How to Write a Ghost Story: 12 Steps

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How to Write a Ghost Story: 12 Steps
How to Write a Ghost Story: 12 Steps

Many people like good ghost stories, and writing one yourself can be just as enjoyable. In general, ghost stories follow the patterns of other works of fiction, focusing on a character and their encounters with a challenging force or event. However, ghost stories focus closely on evoking feelings of dread and dread, escalating them toward a gruesome climax. Learning about some of the ideas and techniques behind good ghost stories can help you come up with your own scary tales.


Part 1 of 3: Developing the Plot

Write a Ghost Story Step 1
Write a Ghost Story Step 1

Step 1. Get inspired by your own fears

When writing a ghost story, it can help to start by thinking about what scares you about ghosts. Imagine a situation where you are face to face with a ghost and take note of what you think would scare you the most. Knowing what terrifies you about ghosts can help inspire you as you write your ghost story.

  • Consider the situations in which encountering a ghost would be most terrifying.
  • Imagine the details of the ghost and the way it appears to you, noting what scares you the most.
  • Try watching your favorite horror movies or reading other ghost stories for inspiration.
Write a Ghost Story Step 2
Write a Ghost Story Step 2

Step 2. Consider the atmosphere

Much of your story will be the setting. You may be able to create a scary ghost, but placing it in the wrong setting can make it seem less scary. Imagine some of the creepiest places you can think of to use as the setting in your ghost story.

  • What places do you find disturbing or disturbing?
  • The setting should have a sense of isolation, keeping the main characters away from help.
Write a Ghost Story Step 3
Write a Ghost Story Step 3

Step 3. Brainstorm ideas for your story

You probably already have some ideas about your characters, setting, and plot. You may have an idea of what you want to happen in the story, but it can still help you to imagine many possibilities of what could actually happen. Take some time and write down every idea that you can come up with about your story.

  • Consider the details of your story and ask yourself more about them.
  • Imagine other settings or characters, and see how they change the feel of your story.
  • Consider various endings to your story and see which ones you like best.
Write a Ghost Story Step 4
Write a Ghost Story Step 4

Step 4. Plan your story arc

All stories have some basic components in terms of their story arc. While some models vary and not all stories fit the same arc, the eight point narrative arc is often used when writing fiction, and it can result in consistently good structures that your story can follow. Review the following basic outline of the eight-point story arc:

  • Stasis: is the introduction to your story, and shows the normal life of your characters.
  • Trigger: This event is something that pushes your character out of his normal life.
  • Search: This is where your character is given an objective or something to do.
  • Surprise: This will occupy the middle part of your story and will consist of the events along the way to your hero's goal.
  • Critical Decision: Your protagonist must make a difficult decision that shows his character.
  • Climax: This is the moment towards which your story was unfolding and the most dramatic moment in history.
  • Investment: It should be the consequence of your character's critical decision or the main challenge.
  • Resolution: This is the point where your characters return to normal life, but changed as a result of that ordeal.
Write a Ghost Story Step 5
Write a Ghost Story Step 5

Step 5. Make an outline

After you have a basic understanding of what will happen over the course of your story, you should develop an outline. An outline will help you visualize the direction of your story and will allow you to examine it to look for possible problems or things that you may want to change.

  • Write your outline with the events in chronological order.
  • Avoid leaving blank spaces in the narration in your sketch.
  • Try to think of all the scenes and examine how they work together.
Write a Ghost Story Step 6
Write a Ghost Story Step 6

Step 6. Slowly develop the feeling of terror

Ghost stories generally unfold slowly over the course of the plot. If you increase the number of strange events gradually, you reinforce the idea that something even bigger is on the horizon. The reader should be aware of this exponential increase and become increasingly anxious as they await the climax of your story.

  • Avoid rushing to reveal the confrontation or climax of your ghost story.
  • Slowly developing the tension of the story can make the climax even more intense.

Part 2 of 3: Developing the Characters

Write a Ghost Story Step 7
Write a Ghost Story Step 7

Step 1. Think of your protagonist

Every story has a focus and will usually be about the main character or protagonist. This is the character who will be the link to the world of your ghost story and will give readers a direct advantageous perspective with which to identify within the story. Consider the qualities, motivations, background, and other details about your main character.

  • Try to think about why your character is in the situation he is in.
  • Imagine how your character would react to the events in your story.
  • Try to get a clear mental picture of what your character looks like.
Write a Ghost Story Step 8
Write a Ghost Story Step 8

Step 2. Create the antagonist

The antagonist in a story is the one who is most easily understood as "the bad guy." This character will be the one that conflicts with your protagonist or hero. In this case, the antagonist is likely to be the ghost. Consider some of the following things ghosts often look like in horror stories:

  • The ghost must have a reason or motive to exist and do what it does.
  • Ghosts appear in different forms: they are more or less physical or they have different powers.
Write a Ghost Story Step 9
Write a Ghost Story Step 9

Step 3. Consider working on add-ons or additional characters

Other characters in your story should be there for the reader to have a greater insight into the main character or antagonist. These characters are called accessories and, although they have their own motivations and structure, they are often used to emphasize aspects of the main characters.

  • The add-ons generally have different personalities from the main characters to highlight individual characteristics.
  • Also, supporting characters should have their own unique qualities and personalities.
  • Ask yourself what relationships these characters might have with the main characters in your ghost story.

Part 3 of 3: Write Your Ghost Story

Write a Ghost Story Step 10
Write a Ghost Story Step 10

Step 1. Don't tell the reader what happens

The goal of any ghost or horror story is to engage the reader and make them feel what the characters are feeling. Simply telling the reader what is going on may be less effective than showing them. Wherever possible, try to describe the characters' reaction to something scary rather than telling the reader that the characters were scared.

  • An example of telling the reader what is happening is "The ghost appeared and I was scared."
  • An example of showing the reader what happens is "The ghost appeared and my stomach knotted. I could feel my face start to sweat and my heart was trying to jump out of my chest."
Write a Ghost Story Step 11
Write a Ghost Story Step 11

Step 2. Have readers fill in the details

You may have a perfect idea of exactly what is going on in your story, but using less detail can make your story even scarier. Readers will automatically fill in the details with their own mind and create an image that is uniquely terrifying to them. Try to keep descriptions to a minimum and let your readers scare themselves.

  • For example, it is probably very straightforward to say, "The ghost was 10 feet tall and exactly as wide as the door it passed through."
  • Try saying something like "The ghost was huge, making the room suddenly feel claustrophobic and cramped."
Write a Ghost Story Step 12
Write a Ghost Story Step 12

Step 3. Finish everything quickly

The pace of the story should start slow, build speed, and then end even faster. A sudden and abrupt ending can really shock readers, leaving a lasting impression. When thinking about how your story ends, you need to be careful that you can quickly describe the ending moment.

  • Consider ending your story with a single sentence.
  • If you offer a lot of explanation at the end of your ghost story, this can reduce the impact of the ending.


  • Consider what scares you the most and let your ghost story draw inspiration from those fears.
  • The setting is an important part of your ghost story that can either enhance the feelings of terror you are trying to evoke or detract from them.
  • Clearly understand who and what your characters are.
  • Consider using a standard template for your story arc.
  • Create a good outline for your story before you start writing in more detail.
  • Build tension slowly at first and then pick up speed near the climax of your story.
  • Make the feelings of the characters stay current to action. Incorporate sound effects (for example, weird and evil laughs or howls). Add descriptions of paranormal activity, causing blood-chilling sensations, chills of fear, and goosebumps moments to make the atmosphere more terrifying.

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