Horror Writers Association Blog

Tag archive: YA Horror Archives - Horror Writers Association Blog [ 20 ]

Scary Out There with Sarah Rees Brennan

Scary Out There with Sarah Rees Brennan

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Season of the Witch by Sarah Rees BrennanIt’s Scary Out There had a witchingly good time talking character, lore, and more with Sarah Rees Brennan, author of Season of the Witch, the tie-in novel for Netflix’s hit show, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.

With books like How to Hang a Witch, The Price Guide to the Occult, and Conversion, witchcraft in YA seems to be more popular than ever. Why do you think that is?

Witches are figures of female independence and social disobedience! I think whenever society is having a big conversation about how just our system actually is, how power …

Surviving Records: Found Footage in Print

Surviving Records: Found Footage in Print

found footage illustration through a shaky cam view screenShaky camcorders, baby monitors picking up paranormal activity, mysteriously unearthed videos—it’s no wonder found footage flourishes so well in cinematic horror. It’s visually compelling metafiction that doesn’t undermine audience immersion.

It can be a little harder to pull off in print (especially because the author name on the physical book is rarely also the name of a character inside of it, a limitation The Blair Witch Project marketing team didn’t face when they released fake missing posters of their leads and even convinced some that the actors were dead). But, it can still be a lot of fun and provides …

YA Writing Prompt: Cabin Fever

YA Writing Prompt: Cabin Fever

Young Horror brings you writing prompts to energize your week with spooky writing idea inspiration. Are you writing picture books, chapter books, middle grade, or YA? Your next great idea could be sparked right here.

The Horrors of Winter Break

Ah…take a breath, because December brings with it Winter Break. There’s a short vacation for kids, teens, and parents from the usual routine of packing lunches, school buses, and homework. Picture togetherness, smell the holiday spices, taste the hot cocoa, feel the soft flannel of matching family pajamas.

Sometimes, there can be TOO much togetherness.

If the weather’s terrible …

Murder Most Fowl and Other Holiday Horrors

Murder Most Fowl and Other Holiday Horrors

demonic turkeys with overlaid flamesSomewhere in the United States this moment, a large turkey—with glorious plumage, I would like to imagine—doesn’t know that he’s already been selected for presidential pardon for the American Thanksgiving holiday next week. In classrooms across the country, kids are consuming read-aloud picture books about other turkeys running from feast centerpiece fates. Many classroom games and educational activities are built to the theme of staving off the imminent death of the turkey—hide the turkey, disguise the turkey.

Can you, young schoolchild, alter this bird’s fate and save his life?

It’s all fun and games, and then we expect the child …

Evil Teachers and Beyond: 5 School Scare Sources

Evil Teachers and Beyond: 5 School Scare Sources

Scary school bus

The days are getting shorter and cooler, and ravaged store displays are picked-over, having only straggling survivors among the pencils, notebooks, and backpacks. Children and teens have mysteriously vanished from public places on weekdays… It’s Back to School season! In honor of returning yellow school buses, here are five school aspects to be mined for your horror stories.

1) Mind Control

Kids in classroom

From preschool to high school, kids spend a large portion of their day having someone else tell them what to do. Wear this. Eat now. Do this work now. You need the bathroom? The break’s in 15 minutes, so

Writing Prompt: Knock on Wood

Writing Prompt: Knock on Wood

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Young Horror brings you writing prompts to energize your week with spooky idea inspiration. Are you writing picture books, chapter books, middle grade, or YA? Your next great idea could be sparked right here.

Check back every Monday for new writing prompts. Share your ideas and discuss in the comments below.


“Superstition is foolish, childish, primitive and irrational–but how much does it cost you to knock on wood?” -Judith Viorst

Your superstitions are much older than you. If you take that moment to knock on wood, you’re joining in on an activity to ward off anger and

Horror in the Headlines: Using the News for Novel Ideas

Horror in the Headlines: Using the News for Novel Ideas

While I love supernatural horror, realistic horror stories—murders, kidnappings, unexplainable medical phenomena—are the ones that really keep me up at night. There’s something extra terrifying about a fictional story that can, and does, happen to people in real life, so it’s no surprise that authors draw inspiration for their horror (or suspense or thriller) novels from news stories. With a 24-hour news cycle and the Internet vortex, you won’t need to look too far for an idea to rip from the headlines.

I read a stack of Sick-Sad-World-worthy YA fiction, and here are some ideas I came away with about

Love is a Disease: Prevent the Romantic Storyline from Strangling the Scary

Love is a Disease: Prevent the Romantic Storyline from Strangling the Scary

Ever wonder why some books get the horror classification, while others—sometimes with similar plotlines and the exact same monsters—get labeled paranormal romance? The difference is easy—the former has the primary goal of scary, and the latter focuses on a romantic relationship (to the degree that the plots rely on it to function). The real question, then, concerns the tipping point between the two genres, the point at which your young adult novel is less terror and more Twilight.

First, a caveat: There’s nothing wrong with paranormal romance; it’s simply a different genre from horror (and the two genres frequently

Peekaboo with the Devil: Strategies for Hiding and Revealing Your Antagonist

Peekaboo with the Devil: Strategies for Hiding and Revealing Your Antagonist

Just like any relationship, the special bond between a horror protagonist and her antagonist benefits from a little bit of mystery. In this case, the hero is a proxy for your readers, and the mystery comes from your story’s scariest villain, be it a human serial killer or a demonic creature or the mad scientist who, when left unattended for a few minutes, will inevitably create a horrific zombie plague.

There are a host of reasons why keeping your baddie cards close to your chest can help your story’s tension and overall terror levels. Obviously, if your plot line is

The CreEpy Catalog: On the Day I Died

The CreEpy Catalog: On the Day I Died

In order to write great children’s horror, you must READ great children’s horror. To help you out with this, we’ve invited our very own middle school librarian to take you into the deepest, darkest corners of the stacks to see what frightening fiction kids are reading. Welcome to the CreEpy Catalog!


erin-mawn-headshotOne of the things I love about working in a middle school library is that kids have the ability to read independently, but they still love being read aloud to. Once a week, I have a group of fifth graders for library class, and I love the experience of …

Ambiguously Ever After: Ending the Children’s Horror Story

Ambiguously Ever After: Ending the Children’s Horror Story

IMG_20160821_211336There’s much handwringing in publishing for children about what is “right” or “appropriate.” There are many controversial subjects and editorial choices, but today we’re talking about endings. Do endings in books for children need to be happy? Or should writers of children’s books portray a realistic version of the world where things don’t always end well?

Critics and authors have come down on both sides of the issue. When the 2014 Carnegie Award was given to The Bunker Diary, it set off a flurry of controversy in the UK and prompted an opinion piece for The Guardian in which

And the Clock Strikes Three AM: Time and Timing in Terror, the Sequel

And the Clock Strikes Three AM: Time and Timing in Terror, the Sequel

cpt_1470618694673Last month’s terror-time about time-and-terror was firmly grounded in reality—creating timetables that work inside the book (natural character reactions to stimuli and logical story flow) and inside the reader’s mind (pacing appropriate for the specific audience’s needs, and avoiding shattering suspension of disbelief through overuse of techniques that, when used sparingly, should enhance tension). Immersion was the name of the game, with an end goal of a truer feeling story and the horror that relating to it as true-ish brings.

But before you go off and wed your story to reality at the altar of believability, there’s another variable. Unless

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