10 Ways Entering Vocal's Broken Mirror Challenge Can Make You a Better Writer

Writing a horror story will help you master atmosphere, pacing, and character development

By Vocal Curation TeamPublished 3 months ago 5 min read

So, you're interested in writing a horror story for the Broken Mirror Challenge? Diving into the horror genre can do wonders for your writing skills. Not only will you learn to create a spine-chilling atmosphere and develop strong, relatable characters, but you'll also master the art of suspense and pacing. Horror writing encourages you to explore psychological themes, experiment with narrative techniques, and craft impactful endings. You'll become more resilient to feedback and improve your ability to engage readers emotionally. Ready to take your writing to the next level? Let's review the elements that define the terrifying world of horror fiction together.

1. Building Atmosphere

Writing horror requires the ability to create a tense, eerie, or unsettling atmosphere. This helps writers learn the importance of setting and descriptive language to evoke specific emotions and responses in readers.

Tip: Use sensory details and vivid descriptions to immerse the reader in the story's setting.

Example: Instead of writing, "The house was old and creepy," try, "The decrepit house loomed before her, its timbers groaning in the wind, and the air thick with the scent of decay."

2. Developing Strong Characters

Horror stories often rely on relatable, well-developed characters to drive the narrative and evoke empathy from readers. Crafting complex, believable characters with distinct motivations and vulnerabilities is a valuable skill for any writer.

Tip: Give your characters distinct personalities, backstories, and motivations to make them feel more real and relatable.

Example: Create a protagonist who is afraid of the dark due to a traumatic childhood experience, which plays a crucial role in their journey throughout the story.

3. Enhancing Suspense and Pacing

Writing horror teaches the importance of suspense and pacing to keep readers engaged and on edge. This understanding can be applied to other genres, as well-crafted pacing is essential for maintaining reader interest and building tension.

Tip: Use foreshadowing, cliffhangers, and varying sentence lengths to build tension and keep readers on edge.

Example: Introduce a mysterious character early in the story and slowly reveal their true intentions, leaving readers eager to uncover the truth.

4. Exploring Psychological Themes

Horror often delves into the darker aspects of human psychology, which can enrich a writer's understanding of character development and motivation. This deeper exploration of human nature can lead to more nuanced and thought-provoking writing.

Tip: Delve into your characters' fears, obsessions, and inner struggles to create complex, multi-layered stories.

Example: Write a story about a character haunted by their past, causing them to question their own sanity.

5. Mastering Show, Don't Tell

Effective horror writing relies on evoking fear and dread through vivid description and sensory detail rather than simply telling the reader how to feel. This skill is essential for all genres, as it helps to create immersive, engaging stories.

Tip: Use action, dialogue, and sensory details to convey emotions and experiences, rather than explicitly stating them.

Example: Instead of writing, "He was terrified," try, "His heart raced, and his hands trembled as he struggled to suppress a scream."

6. Balancing Plot and Character Development

In horror, the plot and character development are often closely intertwined, as characters must navigate frightening situations while confronting their own fears and weaknesses. This balance is crucial in any story, as it ensures a well-rounded narrative that resonates with readers.

Tip: Ensure that your characters grow and change as a result of the events and challenges they face in the story.

Example: A protagonist who starts as a timid, fearful person becomes more courageous and assertive as they confront the supernatural forces in the story.

7. Experimenting with Structure and Narrative Techniques

Horror stories often employ unique narrative structures or techniques, such as unreliable narrators, fragmented timelines, or multiple perspectives. Experimenting with these approaches can help writers develop a broader range of storytelling skills.

Tip: Play with different narrative styles, such as first-person, third-person limited, or multiple perspectives, to find the most effective way to tell your story.

Example: Write a story with alternating chapters from the perspectives of the protagonist and antagonist, gradually revealing their interconnected pasts.

8. Engaging Readers' Emotions

Horror writing requires tapping into readers' primal fears and emotions, which can help a writer become more adept at engaging their audience emotionally in any genre.

Tip: Tap into universal fears and emotions to make your story resonate with a wide audience.

Example: Write a story that explores the fear of isolation, loss of control, or the unknown, which are common themes in horror.

9. Learning to Write Impactful Endings

Horror stories often feature unexpected, unsettling, or thought-provoking endings. Crafting memorable and effective endings is an essential skill for any writer, as it leaves a lasting impression on the reader.

Tip: Surprise your readers with unexpected twists, thought-provoking conclusions, or open-ended resolutions that leave them wanting more.

Example: End your story with the protagonist's apparent victory over the supernatural forces, only to reveal that the true horror is just beginning.

10. Building Resilience Through Feedback

Horror can be a polarizing genre, and writing it can help a writer become more resilient and open to constructive criticism. Learning to accept and incorporate feedback is crucial for growth and improvement as a writer.

Tip: Seek constructive criticism from other writers, readers, or writing groups, and use their feedback to improve your work.

Example: Ask for feedback in the comments below your story or join a Vocal Facebook community where you can share your work, receive feedback, and learn from other writers' experiences and critiques.

We've delved deep into the eerie world of horror fiction, and now it's your turn to unleash your creativity and confront the unknown. Why not put your newfound skills to the test and enter Vocal's Broken Mirror horror writing challenge?

It's the perfect opportunity to share your spine-tingling stories, explore the darker corners of your imagination, and connect with fellow horror enthusiasts. We've already given you the first sentence, all you need to do is step out of the shadows and look into the mirror. So, gather your courage, pick up your pen or go to your keyboard, and let your most chilling nightmares come to life. We can't wait to see what terrifying tales you'll bring to the table. Share your best advice for writing a compelling horror story in the comments below 👻

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Comments (22)

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  • Kayla Lindley2 months ago

    I was wondering if you guys had a moment to comment on how you guys will address the usage of ChatGPT and ChatAI in future contests, and writing prompts here on Vocal? I wrote a article on here recently about the use of ChatGPT for contests, and I am concerned that real writers may get drowned out with the use of ChatGPT. As more of a cheating aspect basically. I really would love to know the teams thoughts?

  • Shadow James2 months ago

    Great read. Very helpful! Thanks

  • Charliy Nash2 months ago

    I've written a few challenge articles even though I'd missed the deadline. I love being stretched.

  • Kendall Defoe2 months ago

    The best advice I would give - something I still try to follow - is read the masters of the form (King, Lovecraft, Matheson, etc.) They understood the rules and broke them beautifully...

  • Ghezal Amiri2 months ago

    Thanks for this! Super helpful to keep in mind for future writing projects.

  • Alex H Mittelman 2 months ago

    Good advice!

  • Jesse Rivas2 months ago

    Thank you, it is is enlightening to get some of the finer points of story telling framed in a was that makes complete sense.

  • I wish Vocal in general had alerts regarding any major errors so that writers know/no to go back and check ESPECIALLY in conjunction with a challenge for paying members. With ALL the hacking and potential prize money involved it might be the only way some of us know if we’ve been victimized as I’d suspect/allege. I write on the create space as I go then update/save/proofread as I write and STILL find mistakes I’d swear weren’t there. Now I record what I’ve written via video AND take screenshots… Not full editing features with suggestions at every level ESPECIALLY creative towards plot BUT errors which/WITCH will also assure us that our submissions have at very least been read once as an entry.

  • Carol Townend2 months ago

    Horror is my thing. A little imagination goes a long way. Much of my horror writing has a psychological impact. The best way to start a horror for me is to picture it in my mind, then write it down. Its amazing what just one thought can do.

  • LUCID LAINY3 months ago

    submitted! excited for this one :D

  • Naomi Gold3 months ago

    I am so excited about this! Psychological horror is my favorite genre. I couldn’t come up with anything for the cabin in the woods challenge that felt original, but I already have an idea for this one.

  • Willow Cinders3 months ago

    Woohoo! Can't wait to sink my teeth into this challenge <3

  • Lamar Wiggins3 months ago

    Psychological horror has a bigger impact on me than ghosts and gobblins. Thank you so much for the tips. I've already started a story but need to go back and adjust a few parts after reading and agreeing with # 7 (experimenting with different structures and narrative techniques) Thanks again and good luck everyone!

  • Alexander McEvoy3 months ago

    I love writing horror. This challenge is going to be fun!

  • This was a helpful and succinct reminder with great tips. Thanks! I often think about Neil Gaiman's ability to put an odd twist on a narrative: an imagined person becomes real; a babysitter is actually an ancient spirit; a mirrored version of the real world exists below the one we recognize. I'm not great at horror writing, but I always try to emulate these elements when I do give it a go. Looking forward to this! :)

  • Harmony Kent3 months ago

    Ooh, I can’t wait to dive into this. Thanks for sharing your excellent advice. Unexpected twists and shocks are essential for a gripping horror story. And definitely avoid over-done tropes and cliches, unless you can give them a fresh spin … which could be a great tool for misdirection. Cue evil laughter … mwahahahaaaaa 😁 (Now all I have to do is take my own advice! 😂)

  • Kendall Defoe3 months ago

    One piece of advice: don't go for the obvious. It is easy to set horror in a dark and stormy landscape with a creaky old house swaying in the wind, cobwebbed and spooky. The real challenge is to set things in the daylight with people we recognize (Stephen King, Jac Jemc and many others have done this). Just a thought.

  • Call Me Les3 months ago

    Oo it's on. Horror in March? Let's go! Where's Madoka 🤔

  • DreamSeeker3 months ago

    Time to give this a go...

  • Novel Allen3 months ago

    As soon as I win I will start dishing out advice.👵 It is all about having fun with your darkest self. Much appreciative of the above tips. Just write horrible things and have good old fun.

  • Melissa Ingoldsby3 months ago

    Ok I got a idea

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