Five Reasons to Write Spooky Stories

One of the questions I am often asked by students is which genre to pick when writing a story. I have always leaned strongly towards horror and Gothic as one of the most successful genres students can choose. It allows them to showcase many of the skills that GCSE examiners are looking for, as well as being a fun and rewarding genre to experiment with. Here are just a few of the ways it can help students show what they can do:

Suspense

Horror stories obviously rely heavily on a strong build up of suspense and students can think about ways in which they can create this through their written choices. For example, varying sentence lengths can allow for build up and dramatic tension in writing. Similarly, the use of techniques such as a one-sentence paragraph can also emphasise the tension in the story. The GCSE mark scheme specifically rewards the use of complex sentence structures and thus the stylistic conventions of horror allow students an opportunity to show this. 

Setting

Another reason horror stories are often a good choice for students is that they rely on the creation of effective settings, which can also be a source of inspiration for detailed description. Describing a frightening setting is often easier than describing a setting that makes us feel relaxed, and students are often familiar with these types of settings from television and film. This means it is easier for them to visualise a setting in their mind and turn it into writing. 

Show Don’t Tell

Whilst of course we would always hope that students have not had to go through anything genuinely too frightening, fear is an emotion that they are often able to describe using “show don’t tell”. This is a very important element of creative writing, where rather than just telling the reader how a character feels, the writer is able to use detailed descriptions to show us. For example, rather than telling us that a character is frightened, a skilled writer may describe the racing of his/her heart, or the prickle of their flesh. A story that is based on the horror genre is going to allow students plenty of opportunities to show the reader, rather than telling him/her. 

Cultural Heritage

We have a natural affinity with horror and especially the ghost story, since often these narratives have been passed down in stories for generations. Readers are instinctively drawn to the themes and the genre gives us a chance to connect with a different part of our nature and psyche. There is a rich tradition of writing in this genre that students can draw upon and use for inspiration. However much the world may have moved on and evolved over time, our collective love for these stories has not faded. 

Structure 

Horror stories need to be very carefully structured in order to be as effective as possible for the reader. There is often a large twist in the story, and for this to work, the writer has to plan the story out very carefully. Horror stories also tend to rely heavily on having an effective opening that sets the correct amount of tension and suspense, and draws the reader in. Structure is an often overlooked element of the GCSE English mark scheme. The examiners are looking to see evidence of careful planning that employs the five stages of narrative. Using devices such as story twists often impresses the examiner, as it shows the student is in full control of his/her craft. Again, the very nature of the horror genre means it is the perfect style to allow students to show what they can do and get those all-important marks. 

If your child finds creative writing a challenge, or is looking for additional support, then check out my free half term workshop, Stories of the Supernatural, timed to coincide with Halloween. We will be looking at how to write a ghost story that will leave an examiner feeling spooked, as well as heading towards the top of the mark scheme! To register your child for the workshop, go to:

One of the questions I am often asked by students is which genre to pick when writing a story. I have always leaned strongly towards horror and Gothic as one of the most successful genres students can choose. It allows them to showcase many of the skills that GCSE examiners are looking for, as well as being a fun and rewarding genre to experiment with. Here are just a few of the ways it can help students show what they can do:

Suspense

Horror stories obviously rely heavily on a strong build up of suspense and students can think about ways in which they can create this through their written choices. For example, varying sentence lengths can allow for build up and dramatic tension in writing. Similarly, the use of techniques such as a one-sentence paragraph can also emphasise the tension in the story. The GCSE mark scheme specifically rewards the use of complex sentence structures and thus the stylistic conventions of horror allow students an opportunity to show this. 

Setting

Another reason horror stories are often a good choice for students is that they rely on the creation of effective settings, which can also be a source of inspiration for detailed description. Describing a frightening setting is often easier than describing a setting that makes us feel relaxed, and students are often familiar with these types of settings from television and film. This means it is easier for them to visualise a setting in their mind and turn it into writing. 

Show Don’t Tell

Whilst of course we would always hope that students have not had to go through anything genuinely too frightening, fear is an emotion that they are often able to describe using “show don’t tell”. This is a very important element of creative writing, where rather than just telling the reader how a character feels, the writer is able to use detailed descriptions to show us. For example, rather than telling us that a character is frightened, a skilled writer may describe the racing of his/her heart, or the prickle of their flesh. A story that is based on the horror genre is going to allow students plenty of opportunities to show the reader, rather than telling him/her. 

Cultural Heritage

We have a natural affinity with horror and especially the ghost story, since often these narratives have been passed down in stories for generations. Readers are instinctively drawn to the themes and the genre gives us a chance to connect with a different part of our nature and psyche. There is a rich tradition of writing in this genre that students can draw upon and use for inspiration. However much the world may have moved on and evolved over time, our collective love for these stories has not faded. 

Structure 

Horror stories need to be very carefully structured in order to be as effective as possible for the reader. There is often a large twist in the story, and for this to work, the writer has to plan the story out very carefully. Horror stories also tend to rely heavily on having an effective opening that sets the correct amount of tension and suspense, and draws the reader in. Structure is an often overlooked element of the GCSE English mark scheme. The examiners are looking to see evidence of careful planning that employs the five stages of narrative. Using devices such as story twists often impresses the examiner, as it shows the student is in full control of his/her craft. Again, the very nature of the horror genre means it is the perfect style to allow students to show what they can do and get those all-important marks. 

If your child finds creative writing a challenge, or is looking for additional support, then check out my free half term workshop, Stories of the Supernatural, timed to coincide with Halloween. We will be looking at how to write a ghost story that will leave an examiner feeling spooked, as well as heading towards the top of the mark scheme! To register your child for the workshop, go to:

One of the questions I am often asked by students is which genre to pick when writing a story. I have always leaned strongly towards horror and Gothic as one of the most successful genres students can choose. It allows them to showcase many of the skills that GCSE examiners are looking for, as well as being a fun and rewarding genre to experiment with. Here are just a few of the ways it can help students show what they can do:

Suspense

Horror stories obviously rely heavily on a strong build up of suspense and students can think about ways in which they can create this through their written choices. For example, varying sentence lengths can allow for build up and dramatic tension in writing. Similarly, the use of techniques such as a one-sentence paragraph can also emphasise the tension in the story. The GCSE mark scheme specifically rewards the use of complex sentence structures and thus the stylistic conventions of horror allow students an opportunity to show this. 

Setting

Another reason horror stories are often a good choice for students is that they rely on the creation of effective settings, which can also be a source of inspiration for detailed description. Describing a frightening setting is often easier than describing a setting that makes us feel relaxed, and students are often familiar with these types of settings from television and film. This means it is easier for them to visualise a setting in their mind and turn it into writing. 

Show Don’t Tell

Whilst of course we would always hope that students have not had to go through anything genuinely too frightening, fear is an emotion that they are often able to describe using “show don’t tell”. This is a very important element of creative writing, where rather than just telling the reader how a character feels, the writer is able to use detailed descriptions to show us. For example, rather than telling us that a character is frightened, a skilled writer may describe the racing of his/her heart, or the prickle of their flesh. A story that is based on the horror genre is going to allow students plenty of opportunities to show the reader, rather than telling him/her. 

Cultural Heritage

We have a natural affinity with horror and especially the ghost story, since often these narratives have been passed down in stories for generations. Readers are instinctively drawn to the themes and the genre gives us a chance to connect with a different part of our nature and psyche. There is a rich tradition of writing in this genre that students can draw upon and use for inspiration. However much the world may have moved on and evolved over time, our collective love for these stories has not faded. 

Structure 

Horror stories need to be very carefully structured in order to be as effective as possible for the reader. There is often a large twist in the story, and for this to work, the writer has to plan the story out very carefully. Horror stories also tend to rely heavily on having an effective opening that sets the correct amount of tension and suspense, and draws the reader in. Structure is an often overlooked element of the GCSE English mark scheme. The examiners are looking to see evidence of careful planning that employs the five stages of narrative. Using devices such as story twists often impresses the examiner, as it shows the student is in full control of his/her craft. Again, the very nature of the horror genre means it is the perfect style to allow students to show what they can do and get those all-important marks. 

If your child finds creative writing a challenge, or is looking for additional support, then check out my free half term workshop, Stories of the Supernatural, timed to coincide with Halloween. We will be looking at how to write a ghost story that will leave an examiner feeling spooked, as well as heading towards the top of the mark scheme! To register your child for the workshop, go to: https://mailchi.mp/brightskytutoring.com/gothic

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