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.

Ideas for Horror Stories Spellbound Still from Spellbound

Ideas for Horror Stories  •  Still from ‘Spellbound’

  • Who is the young man?
  • What is the recurring lucid dream?
  • Why is he unable to break out of it?

SCARY STORY IDEAS

SUGGESTED VIEWING

2) An island community is besieged by a rapidly-mutating virus.
Horror Story Ideas The Beach Still from The Beach

Horror Story Ideas  •  Still from ‘The Beach’

  • Where is the island?
  • What is the virus?
  • How did the virus originate?

HORROR WRITING PROMPTS

SUGGESTED VIEWING

3) A woman sells control of her father’s estate to a peculiar… bloodthirsty… count from Transylvania.
Scary Story Ideas Drakula Still from Bram Stokers Dracula

Scary Story Ideas  •  Still from ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’

  • Who is the woman?
  • Who is the count?
  • Why is she selling her father’s estate?

Writing Prompts Horror

SUGGESTED VIEWING

4) A group of hitchhikers enter a seemingly empty home to wait out a torrential storm.
Horror Story Ideas The Twilight Zone Still from The Twilight Zone

Horror Story Ideas  •  Still from ‘The Twilight Zone’

  • Who are the hitchhikers?
  • Why does the house seem empty?
  • Where is the antagonist?

HORROR WRITING PROMPTS

SUGGESTED VIEWING

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.
Horror Story Prompts Sunshine Still from Sunshine

Horror Story Prompts  •  Still from ‘Sunshine’

  • Who’s on the space station?
  • Why aren’t there any emergency shuttles on the station?

SCARY STORY PROMPTS

SUGGESTED VIEWING

6) A veteran cop suspects his daughter is dating a serial killer.
Scary Story Ideas Taken Still from Taken

Scary Story Ideas  •  Still from ‘Taken’

  • Who is the cop? 
  • Who is the daughter?
  • Who is the suspected serial killer?
  • How did the cop learn about his suspicious nature?

HORROR STORIES IDEAS

SUGGESTED VIEWING

7) A small-town legend says that a monster lurks under the lake. Sounds crazy, but why have so many people gone missing?
Horror Story Ideas The Wailing Still from The Wailing

Horror Story Ideas  •  Still from ‘The Wailing’

  • What is the monster?
  • Why have people gone missing?
  • How did this legend spread?

SCARY STORY IDEAS

SUGGESTED VIEWING

8) A man finds a slumped-over investigator with puncture-wounds in his neck. His final word, “devil.”
Scary Writing Ideas Angel Heart Still from Angel Heart

Scary Writing Ideas  •  Still from ‘Angel Heart’

  • Who is the man?
  • Who is the investigator?
  • What does “devil” imply?

SCARY STORY IDEAS

SUGGESTED VIEWING

9) A group of college girls stargazing at the Grand Canyon find themselves stalked by a shadowy figure.
Horror Story Prompts It Follows Still from It Follows

Horror Story Prompts  •  Still from ‘It Follows’

  • Who are the college girls?
  • Why are they at the grand canyon?
  • Who, or what, is the shadowy figure?

SCARY STORY IDEAS

SUGGESTED VIEWING

10) A woman is kidnapped in broad daylight, only to re-awaken in a human zoo.
Scary Story Ideas The Truman Show Still from The Truman Show

Scary Story Ideas  •  Still from ‘The Truman Show’

  • Where is the woman kidnapped? And where is she brought?
  • Who is responsible?
  • Why is there a human zoo?

SCARY STORY IDEAS

SUGGESTED VIEWING

11) A cursed man must find love by year’s end or else his entire family will be killed.
Horror Story Ideas Beauty and the Beast Still from Beauty and the Beast

Horror Story Ideas  •  Still from ‘Beauty and the Beast’

  • Who is the man?
  • How was he cursed?
  • How do we know his family will be killed?
  • Why do we want him to succeed?

HALLOWEEN STORY IDEAS

SUGGESTED VIEWING

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.
Scary Writing Ideas Burning Still from Burning

Scary Writing Ideas  •  Still from ‘Burning’

  • How does the woman discover the mementos? 
  • Who is the woman? And who is the man?

HORROR WRITING PROMPTS

SUGGESTED VIEWING

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.
Scary Story Ideas Exam Still From Exam

Scary Story Ideas  •  Still from ‘Exam’

  • 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?

SCARY STORY IDEAS

SUGGESTED VIEWING

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.
Scary Story Ideas Stranger Things Still from Stranger Things

Scary Story Ideas  •  Still from ‘Stranger Things’

  • Who is the teenage-outcast?
  • Who is the teacher?
  • Why does the teenage-outcast suspect the teacher is a demon?

HORROR STORY IDEAS

SUGGESTED VIEWING

15) A young vampire on a tiny island must drink blood to survive. But people are running out. And ships stopped coming.
Horror Story Ideas Still from Vampyr

Horror Story Ideas  •  Still from ‘Vampyr’

  • Who is the young vampire?
  • Why are they on a tiny island?
  • Why did the ships stop coming?

SCARY STORY IDEAS

SUGGESTED VIEWING

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.
Scary Story Ideas Insomnia Still from Insomnia

Scary Story Ideas  •  Still from ‘Insomnia’

  • Where was the traveler going?
  • Why did he allow his car to run out of gas?
  • Who, or what, is the hooded-figure?

HORROR WRITING PROMPTS

SUGGESTED VIEWING

17) An expeditionary voyage is thrown into chaos when a dead body is discovered in the captain’s chambers.
Horror Story Prompts Clue Still from Clue

Horror Story Prompts  •  Still from ‘Clue’

  • Who’s body is discovered?
  • Where is the expedition going?
  • Why was it discovered in the captain’s chambers?

SCARY STORY IDEAS

SUGGESTED VIEWING

  • Clue
  • Return of the Obra Dinn (game)
18) A nuclear holocaust forces people to move underground. Things are safe for a while, but eventually, the monsters make their way down.
Scary Story Ideas Still from Metro

Scary Story Ideas  •  Still from ‘Metro 2033’

  • Who detonated the nuke?
  • Why was the nuke detonated?
  • What are the monsters?
  • How did they get underground?

HORROR WRITING PROMPTS

SUGGESTED VIEWING

  • Metro 2033 (novel/game)
  • Stalker

Up Next

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!

Up Next: Horror Writing Tips for Fiction →

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  • Chris Heckmann graduated from Emmanuel College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Writing, Editing, and Publishing. He now lives in Los Angeles where he writes about sports, film, and television.

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