UPDATE: We have worked with the guys at TeeBlox to be able to bring some tasty treats to the top three entrants! With a face value of $30, you’re getting some awesome geeky merchandise so there’s never been a better time to get submitting and scare our pants off.
Halloween is on the way, and at Cultured Vultures, we’re taking it pretty seriously. Sorry, I meant seeeeerrrrriiiooooussssllllllyyyyyyy….
That being this case, this year we want you to scare the bejesus out of us and all the other readers out there, so we’re running a contest to find the most frightening horror short stories you horrible lot have to offer. From now until October 25th, we will be taking submissions for our ‘Halloween Horror Shorts’. Our CV team will judge all the submissions and the best ones will be published on site in the run-up to Halloween. Then, on the day itself, the reader voted winner will be announced. Here are the guidelines for entry –
- Each story must be between 1000 and 3000 words.
- It doesn’t necessarily need to be scary in tone, as long as it’s scary in theme, or vice versa.
- Once your entry is published, you may not submit another.
- Submissions close on October 25th
- Entries will be judged on a week-by-week basis.
- The stories which make it to publishing will be judged by reader poll.
- The final winner will be announced (and republished) on October 31st.
- All submissions should be sent to [email protected] with the subject marked ‘Halloween Horror Shorts’.
- Stories should either be copy/pasted into the email body (no flashy fonts or images, please).
- You will receive a notification of submission soon after you’ve sent the story, please do not submit the same story multiple times if you don’t hear from us straight away.
That’s everything you need to know. Just for good measure I’ll also give you some pointers about how to write a good scary story:
- Focus on character first and foremost, you won’t scare anyone unless they care about the people in the story.
- Make sure the disturbing material is narratively justified, don’t just throw fucked up stuff in for its own sake.
- When coming up with an idea, rather than using ‘a ghost story’ or ‘a psycho killer doom space clown’ as a launchpad, try to imagine something which legitimately scares you, and work from that.
- Don’t. Use. Overly. Fragmented. Sentences. To build. Tension. It. Does. Not. Work.
- Try to avoid overusing words like ‘suddenly’ to increase the pace or create shock. You aren’t going to make anyone jump.
- Onomatopoeia is fantastic for making a story more involving, but use it sparingly, otherwise your story will read like a baby learning to talk.
- Describing how scared a character is isn’t going to make the reader more scared.
- If you’re planning on getting some sort of ghost or monster into the mix, don’t get too hung up on making it original, or you’ll lose sight of the story itself.
- Just have fun with it! Play around with lots of different ideas and see what sticks, if it’s working, chances are you’ll feel it as you write.
If you need some examples, I’d recommend reading Susan Hill, Henry James, Dan Simmons, Robert W. Chambers, Shirley Jackson, H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allen Poe Ambrose Bierce, Algernon Blackwood and of course, Stephen King. His Skeleton Key short story collection is particularly worth checking out. Online you can always jump on Creepypasta and have a look through the highest rated submissions, or you can just stay here and check out our two Halloween stories from last year, written by Samuel Pitt and yours truly.
That’s pretty much it, nothing else to say except good luck! If you need to give that old motivation gland a kickstart, you should probably watch this…
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