Narrative Structure of the Horror Stories

The horror narrative is a little bit different from the others. Firstly, take care with the real problems for your characters, for all of them; of sure – the main character needs to be the center of your story, in this way, it’s the most complex and developed character, while the others are constelations around the protagonist, whom will illuminate him, or they will try to erase him forever.

The table bellow is very interesting. That’s a word board, and these words will give you some tips about the flaws which your character may has; likewise, you turn him in a real person, like me and you.


Lately I’ve read a lot about horror structure, and I take this as a base to bring you a summary of these tips. Here you’ll see an adaption from the Christopher Vogler’s work, but you’ll see some particularities of the genre too.

The Initial Situation:

a. The hero does something normal: the hero goes on a date, they meet friends, perhaps they go on a road trip.

b. There’s a problem: Something goes wrong.

c. Warning: Something happens that would give a reasonable person second thoughts about the wisdom of going forward.

Break into Act Two: the protagonist makes a choice:

It happens when the protagonist willfully ignores the warning.  There are horror movies that violate this rule.

Initial Problem is Solved or Changed:

Almost immediately upon entering act two the problem changes.

This is the difference from the normal sotory structure. Usually the problem changes, then the hero accepts the quest. In a horror often the hero ignores the warning and then either fulfills their initial goal or the initial goal changes.

Fake Solution:

Often there is a fake solution. Often there is a fake solution. Something happens, an event, and the protagonist feels either that the problem has been solved – The main character believes he has the key to solve the problems on his hands.

Fake Villain:

Often when there’s a fake solution, the protagonist, perhaps with the help of the real villain, begins to suspect one of her friends/allies. The fake threat is contained and the protagonist relaxes. Not long afterward, the real killer reveals himself/herself.


Protagonist and antagonist/villain fight. Usually the protagonist will win, but in a horror that often doesn’t happen, not only does the protagonist lose, but their fate is worse than we ever could have imagined.


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