Despite numerous protests to the contrary, there are a plethora of excellent locations to submit horror short tales these days. Professionally-paying science fiction markets are at the top of the list, followed by fantasy and then horror markets.
There are still many alternatives, especially if you broaden your search to include semi-pro rates, one-off anthologies, and open forums.
Short stories, in particular, have piqued my interest as a fun way to earn some income.
So, if you want to be the next Crown Prince of Dread, your wish is still possible! And understanding how to write a horror story is the first step
Then there’s figuring out which magazines pay well for horror short stories and where to submit them.
What Is A Horror Story?
According to Britannica, a Horror story is a story that focuses on creating a feeling of fear. Such tales are of ancient origin and form a substantial part of the body of folk literature.
They can feature supernatural elements such as ghosts, witches, or vampires, or they can address more realistic psychological fears.
How Do You Write An Horror Short Story?
In our era of highly commercialized crime and thriller novels, there is a need for you to write a captivating short horror novel that horror fans will love to read. However, here are tips on how to write a short horror story.
#1. Tap into common fears
The most important part of any horror story is naturally its fear factor. People don’t read horror for easy entertainment; they read it to be titillated and frightened.
So, here are a few elements you can use to seriously scare the pants off your reader.
Fears with a logical or biological basis are among the most powerful in horror. Things like darkness, heights, snakes, and spiders are just a few of the most frequent instinctive phobias. As a result, they’re usually highly good at scaring readers.
Monsters and supernatural entities
This is one that goes beyond logic and into the realm of the “uncanny,” as Sigmund Freud put it. We all know vampires, werewolves, and ghosts don’t exist, but it doesn’t stop them from terrifying us.
This is one of the most common fears in horror, but if you choose to write in this genre, your story must be believable.
Another way to scare people is to use societal tensions, which is a common approach in horror films. Get Out tackles the idea of underlying racism in modern America and The Babadook examines mental health, are two films that have been out recently.
However, like in Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery, societal tensions can readily be embodied in the pages of horror fiction.
#2. Strike the right atmosphere
What type of horror you intend to create will determine the “right atmosphere” for your narrative. The subgenre will also influence the tone and atmosphere of your work.
- Thriller-horror brings psychological fear, often occurring near the beginning of horror stories before very much has happened
- Gross-out horror involves vivid descriptions of spurting blood, hacked-up flesh, and gouged-out organs in order to shock the reader; think gore movies of the 70s
- Classic horror harks back to the Gothic (or Southern Gothic) genre, with spooky settings and bone-chilling characters like those of Dracula and Frankenstein.
- Terror provokes a feeling of all-pervasive dread, which can either serve as the climax of your story or be sustained throughout.
Subgenres can also be combined, especially as your novel progresses. You might start with an exciting psychological horror, then progress to gothic undertones before ending in complete fear.
Whatever form of horror you’re working with, it should be terrifying for your reader – and terrifying for you.
#3. Make the stakes obvious
You must make readers aware of the stakes in order for them to be fully enthralled by your short horror story.
Establish your character(s)’ major problem or motivation, as well as what they stand to lose if they don’t solve it. The following are examples of stakes and motivations:
Survival: In any horror story, the most basic goal of the protagonists is to survive. However, there are certain complexities to that purpose.
Maybe their goal isn’t only to stay alive but to defeat their homicidal foe in the process.
Protecting loved ones: The higher the stakes, the more individuals the protagonist must protect. Many terrifying stories end with the danger of death, not of the protagonist, but of one or more of their loved ones.
Cracking unsolved mysteries: Because some horror stories are about unearthing the terrors of the past rather than escaping dangers in the present.
This is especially true in subgenres like cosmic horror, which deals with cosmic riddles, frequently involving ancient history.
You can always combine different kinds of stakes, just like you can with atmosphere.
When it comes to horror, especially horror fiction, the most important thing to remember is that simple stakes have the most impact.
#4. Ponder On your point of view (POV) Carefully
Your reader should sense a kinship with your main character, such that when the stakes are high, they feel their own heart start to beat faster.
This can be achieved by either a first-person or third-person constrained point of view. (Avoid third person omniscient when writing horror since it can alienate your reader and reduce their investment in the story.)
When it comes to beating hearts, look no farther than The Tell-Tale Heart for a wonderful example of first-person horror storytelling.
The first-person point of view is great for catching your reader right away and keeping them guessing throughout your story.
It could be too dramatic for lengthier, more complicated pieces, and it might be tough to pull off if you’re trying to hide something from your audience.
Furthermore, if you do decide to employ first-person narration, keep it in the present tense.
#5. To twist or not to twist?
Plot twists are thrilling, memorable, and aid in the resolution of earlier ambiguity by revealing the truth and therefore alleviating tension.
They are, however, famously tough to come up with and even more difficult to execute – you must gently hint at a twist while ensuring it isn’t too predictable or clichéd.
#6. Don’t overlook the fundamentals.
According to Demchick, “a horror novel, like any fiction, is about a character or characters seeking to attain a goal based on their particular interests and needs.” “If you let concept take precedence over character, you’ll lose a lot of what makes horror so compelling.”
So, you must be aware of basic storytelling strategies when writing and avoid getting carried away with the frightening drama. Before you begin, consider the following questions regarding your characters and plot:
- What fear or struggle does your protagonist have to face?
- What decision did they make to place them in this predicament?
- How, if at all, will they defeat or elude their adversary?
- What are the long-term consequences of their actions?
This will assist you in creating a basic plot for your horror novel, which you can then embellish to add atmosphere and suspense too.
#7. Search for something new
To make your narrative stand out from the crowd, consider overused horror trends and make sure it isn’t “been there, done that.” After all of the Twilight, Vampire Diaries, and True Blood excitement, the “vampire romance” plot is a dead horse with no one left to beat it.
That isn’t to say you can’t include parts of popular culture in your writing. All you have to do now is put your unique spin on it and make it your own!
Horror Short Story Submissions
If you are in search of where places for your horror short story submission, then this is it. But before I move further to list them out, here is something to read.
Standard disclosures apply: I am not endorsing any of these markets or their business personally. I’ve submitted to a few, but not all of them.
You must still conduct due diligence to determine whether you like the publications and/or are comfortable with the terms of the agreement.
I also can’t guarantee that the facts will remain accurate; contributor guidelines, as well as submission windows and markets, change frequently. So, before submitting your own work, make sure you examine their websites for details.
However, here are publishers for your horror short story submissions.
- Apex Magazine
- Clarkesworld Magazine
- Horror Addicts
- The Dark Magazine
- Clarkesworld Magazine
- WordFire Press
- Anathema Magazine
- Madness Heart Press
- Black Static
- Morpheus Tales
- Dark Helix Press
- The Dark Sire
Also, you can check this: How Much Do Journalists Make | Full Job Description
List Of Magazines That Pay Heavily For The Stories
Short stories, in particular, have attracted a lot of attention as a fun way to earn some money. It’s easy to scribble the first draft—especially if you’re caffeinated and following a plan—and a narrative can be revised and polished in under a week if you concentrate.
However, here are some magazines that pay good money for Horror short stories.
Lamplight is a quarterly newspaper looking for dark stories to publish. They aren’t overly restrictive in terms of what you can and can’t write, but they do not allow common horror cliches like as vampires, zombies, werewolves, serial murderers, hitmen, and cannibals.
They prefer dark, literary stories, but they prefer the spooky, strange, and unsettling.” Also, It’s worth looking at this free PDF copy to see what kind of work they’ve done in the past.
- Original fiction is 3 cents a word with a maximum payment of $150
- Reprints are 1 cent a word
- 15 March—15 May
- 15 September—15 November
PseudoPod is a fictitious audio magazine. They transform your written stories into spoken words.
They don’t get hung up on genre designations, and they don’t follow any rules about what kind of stuff can be included in their stories… What matters most is that your tales are bleak and gripping.
Furthermore, because of the audio format, they aren’t picky about admitting work that has already been published elsewhere. They’re also more accepting of violent and sexy horror than the majority of periodicals.
- 8 cents a word for original fiction
- $100 flat rate for short story reprints
- $20 flat rate for flash fiction reprints (stories below 1500 words)
The one disadvantage of PseudoPod is that submission windows are quite small, so you must be lightning fast to be considered.
- 15 October—2 November for general submissions
- 10—31 August for their Flash Fiction Contest
#3. Boneyard Soup
Boneyard Soup is unique in that it includes two non-fiction articles in each edition, with the goal of creating a “wonder cabinet of sorts.”
They don’t provide specific content guidelines, but they do require that the word count be between 2,000 and 6,000 words, and they urge that you avoid extreme violence or too sexual themes.
“Gothic in the traditional sense. A pulpy horror film with an 80s feel. Body horror. Stories about ghosts. Horror comedy. If your story falls under the horror or dark fantasy genres, don’t be hesitant to submit it.”
In addition, Reprints are accepted at Boneyard Soup, but you must note this when submitting.
- 5 cents per word for original fiction up to 6000 words
- 1 cent per word up to 6000 words for reprints
- 5 cents per word up to 3000 words for non-fiction
Boneyard Soup accepts submissions all year, but as a tiny journal, they advise that it may take up to a month for them to respond.
I hope this article has thrown more light on horror short stories and how to go about them. Also, some publishers for your horror short story submissions.
FAQs on horror short story submissions
Step 1: Find the perfect publication to send your story. …
Step 2: Submit your story in the right format. …
Step 3: Include a brief cover letter and author bio with your story submission. …
Step 4: Submit your short story and track your submission. …
3 thoughts on “How to Submit a Short Story”
The world’s shortest horror story was originally published in 1948; it was written by Frederic Brown, and consists of two sentences. It reads: “The last man on Earth sat alone in a room.