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Course Title: The Art of Horror Writing
Instructor: Laurie Notch
Curriculum: 6 units, plus Syllabus and Final Exam
Time Required: 5-6 weeks
Textbooks: None
Prerequisites: None. All students may enroll in this class
CEU Eligibility: Students who pass an exam will earn 2 CEUs
Course Fee: $24.00
Start Date: No waiting...Enroll now and start learning today!
What This Course Will Do for You

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 bestseller.

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 fiction.

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.

Lesson Plan
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!

  • Dynamic Descriptions
  • Diabolical Dialogue
  • Unit 5: Your Monster's First Steps

  • Peer Review
  • Critiques
  • 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 or office.

    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.

    The Student 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.