Here 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.
- Who is the young man?
- What is the recurring lucid dream?
- Why is he unable to break out of it?
2) An island community is besieged by a rapidly-mutating virus.
- Where is the island?
- What is the virus?
- How did the virus originate?
3) A woman sells control of her father’s estate to a peculiar… bloodthirsty… count from Transylvania.
- Who is the woman?
- Who is the count?
- Why is she selling her father’s estate?
4) A group of hitchhikers enter a seemingly empty home to wait out a torrential storm.
- Who are the hitchhikers?
- Why does the house seem empty?
- Where is the antagonist?
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.
- Who’s on the space station?
- Why aren’t there any emergency shuttles on the station?
6) A veteran cop suspects his daughter is dating a serial killer.
- Who is the cop?
- Who is the daughter?
- Who is the suspected serial killer?
- How did the cop learn about his suspicious nature?
7) A small-town legend says that a monster lurks under the lake. Sounds crazy, but why have so many people gone missing?
- What is the monster?
- Why have people gone missing?
- How did this legend spread?
8) A man finds a slumped-over investigator with puncture-wounds in his neck. His final word, “devil.”
- Who is the man?
- Who is the investigator?
- What does “devil” imply?
9) A group of college girls stargazing at the Grand Canyon find themselves stalked by a shadowy figure.
- Who are the college girls?
- Why are they at the grand canyon?
- Who, or what, is the shadowy figure?
10) A woman is kidnapped in broad daylight, only to re-awaken in a human zoo.
- Where is the woman kidnapped? And where is she brought?
- Who is responsible?
- Why is there a human zoo?
11) A cursed man must find love by year’s end or else his entire family will be killed.
- Who is the man?
- How was he cursed?
- How do we know his family will be killed?
- Why do we want him to succeed?
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.
- How does the woman discover the mementos?
- Who is the woman? And who is the man?
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.
- How did the strangers find themselves locked in a classroom?
- Who is “the instructor?”
- Why are they being forced to engage in a sadistic game?
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.
- Who is the teenage-outcast?
- Who is the teacher?
- Why does the teenage-outcast suspect the teacher is a demon?
15) A young vampire on a tiny island must drink blood to survive. But people are running out. And ships stopped coming.
- Who is the young vampire?
- Why are they on a tiny island?
- Why did the ships stop coming?
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.
- Where was the traveler going?
- Why did he allow his car to run out of gas?
- Who, or what, is the hooded-figure?
17) An expeditionary voyage is thrown into chaos when a dead body is discovered in the captain’s chambers.
- Who’s body is discovered?
- Where is the expedition going?
- Why was it discovered in the captain’s chambers?
18) A nuclear holocaust forces people to move underground. Things are safe for a while, but eventually, the monsters make their way down.
- Who detonated the nuke?
- Why was the nuke detonated?
- What are the monsters?
- How did they get underground?
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!