Writing horror

Tips for writing a creepy attic or basement in middle grade or YA
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Alright, I don’t blame you. Attics (AKA lofts) and basements (AKA cellars) are obviously the scariest rooms in any house (except for maybe Regan’s bedroom in The Exorcist) which is why I’m glad I’m a Londoner and don’t have either. But their innate creepiness isn’t enough to sell your setting: you need to make readers see, feel, hear, smell, taste the room, experience the claustrophobia, sense the lurking danger.

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Exploring kidlit subgenres: Supernatural horror
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Back in 2020 I wrote a blog post called ‘A guide to middle grade and YA genres and subgenres’ and to this day it remains my most popular blog post of all time! I wrote it because I know sometimes it can be really difficult to navigate literary genres and subgenres in general but especially in the kidlit space, partly because a lot of people tend to think ‘middle grade’ and ‘YA’ are genres in their own right (they’re not – they’re audiences) and partly because the uninitiated often assume children’s books are a monolith.

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Want to read more YA horror? Start here! 2022 edition
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Last year I published the blog post ‘Want to read more middle grade horror? Start here! 2021 edition‘ full of recommended kids’ titles in the genre and suggestions for where…

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Read like a writer: Last One to Die by Cynthia Murphy
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This was a really fun, pacey YA horror with grown-up Point Horror vibes as Kathryn Foxfield pointed out in her quote on the back of the book. What I found particularly interesting about Last One to Die is that it reads as a realistic slasher up right until the last couple of chapters and then – SPOILER ALERT! – it turns a corner into supernatural horror for the big reveal. I say spoiler alert but actually Kat Ellis’ quote on the back, ‘a supernatural horror-fest’, sort of gives away that twist. This is what sets it apart from Point Horror stories, for me, as those are always based in reality.

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Read like a writer: Rules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall
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I really enjoyed Rules for Vanishing and it reminded me how much I love epistolary novels! Including additional content like newspaper clippings, video footage and police interviews can work really well in books for young readers: it breaks up the main narrative and increases the white space, meaning the story feels a little less dense and intimidating, plus it encourages readers to speed through the pages more quickly because each section is so short and easy to digest.

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Analysing the Tale of the Twisted Claw
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‘Be careful what you wish for – you might just get it!’ Analysing S01E04 ‘The Tale of the Twisted Claw‘ Let’s get started! Here’s an embedded video from the official Are…

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Want to read more middle grade horror? Start here! 2021 edition
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Maybe you write horror for adults and want to dip your toe into the middle grade pool. Maybe you write realistic fiction for kids and want to try your hand…

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Analysing The Tale of Laughing in the Dark
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It’s the most fun in the park when you’re laughing in the dark! I have a soft spot for this episode because I love any horror featuring creepy fairgrounds, although…

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Making your spooky kidlit scenes even scarier with sound effects
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Sensory description is so important in any genre of fiction, but in scary stories it can add a chilling, leave-the-lights-on-tonight-please-mum atmosphere to an otherwise flat scene. In fact, you should…

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Lessons from R. L. Stine’s Masterclass #1: No moralising
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Last year I took R. L. Stine’s masterclass on writing horror for young readers and it was utterly fascinating. I was a huge Point Horror fan as a teenager and still read…

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