How to Write a Horror Screenplay -

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How to Write a Horror Screenplay

By Carl Hose     -
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Horror movies always draw big crowds to the theaters and fly off the shelves in movie rental establishments. People like to be scared. Writing the kind of horror script that will scare people is a challenge. There have been countless horror movies made. The movie-going public has seen just about everything, and finding a good story with original scares takes some thought. Learn how to write a horror screenplay that will catch your audience by surprise and leave them afraid to turn out the lights.

Step 1

Come up with an original idea. This is extremely hard to do. If you can't think of a story that hasn't been done before, try writing an original take on an old theme. This is often what happens with a lot of new scripts, whether the genre is horror or something else.

Step 2

Create characters movie viewers will care about. Even minor characters (characters in the movie for a body count) need some sort of personality. Killing off characters your audience knows nothing about will only hold their attention for so long. Writing characters your audience is familiar with will keep them invested in those characters and their well-being. It's also a good way to encourage your audience to feel fear for those characters. The key is to make your audience believe they could be in a situation like the one in your movie, and you can only do this by creating characters they can identify with on some level.

Step 3

Dole out the "fright" scenes at the right pace. Don't write one jump scene after another. Many beginning writers do this in place of writing a good story. One "fright" scene after another lessens the impact of the previous scenes. Pace your scary scenes in such a way that you create a roller coaster effect. Bring your audience to the verge of a good scare without giving it to them. This will have the audience believing they know what's going to happen, and just when they realize they don't, bring in a scene that will make them jump. Pacing is the key. Too few scares and your audience will be bored, but too many will desensitize them.

Step 4

Give your antagonist (bad guy) a backstory. Don't create a killer or ghost or monster without motivation. The motivation may not make sense to someone who is "normal," but it should be intrinsic to the actions of your antagonist.

Step 5

Keep your protagonist (hero) in danger. Good horror scripts usually revolve around one or two characters you know won't end up dead. They may not save anyone else, but their courage and wit prevents them from falling victim to the antagonist in your screenplay.

Step 6

Use proper script format as you write. It's best to use screenwriting software. Screenwriting software automatically handles script formatting for you, which leaves you free to focus on telling your story. Celtx is free screenwriting software that not only formats your script but includes tools for story development (see Resources). Use a screenwriting guide to help with script formatting (see Resources). Tell your story following the same principles of writing that apply to novels, but be sure to write your script in screenplay format and in the present tense, including in the script only what you will see and hear on the screen.


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