Happy Monday, everyone! Every genre has its pitfalls and snake traps but rarely are they more visible than in the horror and suspense genres. Why? Because the readers of horror and suspense know exactly what they’re looking for. Within each genre there are a ton of subgenres that all have loyal fanbases who can debate to not end whether zombies should be fast or slow, whether vampires burn up or sparkle, or even whether a time-bomb makes sense. To avoid their disdain, we’re going to look at 5 common mistakes many authors make when writing their horror or suspense stories.
1.) Making the same monster
One could argue there are only so many ways to make a zombie a zombie or a vampire a vampire. However, blatantly copying another author’s take on the classic monsters is a very, very common mistake. All I can really say is, you better damn well make up for it with plot and writing style because most readers will recognize where you got your ideas from and will either expect a similar story or a totally different one – neither are guaranteed homeruns with this crowd, either.
In short, if someone wants to read your werewolf story, they don’t want to read your werewolf story – not one they’ve already read.
2.) Making the wrong monster
By this I mean ignoring all previous examples of a monster and going a totally different direction or mixing and matching traits from arch-rival monsters (like vampires and werewolves for whatever reason). While you don’t want to copy a monster exactly, of course, but you don’t want to throw your readers off before they ever get a chance.
In short, if someone buys a novel for a vampire story they don’t want to read about zombies – no matter how loosely you relate them.
3.) Getting too technical
I see it all the time in suspense – especially from authors who have real experience in the field of their suspense stories. While an occasional explanation of a bomb is great, going into detail about how it was constructed, what part does what, and how often the protagonist has seen it used lets readers fall back in their chairs. You don’t want that and neither do they. Remember that you’re an author, not an advocate. Don’t give free advertising to a gun company in your novels just because you can.
In short, don’t drag things out just because you’re knowledgeable in an area.
4.) Too many side stories
They muddy the waters in both of these genres. One or two simple side plots are excellent – almost necessary – but having every character have something going on is a bit too much. If it isn’t vital to the main plot, consider cutting it. While I recognize a beautiful side story when I see it, I’m not reading horror or suspense for five separate beautiful tales. Just a couple, you know?
In short, nobody cares about the backstory for the guy that speaks one line, didn’t know any of the main characters, and has nothing to do with the ending.
5.) Straight-line stories
Just as too many side stories can ruin horror and suspense, too linear a story can as well. Not everyone wants to go from point A to point B in the shortest time possible. Too straight a path means too little page turners and less frights. Why? Because they are more likely to see it coming if they weren’t distracted by something else.
In short, don’t forget that distractions do serve a purpose – something more than a few.