

Horror Story Ideas The Wailing Still from The Wailing

Horror Story Ideas  •  Still from ‘The Wailing’

8) A man finds a slumped-over investigator with puncture-wounds in his neck. His final word, “devil.”

Scary Writing Ideas Angel Heart Still from Angel Heart

Scary Writing Ideas  •  Still from ‘Angel Heart’

9) A group of college girls stargazing at the Grand Canyon find themselves stalked by a shadowy figure.

Horror Story Prompts It Follows Still from It Follows

Horror Story Prompts  •  Still from ‘It Follows’

10) A woman is kidnapped in broad daylight, only to re-awaken in a human zoo.

Scary Story Ideas The Truman Show Still from The Truman Show

Scary Story Ideas  •  Still from ‘The Truman Show’

11) A cursed man must find love by year’s end or else his entire family will be killed.

Horror Story Ideas Beauty and the Beast Still from Beauty and the Beast

Horror Story Ideas  •  Still from ‘Beauty and the Beast’


12) A woman goes back to a man’s apartment after a date… but discovers what appear to be mementos – hair-pins, engraved jewelry, watches, etc. – in the bathroom drawer. When she decides to leave, the man blocks the doorway.

Scary Writing Ideas Burning Still from Burning

Scary Writing Ideas  •  Still from ‘Burning’

13) A group of strangers find themselves locked in a classroom – and instructed that whoever scores the highest on the test will be allowed to leave. The rest will be killed.

Scary Story Ideas Exam Still From Exam

Scary Story Ideas  •  Still from ‘Exam’

14) A teenage-outcast finds solace in a Dungeons & Dragons club, but slowly starts to suspect that their teacher, the club’s organizer, is an actual demon.

Scary Story Ideas Stranger Things Still from Stranger Things

Scary Story Ideas  •  Still from ‘Stranger Things’


15) A young vampire on a tiny island must drink blood to survive. But people are running out. And ships stopped coming.

Horror Story Ideas Still from Vampyr

Horror Story Ideas  •  Still from ‘Vampyr’

16) A traveler runs out of gas on the outskirts of a mountain-town. In the distance, he sees a hooded-figure, with a fleshy-sinewed face.

Scary Story Ideas Insomnia Still from Insomnia

Scary Story Ideas  •  Still from ‘Insomnia’

17) An expeditionary voyage is thrown into chaos when a dead body is discovered in the captain’s chambers.

Horror Story Prompts Clue Still from Clue

Horror Story Prompts  •  Still from ‘Clue’

18) A nuclear holocaust forces people to move underground. Things are safe for a while, but eventually, the monsters make their way down.

Scary Story Ideas Still from Metro

Scary Story Ideas  •  Still from ‘Metro 2033’

How to Write Horror

We touched on some strategies for writing scary story ideas here – but the focus was mostly on the ideation stage. Want to learn more about the process of writing scary stories? Check out our next article on “horror writing” where we break down examples from Stephen King, Edgar Wright, and more. By the end, you’ll know not only how to start a scary story, but how to see it through to the end!

Up Next: Horror Writing Tips for Fiction →

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66 Horror Writing Prompts That Are Freaky As Hell

Looking for some scary story ideas for your next writing project ?

Sometimes, a good scary prompt idea is all you need to get started on a dark story your readers won’t be able to put down .

And that is the goal . What’s a horror story without white-knuckle suspense ?

You want your readers at the edge of their seats, unable to stop though they know something bad is about to happen.

You also want to reward them for reading to the end and leave them wanting more.

So, how can this collection of horror writing prompts help with that?

What Are the Main Elements of Horror Writing?

List of most common horror themes and tropes to write on , 66 horror writing prompts, halloween writing prompts, mystery writing prompts, psychological horror story ideas, “the monster you know” story ideas, ghost story writing prompts, funny horror story ideas, horror story ideas.

Every good story needs an idea that takes root in your imagination and doesn’t let go. Horror stories in particular need to affect you a certain way. If they don’t sound an alarm in your head, they won’t sound one in the heads of your readers, either.

They need to reach into your psyche, take a scrap of memory, and turn it into something that would keep you up at night.

And as you’ve no doubt read already, “No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”

Look through the prompts that follow, and choose one that calls out to you and lingers in your imagination.

Paint a picture in your mind of the characters involved. Give yourself a reason to invest in them by giving each one some interesting backstory.

Then set a timer and write.

Since Earl Horace Walpole’s gothic horror The Castle of Otranto hit shelves in 1764, English readers have clamored for dark plots that excite primitive instincts and tickle our fear bones.

Many horror authors leverage shadowy impulses by sprinkling stories with uncomfortable happenings and gruesome fatalities.

But that’s not all it takes to write within the genre, begging the question: What are the main elements of horror? Traditionally, there are five: suspense, fear, violence, gore, and the supernatural.

Vampires, ghosts, zombies, and murderers are big-picture mainstays of the horror genre. But what are some other, more detailed tropes associated with scary storytelling? 

Whether you’re writing for a special occasion or just to experiment with the horror genre, any of the scary story prompts in the following groups should get you started.

Go with your gut on this one, and choose an idea that feels both familiar and provocative. Then give it a go!

1. A mysterious gift from an estranged aunt arrives on Halloween with a crystal ball and a note addressed only to you, her godchild.

2. One of the trick-or-treaters bears an uncanny resemblance to your departed sibling and repeats that sibling’s last words before picking your sibling’s favorite candy bar.

3. On Halloween night, you find a box at your door that contains a strange note and a little something from each of the people who have hurt you in the past year.

man with scary pumpkin headhorror writing prompts

4. On this Halloween night, your guinea pig won’t stop running in circles, and your dog keeps staring at the door, emitting a low growl.

5. You run out for candy on Halloween afternoon to find the streets empty and the store abandoned. A single car cruises into the lot and pulls into the spot next to yours.

6. Every time you went to answer the doorbell, no one was there. The next day, you heard about the missing children. The worst part? Your kids spent Halloween with your ex and were supposed to come trick-or-treating last night.

7. You arrive home on Halloween to a large package from your new boss, who’d bought every piece of your favorite candy from local stores. The note reads, “Save some for me.”

8. You’re watching TV on Halloween night when your show is interrupted by a faintly familiar someone declaring their love for you and saying they’ve watched you all your life.

9. You come home to find a stranger walking through your home, sipping your wine and admiring your collected antiquities. They startle at your approach and act as though you’re the intruder.

10. The night before Halloween, you have a dream in which you wake up to see a dark shape standing outside your closet. You wake up screaming with your hands around your spouse’s throat.

11. Election day looms, and Halloween feels more ominous than ever. You’ve kept the lights off, but that doesn’t stop one visitor from leaving a note: “Knew you lived here.”

creative horror stories

12. Your best friend has gone missing, and someone keeps leaving small reminders of them in your mailbox. You see someone approach to deliver something else, and your heart nearly stops when you recognize them.

13. You’ve always wanted a dog, so when a rain-soaked mutt shows up on your front step, you let him in. Unfortunately, something else hitched a ride.

14. Someone moves into the apartment next door and starts playing loud music at night. You call the police, who find the guy dead holding a note with your name and address.

woman covered by white curtain horror writing prompts

15. Someone keeps replacing items in your home with different objects that look vaguely familiar. No one else has a key to your home, and there are no signs of forced entry.

16. You bake some cookies to share with the new neighbor, but the terrified woman backs away from the plate, shaking her head. Someone from inside calls out, “I’ll have those.”

17. Someone at work has offered to do a tarot card spread for you, and you politely decline. You find a single tarot card in your mailbox when you return home.

18. You don’t remember wandering alone on a country road as a small child, but someone does. And he wants to make sure you’re not around to testify against him.

19. Someone has gotten to your laundry before you and left it neatly folded in piles on top of the dryer. A note reads, “For more TLC, knock on #303.”

20. The window of your apartment leads to a fire escape, but twice you’ve come home to find it open. Nothing is missing. But someone keeps leaving a ring on your kitchen table.

21. You order a Christmas wreath for your door and the company sends you a package with money instead. The note reads, “Keep half. I’ll pick up the rest in 72 hours.”

22. A child knocks on your door and tells you you’ll be visited by three people that night. One of them will show you your future. The child’s face reminds you of someone.

creative horror stories

23. Your best friend is dating a woman who seems familiar to you — and not in a good way. Turns out, she’s got a bad feeling about you, too, and she warns your friend.

24. You receive a surprise delivery of a holiday flower arrangement with a note from someone who went to jail for assault. The message reads, “I’ll be home for Christmas.”

25. An abuser from your past has written you a long letter of apology, and you agree to meet them for coffee. You find your favorite coffee place deserted — on Black Friday.

26. You broke up with your sweetheart when he lied about taking you to the prom and begged you to run away with him so he could escape an abusive home. He’s back.

27. An old friend, who had tried to warn you about an ex-boyfriend years ago, has come back to town to run a diner. Within a week, known bullies start disappearing.

28. For the past three dates, the guy you met ended up dead and posed as if proposing. A note on each one’s empty chest cavity reads, “My heart belongs to [your name].”

29. You’re with a friend at the home of the guy she’s dating. In the bathroom, you find a box with jewelry for almost every birthstone. Yours is the only one missing. You hear a scream.

30. Everyone keeps telling you your memories can’t be trusted. You’re safe with them. They’ll protect you. But you haven’t left the house in years.

31. You thought it was cute when your little sister wanted to wear your aunt’s high heels and pose with a hand on her hip. But your sister had an uncanny way with accidents.

32. You never expected to win the ‘57 Chevy from the church raffle. Neither did the car’s owner, who immediately tried to buy it back. He didn’t respond well to “No, thanks.”

33. Every time you saw anything like “Tornado Warning” or “Flash Flood” in the news, you knew someone would end up dead. And your ex would blame the weather.

11 Psychological Horror Writing Prompts

34. You come home to a dozen roses from a guy who’s been telling his friends you’re dating, and you get angry. For some reason, though, everyone you know is on his side.

35. Your “Secret Santa” leaves an expensive bottle of wine with a note, “Drink me.” You call a familiar number and hear the phone ring on the other side of your door.

36. Your dad has a secret known only to his twin brother, who mysteriously disappeared but left a note with a box of his belongings in the attic. You take it with you when you leave.

37. You just broke up with the person who’s catering your best friend’s wedding. They also made the cake.

38. Some of your in-laws have decided to deliver their sibling from you. When they cross the line, you make a promise to them and to your spouse. One by one, they disappear.

39. Your health is steadily declining, and you don’t know why. Neither do your doctors, who test for the usual health issues and find nothing. Then someone calls to warn you.

40. Your estranged father sends you a porcelain doll — the one he swears you told him you wanted. It has the face and hair of your missing mother. And her eyes are glued open.

41. You’ve just told your family you’re asexual, and they seem to accept it. Out of the blue, the handsome guy next door shows up to ask you out, and your parents quietly nod.

42. A cop pulls you over for driving a few miles over the speed limit, tells you to get out of your car, slams you against the hood and whispers in your ear, “This is from your ex.”

43. You emailed your fiancé for months before meeting him for the first date. Now, you’re getting strange phone calls from someone claiming to be his wife and telling you to run.

44. You stood numb at the coffin of a close friend and flinched when your father rested a hand on your shoulder. “Had to be done,” he whispered. “Remember the bigger picture.”

creative horror stories

45. A small package bears the name of your sister, who died five years ago. It contains a pendant that matches her own and a note asking you to activate it by chanting, “Sisters Forever.”

46. Your elderly neighbors died on the same day of an apparent suicide pact. In their will, they left their pug to you, along with a small box of what they called “magical items.”

47. You receive a note penned by your best friend, who died in a car accident the month before, His parents had found it in his room and hand-delivered it, barely looking at you.

48. You pounce on a new opening in the apartment building close to your favorite coffee place. The first night there, you wake up to ghostly shapes surrounding your bed.

49. At your first slumber party, your friend’s older brother surprised you during a late-night run to the bathroom. He died a decade later in prison. Now you see him in your dreams.

50. Your home is the high-tech brainchild of your best friend, who bequeathed it to you (rather than to his wife). It anticipates your every need and desire.

51. You’ve been having dreams about a door that shows up in your room. In one, you walk through it and see someone you love being murdered . You warn them the next day.

52. You’re the lone survivor of a horrific train crash, and everywhere you go, you see the ghosts of some of the passengers. Some have told you the crash was no accident.

53. You’re looking through your mother’s possessions when a note slips out of the book she’d been reading, warning you about “the ghost who runs this house.”

54. Your new boyfriend is obsessed with ancient artifacts, but when something hitches a ride on his latest find, you witness disturbing changes in his behavior.

55. Your life is already complicated when your boss asks you to stay at his home to care for his dog while he’s away. You soon learn the house is as mischievous as the dog.

creative horror stories

56. You’re an editor for the college literary journal, and you’ve been getting poetic hate mail from a student who’s angry you didn’t choose their poems for the latest issue.

57. Your favorite neighbor is a trans woman named Lani who looks out for you. She warns you about a guy down the hall, who keeps trying cheesy pick-up lines to get you to smile.

58. Your co-workers tease you about your weight gain. One is found dead in the bathroom, her mouth stuffed with candy. Everyone but the custodian suspects you.

59. An anonymous admirer sends you a singing telegram with a chilling question. Now you have less than 24 hours to sing your answer in a public square, with a flash mob.

man leaning on glass horror writing prompts

60. You sign up for wine deliveries but are disappointed by the first bottle you open and taste. On the label, you find a crass, insulting note from an old enemy.

61. Your date finds out your BFF is asexual and starts asking intrusive and insensitive questions. When your friend shuts him down, he insults and warns you both.

62. You’re working the dinner rush, and a customer loudly insists on changing her order the moment you deliver it. Someone quietly follows her as she storms out the door.

63. You’re having an open house for your new shop, and you catch a customer shoplifting. She says, “I was told to come in here and take these. You’re being watched.”

64. You arrive at your new house, and the keys from the realtor don’t work. Someone answers the door with a disarming smile. “So, you’re here about the room? Come in!”

65. Your date is going well until you reveal that you have a dog. “I’m not really a dog person,” you hear. When you get a bad feeling and end the date, things get messy.

66. Your journal goes missing, and within a week, a goofy, adorable guy starts showing up at your usual stops. He seems surprised to see you, but something isn’t quite right.

creative horror stories

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Go Forth and Terrify

Armed with this generous sampling of horror story prompts, what stories are brewing in your mind as you read this?

No need to stick to exact details, either.

If any part of the writing prompts you just read teased your imagination and became the kernel of a story, run with what you’ve got.

And don’t worry if the first sentence isn’t perfect (you’ll probably change it, anyway). Just write.

May you love this new story every bit as much as your readers will.

Looking for some chilling story ideas for your next writing project? If you want to write something to frighten the pants off your readers, check out these horror writing prompts.

150 of the Best Horror Prompts, Settings and Characters

Novel writing ,

150 of the best horror prompts, settings and characters.

Thea Pelletier

By Thea Pelletier

150 Heinous Horror Prompts and Ideas to Make your Readers Tremble

Whether you’re looking to scare, horrify, or make your readers jump, we are here with all the inspiration you need! We’ve created a horrific list of 50 horror writing prompts to give your writing that hair-raising, back-of-the-neck eerie touch.

Why Use Horror Prompts?

Horror books (as well as movies and TV shows) exist because human fear exists. And all readers love to feel something with each genre! Classic horror fiction books aim to frighten, and over time authors have found a myriad of ways to do that. Common themes include ghosts, ghouls, monsters , vampires, werewolves, demons, zombies, murderers, serial killers, paranormal forces, witchcraft, apocalypses, psychological fear, and gore.

So if you’re feeling uninspired, you think all the good ideas have already been taken (they haven’t), or you simply want to kick-start your imagination – take a look at our horror prompts list. We have included 50 specific examples of horror story ideas organised under sub-genres. We hope some of them send a tingle down your spine and inspire you to write your own creepy novel!

50 Horror Story Prompts

Word of warning: in keeping with the nature of the genre, most of these prompts contain violent or upsetting themes.

Comedic Horror Prompts

Demonic Possession Horror Prompts

Gore Horror Prompts

Monster Horror Prompts

Paranormal Horror Prompts

Post-Apocalyptic Horror Prompts

Psychological Horror Prompts

creative horror stories

Religious/Folk Beliefs Horror Prompts

Slasher Horror Prompts

Vampire Horror Prompts

Witchcraft Horror Prompts

Zombie Horror Prompts

Deserted tunnel

50 Places to Find Inspiration for your Horror Story

The setting of a horror story is everything – but not all scary novels have to take place in a scary place (in fact, sometimes the most mundane of places can be given a horrifying twist by adding a bit of the unknown). When looking for inspiration, it really helps to physically go to a place, or research old relics, to help kick-start your imagination. Take a look at our 50 places that may inspire your next creepy tale. In fact, see if you can think of a horror book or movie set in some of these places (we certainly can!).

Scary clown

50 Horror Story Characters to Inspire you

Sometimes, the most simplest of storylines with the most mundane of setting, can be utterly horrifying of you add one very complicated character. Of course you can use monsters and fantastical characters you have created, but often the best effect is mixing an everyday character with a setting where they belong; for instance a clown hiding inside a car at an empty scrapyard, or a little old lady, bony and bent double, in the middle of the jungle. And remember – these characters can be the good gifs, the bad guys, or maybe a mix of both!

Writing Horror Doesn’t Have To Be Hard

We hope our list of writing prompts for horror , along with settings and characters, has sparked your imagination! If not, here’s how to take our horror ideas to the next level:

Found a horror story prompt you like but unsure of where to take it next? Let’s take #8 from the top list, for example, and add a few interesting characters from our list and choose a setting or two. Then start to build an information bank on your protagonist from there. At this point focus on the character , not the plot – because often one thing can lead to another. The Prompt: You’re a troubled teen who terrifies your family when you wake up floating two metres above your bed. You just moved into an old house in a quiet, creepy suburban street. An exorcist tells your family he has cured you, but the demon doesn’t actually leave your body, and learns to come out only when you are alone.

You’re still a teenager, living at home. Your name is Jackson, but you go by Jax. You’re a second generation immigrant and you speak Greek at home with your family. Your father named you after his favourite American baseball player. You have dark hair, dark eyes, and when you would steal your grandmother’s baklavas off the kitchen counter she would say she could see the devil in your face. You spend the weekends riding the coastal roads on motorbikes with your friends, doing your best to stay out the way of your spoiled little sister and your overworked father. You’re closest to your YaYa but too afraid to tell her where you spend most of your time. Moving house unsettled you and took away everything you ever loved.

Or, why not map out a rough plot first? The inciting incident for this prompt could be: You’ve snuck back into your room after a long night out with your friends. You left the window open. Four hours after you collapsed onto your bed in your clothes, you wake with a start to find yourself hovering inexplicably in the air. Your body is locked into position. You spend a panicked hour trying to wriggle free of its grip, but you can feel another presence inside your own body, forcing you down. You’re going to be late for your new school, your sister is turning the doorknob and your father is yelling for you. Your feet frame the pure terror in the three faces at the door as your eyes strain to see them. Your grandmother recovers the quickest, stuffing her komboskini into your frozen fist and running out of the room to phone her priest. Whether you start your horror story with just a vibe, a small seed of an idea, a great setting, character , or a full plot – it doesn’t matter. A great story can start anywhere, you just have to make sure that (like any scary monster) you keep feeding it and watch it grow bigger and more horrifying every day!

Jericho Writers is a  global membership group for writers , providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by  signing up to our newsletter . For more writing articles, take a look at our  blog page .

About the author

Thea is part of the Writer Support T eam here at Jericho Writers. She has a degree in German and English Literature  from The University of Edinburgh and enjoys spending time with her dogs and  working on her first novel in her spare time. 

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110+ Horror Writing Prompts (With A Twist)

Give yourself the chills with this list of over 110 horror writing prompts. From scary ghost stories to creepy stories about animals and monsters. Now is the time to write your own horror story , just like Goosebumps or The Haunting of Aveline Jones. 

From the gory to the scary, from the monstrous to the supernatural, from the humorous to the wacky, we have it all! Use this horror writing prompts generator to get a random horror writing idea to write about:

Keep on reading for a list of horror story prompts.

Most horror stories are based on one thing, fear. And it’s always a good idea to have a bit of that in your own life. Fear makes us all think differently, it makes us do things we wouldn’t normally do. And it’s the same thing that makes horror stories so scary. It’s a good idea to think of something that scares you, and then write about it. As a starting point, we have provided you with this list of horror prompts. For some of these gory ideas, we have included a twist, while for others it’s up to you how the story goes!  Feel free to use any of these prompts in your writing, and to expand on any of the ideas.

List of Horror Writing Prompts

This list of horror writing prompts will you give you the well-needed inspiration for a good horror story:

Fear no more! Just use this list of horror writing prompts to start writing your own fantastic horror story! Use any of these scary prompt ideas to take the story from your mind to your computer screen.

Looking for more creepy horror prompts? Check out this list of Halloween writing prompts , as well as this scary Halloween picture prompts . 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the 5 elements of a horror story.

Every good horror story contains the following five elements: Character, Setting, Action, Horror and Resolution. You can’t write a good horror without these elements.

How do you write in creepy writing?

To write in creepy writing, you need to immerse yourself in the world of horror. You think to think exactly like your main character or antagonist. Imagine yourself as a ghost, a demon, a monster, or a murderer. You can be a ghost who haunts people in their dreams or a monster who stalks them in the real world. Use extreme details to describe scenes of horror with gory and disgusting elements.

How do you get inspiration for horror?

Most horror stories are based on fear. Think about the things that scare you or haunt you in your nightmares. You can also get inspiration from watching scary movies or reading about scary stories. Finally, horror stories can also be inspired by real-life situations. For example, a girl who is bullied decides to take revenge on her bullies in a gruesome way. Of course, you can also use this list of horror writing prompts to inspire you too!

What are common horror themes?

Horror themes can be based on personal experiences, fears, or nightmares. Here are some common horror themes to explore:

Did you find this list of over 110 horror writing prompts useful? Let us know in the comments below.

horror writing prompts

Marty the wizard is the master of Imagine Forest. When he's not reading a ton of books or writing some of his own tales, he loves to be surrounded by the magical creatures that live in Imagine Forest. While living in his tree house he has devoted his time to helping children around the world with their writing skills and creativity.

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Re-write frankenstein from the perspective of the monster that dr. frankenstein created., you wake up one day to discover that you've been transported inside of a novel... and it's a horror novel., a troop of clowns is performing in your city this weekend... and on the day of, some strange things start happening., write a horror story that subverts the cursed artifact trope., "hi, this is the irs.".

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Start your story with a character encountering a black cat.

Write a story about a character who can’t tell what’s real and what’s not., end your story with total oblivion..

Start your story with someone finding an object labeled with their name.

Write about a character whose intuition is always right — until one day it isn’t., start your story with an unusual sound being heard., write about a character who uses a night where everyone’s in costume as cover for something sinister., start your story with the words “everything was ready for the ritual.”, start your story with a vehicle pulling over for a hitchhiker., win $250 in our short story competition 🏆.

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The best horror writing prompts

A locked door, a creaking house, a shadow under the bed — horror can come from anywhere. It’s all about being able to tap into your own fear. But you know what’s even more scary to writers than screams, blood and gore? The terror of a blank page. That’s where our horror writing prompts come in.

Our prompts are here to give you inspiration, whatever type of horror story you’re writing. Whether your looming threats are demons, ghosts, monsters, witches, zombies, or simply something unknown lurking in the darkness, we’ve got the right ideas to spark your imagination and fuel your nightmares.

With that in mind, here are our top ten horror writing prompts:

Looking for more help to get your horror writing started? We've got you covered. Check out some of our free resources, handpicked to help you write a story that goes bump in the night.

Want more help learning how to write a short horror story? Check out How to Write a Short Story That Gets Published — a free, ten day course guiding you through the process of short story writing by Laura Mae Isaacman, a full-time editor who runs a book editing company in Brooklyn.

Ready to start writing? Check out Reedsy’s weekly short story contest , for the chance of winning $250! You can also check out our list of writing contests or our directory of literary magazines for more opportunities to submit your story.

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Explore more writing prompt ideas:

Adults Writing Prompts ⭢

Adventure Writing Prompts ⭢

Angst Writing Prompts ⭢

Character Writing Prompts ⭢

Christmas Writing Prompts ⭢

Dark Writing Prompts ⭢

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Fiction Writing Prompts ⭢

Fluff Writing Prompts ⭢

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Halloween Writing Prompts ⭢

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Winter Writing Prompts ⭢

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