Whether you're fighting off hoardes of blood-thirsty zombies breaking in to your home or
being chased through the woods by an axe-wielding maniac, this course on horror writing will
teach you how to scare people for fun and profit!
Tales of horror have been with us since the dawn of time. They give us a healthy respect for
danger, teach values, and help us face even mock death. While terror is rooted in
conditions that exist in the external world, horror comes from the darkness that dwells inside
us. What is it that makes us want to hear, read, watch, and write horror stories?
In this workshop for aspiring and working writers, distinguished author and international
educator Laurie Notch explores the art of writing horror fiction that will get published. The
course presents detailed instructions on how to write horror fiction that will keep readers
turning pages, eager for more. Learn how to structure your plot so that the story flows from
beginning to end; create tension, conflict, and cliffhangers; use dialogue to reveal a
character’s evil motives, set a frightening mood, create fear, and heighten suspense. Whether
you yearn to write about ghosts, creepy dolls, insane asylums, or terrifying maniacs, this
writing workshop will help you discover the horror in everyday life and turn it into a potential
Every horror story uses tried-and-true elements to weave a great tale, and this is true of
thriller themes, classic characters, spooky settings, diabolical dialogue, gut-wrenching plots,
and chilling conclusions. This course will walk you through the steps of writing great horror
When you have completed this course, you should be able to:
Recognize the elements of a horror story and how it differs from other writing genre
Understand why the horror genre has remained so popular down through the ages
Identify the various elements that make horror classics like The Exorcist,Nightmare on Elm Street
and Dracula so chilling
Try new techniques for writing the things that scare you, eerie events, and horrible happenings
Analyze the masters of horror and understand why they wrote what they did
Explore the Gothic Movement and the works of Mary Shelley, Edgar Allen Poe, and Bram Stoker
Be familiar with the three main groups of horror: psychological, allegorical, and sociological
Spin a tale that will be so gripping your readers will be afraid to venture out into the night
Effectively use the essential ingredients of horror writing to create great settings and atmosphere
Artfully use words that spark anxiety and panic in readers
Invent creepy, twisted characters and riveting action
Learn how to structure your plot so that the story flows from beginning to end
Intensify story conflict, create tension, dilemma, cliffhangers, and suspense
Use dialogue to reveal a character’s evil motives, set a frightening mood, create fear, and heighten suspense
Break bad habits such as cliches, mixed metaphors, vague language, redundancy, and passive voice
Learn basic rules for horror writing that will allow your story to be more readily translated into a screenplay
Get helpful tips on submitting your stories for peer review, benefiting from critique, writing queries to publishers, and posting on blogs and horror literature sites.
Gain insights on how to market, pitch, and promote your horror story
About the Instructor
Laurie E. Notch is an international educator and author who has published nonfiction,
fiction, and cyber graphic novels. She has lectured at Tufts University among other colleges in
the U.S., Europe, Africa, and Asia. She is the Managing Editor of the print and online
Adventures for the Average Woman Magazine whose mission is to promote women in the literary
and visual arts. She is the President of Wasted Minds Entertainment, a media production company
that has produced television pilots including Strange Attractors (a reality TV program that investigates
the odd and extraordinary), Ghost Quest (with an all female ghost hunting team), and
Supernatural Hotspots (another paranormal show), as well as the documentary Spanking Tinkerbell
(“the buzz” of the 2007 National Publicity Summit.) She is the author of the novel The Spoiler
and writes articles for eHow and The Examiner, among other Web publications.
Laurie has been a guest on the Donahue Show and Debra Nigro’s First Wives World
(2007) along with various radio interviews in the U.S. and abroad. She has also been quoted in
MovieMaker Magazine (April 2008) for saying, “What could be more appropriate for making
horror films in the land of the ‘King’ of horror [Maine]?” and on the front page of the
Lewiston Sun Journal (October 31, 2008) for her local ghost hunting shows.
Laurie holds a B.A. in English Language and Literature from St. Cloud State University,
Minnesota and an M.A. in Applied Anthropology with specialization in Social Semiotics from
American University in Washington D.C. She began writing creatively in the late 1970s when she
dabbled in horror and science fiction — two of her favorite genres — but decided to make it
her main vocation in the late 1990s while working as a technical writer in Washington D.C.
In 2005, Laurie’s short story Sex With a Vampire Doesn’t Have to Bite won honorable
mention in a horror story contest with Circlet Press. In 2009, the Pandora Project publishing
house picked up her horror shorts Death’s a Bitch and Then You Haunt and
Pooper Scooper: an Urban Ghost Tale. Laurie says she gets her inspiration from Rod
Serling, Edgar Allen Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Dean Koontz, Clive Barker, and Stephen King.
Currently, Laurie is working on a reality TV pilot, The Final Mark, as well as a
“machinima” (computer-generated cinema) production, The Blackwell Mystery. She is also
striving to get her feature film “musical zombedy” Cube Ghouls produced along with the
comic book, The Adventures of Zombieman. She is working on half a dozen spooky novels
and screenplays which she tries to fit in to her very busy schedule.
Syllabus: Getting Started
Unit 1: Learning from the Masters
The Origins of Horror Stories
What Defines Horror?
Who are the Master Horror Writers and Why Did They Write?
What Makes Horror Thrive?
Unit 2: The Right Formula
The Elemental Table of Horror
The Essential Ingredients
The Chemistry of Characters
The Dynamics of Dialogue
Unit 3: How to Build A Monster
The Beating Heart
The Bare Bones
Fleshing out the Story
Unit 4: It's Alive!
Unit 5: Your Monster's First Steps
Queries to Publishers and Agents
BLogs, E-Zines, Horror Forums, and Contests
Unit 6: Strutting Your Monster's Stuff
Monster Work Out
Marketing Your Monster
Unit 7: Final Exam
* Lessons 7 and 8 will be devoted to students polishing their manuscripts, query letters,
and synopses in preparation for submitting to publishers and agents they have researched. In order
for the instructor to provide feedback, active participation by students is required.
How to Participate in this Course
Enroll and start learning today! All course materials will be available when you start the
class, so you don't have to wait for weekly lessons and you can truly learn at your own pace.
You don't have to be online at any set time; study at your leisure from the comfort or your home
The course curriculum will include tutorial lessons, suggested readings, and optional
homework activities. If you are taking the class for enjoyment or self-enrichment, homework is
optional but participation is encouraged. Students who approach online learning as an adventure
and actively participate will derive the most benefit and enjoyment from online learning.
Homework projects, if completed satisfactorily, will earn Extra Credit points which will be
added to your Final Exam score and may increase the overall grade you earn in the course.
Handbook provides useful information on how to make the most of your online learning
experience at KSURF's Virtual University. Refer to this guide for helpful tips on how to access
classrooms, post homework, and answers to most frequently asked questions.