One of the main reasons that writers fail when writing horror stories is that they are not able to immerse themselves into the plot totally and by this I mean, that, irrespective of how the plot is constructed, the writer should feel the ripples of trepidation in a similar way to the reader.
Writing horror stories in a convincing way means having to scare yourself.
You might be asking yourself how you can do that, considering as the writer, you will be crafting the plot so therefore would know exactly what is going to happen and when, but it’s simple, you just need to see through the eyes of your characters.
Horror stories should incite fear wherever they have been set: A creepy, derelict old mansion or a brand new block of flats …for example.
Whilst the first example sets the scene for the reader, the writer simply needs to work that little bit harder to instil the same sense of foreboding in the second example as the reader has no preconceived idea about what could happen in a brand new flat and therefore you need to build up the tension.
If you want to write horror stories that literally terrifies the reader, then you must imagine that you are actually ‘witnessing’ the events that unfold and hearing every creaking floor board, every menacing whisper and feeling the thudding of your heart as the anticipation rises.
If you struggle with this, then try a little experiment.
One night when you are home alone, turn out the lights in the house and sit quietly. Even if you are not scared of the dark (and I admit I am) you will immediately start to hear lots of strange noises coming from all directions. Depending on how nervous you are, you will even start to imagine manifestations and make odd shapes out of the blackness. Try to sit in the dark for a while or to accelerate the tension, light a candle and walk around the house, noticing the strange shadows on the wall. Imagine that you are your character and that something evil is lurking.
The point to all of this is that if you can feel the fear yourself and let your imagination run wild, you will be able to portray that sense of apprehension and dread to the reader and your horror stories will have the reader hanging on to every word.