Writing Exercise: Horror Stories From Fairy Tales & Nursery Rhymes.

A dark and unilluminated sect of our psyche’s exists in the realm of scared little children. Why? Because our fairy tales and nursery rhymes are freaking horror stories! Seriously, almost all of our popular fairy tales have some sort of sick, sadistic or brutal seed somewhere in there, way back in the day.

You can purchase this wonderful print here.

You can purchase this wonderful print here.

For example, in one version of Sleeping Beauty, the princess is raped, and gives birth, all while in A COMA. Oh yeah, that isn’t scary at all. Totally family friendly.

As if a poisoned apple isn’t bad enough, in Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs, Snow white is like, 9 or 16, depending on who you ask; the dwarves MAKE her work in exchange for their protection; and the evil stepmother queen eats the HEART and the LIVER she thinks is Snow White’s. Um, yeah, cannibalism we can deal with, but child labor laws aught not to be broken. Not to mention the pedophile prince. *shudder*

Children’s nursery rhymes and songs are just as terrifying. Ever heard of Little Bunny FooFoo? If you haven’t heard of him, it is because he’s dead, or a goon, or a viscous little shit standing over a pile of dead field mice. … boppin’ ‘im on the head.

How about that big bad, scary bee all these little kids are crushing? Hmmmm…I’m pretty sure the little Buddhist children would be appalled.

We can’t forget “The London Bridge is Falling Down.” Because, a childish reenactment of a bridge burning and collapsing and the possible reference to burying a virgin alive as a sacrifice is completely wholesome.

And of course, the rotten cherry on this disgustingly devious cake, we have “Ring Around the Posy” which is actually about the plague. :/

This is some seriously creepy shit, peoples.

As an acute sufferer of chronic writer’s block, I’ve come to learn the morbid truth: if you can’t write, research!

So for today’s assignment, pick a fairy tale, nursery rhyme, or children’s game, research the origins as far back as you can go, and it may take a time or two, but eventually you are going to find a bat shit crazy little nugget dripping in pure, unadulterated horror. Now you’ve found a story, go!


Horror ( Screen) Writing Excercises & Prompts

So, I’m finally getting into horror. And for my horror buff friends: yes, you were right, I was a liar all along.

It took me some time to get here, and I had to convince myself I was writing “thriller” or “psycological thriller” for a while before I was able to come out of the boogey man’s closet and just admit: I fucking love scary shit. It just happens to be my “own brand” of scary shit. But at the end of the day, it is horror – a story that is designed to spook.

I personally love the slow, subtle, build up, of utter, absolute, ambiguous, oh my freaking god, what the eff is that, am I going crazy, kind of terror that delves not only into the outer world of monsters and mayhem, but also looks at what lurks within.

In the midst of all this, I decided to migrate my musing into Celtx and write in screenplay format. I think visually, I write my novels visually, and maybe my visuals are more important than my prose. Especially when we’re talking about haunted forests and The Thing with Two Faces.

And I sat down, looked at all the white, empty space, and basically had no where to go. I had a setting, which was seriously freaking me out, since I was staring at it out my back window, but where were the characters?

I googled “Horror screenwriting prompts” and surprise, I didn’t find what I was looking for. So I took a moment and attacked it in an epeological way: if I was a horror screenwriting professor, what kind of assignment would I give my students?


Horror (Screen) Writing Exercise #1

1. think of the most frightening setting possible. (Remember, your scary shit needs to scare you first, otherwise it wont stick to the page, or the screen.)

2. write down three things that are not usually associated with horror or spook, it can be objects like a tangerine, or a bottle of beer, or it could ideas, like love, honor, or courage, it could be people, like a newspaper delivery boy, or the milkman. Maybe try a combo of all three?

3. Now write a scene that begins in your setting and incorporate at least two of the three things, but here’s the kicker: make them scary or part of the spook of the scenery.

These aren’t set in stone, obviously, and who gives a rats patootie about what I think anyway, but remember these are prompts to get you going, not to define your novel or script. Although, they could, who knows? Maybe there is a haunted forest in which a haunted tangerine tree grows? Hmm…


Horror (Screen) Writing Exercise #2

That didn’t do it for you?

Write the scariest scene you can imagine and work on it until every detail in your mind is clear. What are the smells, the sounds, the colors, the mood. What does it make you think, feel? What part of the scene is scary. Is it just scary? Or are there certain elements that make it scary? Expound.


Horror (Screen) Writing Exercise #3

Write a juxtaposed scene where the setting is not scary or spooky at all, ie: a bright, warm summer day; or a little league baseball game; or playing with kittens or something like that. try to create a sense of well being and safety in your scene. Then smash through it with something horrifying.


Bonus Prompt!

I created this desktop wallpaper out of my own fears (see, I told you, I was a secret horror junkie). You can download the desktop wallpaper here, and write a scary story or scene based on it. wooooooooo……

The Raven Man

The Raven Man


Still stuck? Check out Diabolique Strategies for mischievous little provocations for your increased creepiness.

Hope you enjoyed this! If you have any prompts or exercises or advice, please share below. Happy slashing.


Thrift Store Novelist

Writing Exercise

Go to one or more thrift stores, find the weirdest object/thing you can (you don’t have to buy it, just study it real well) and then write about it. What is it? What color? Texture? What is used for? Who owned it? Why is it in a thrift store? Where did it come from? Who bought it originally?

Do this with more than one item over the course of however many days it takes. Then sit down and create a short story / dialogue / scene that contains as many of the items you wrote about as you can.

*bonus prompt: write about the book in the picture below. What is written inside? Anything? Who was the author? How old is it? Where did it come from? Is it expensive? What kind of stories are told in a book like that?

Book found here

Book found here


Unusual Words for Writing Prompts

Here are several websites about curious, old, and unused words you can use to A) build your vocabulary B) create interesting writing prompts, short story ideas, or plot movements, characters &ETC

For example:

Lucubration /ˌlo͞ok(y)əˈbrāSHən/ noun formal

the act of studying by candlelight ; nocturnal study ; meditation

that which is composed by night; that which is produced by meditation in retirement; hence (loosely) any literary composition

a piece of writing, typically a pedantic or overelaborate one.

Now take lucubration and craft a short story, writing prompt, or simply start writing about what it makes you think of. Use it in a sentence. Write two paragraphs about someone who lucubrates.

Here are great sites that give many many words to learn and choose from. Happy epeoltarification.


Curios Words & Phrases

A decent list of very unusual words like wimbler, squinch, & ailurophile.


Unused Words

Quite a copacetic list, and handily categorized by noun, verb & adjective.


Etymologically Speaking

A curios list of rather familiar words, with a bonus of telling you where they are from, settings, histories galore!


The Encyclopedia of Arda

A swell list of archaic or unusual words used in Tolkien’s works.


The Best Old English Words

Only 13 words, but stupendous nonetheless.


Bizarre, Old, Outdated or Weird Words

A little outdated itself, but still a good list.


Bonus Video! 40 weird words and their origins



Tarot cards as writing tools

Cartomancy  /ˈkärtəˌmansē/ noun

fortune-telling by interpreting a random selection of playing cards.

Here is an easy way to use tarot cards to generate plot, setting, characters, conflict, inner emotions and writing prompts.


‘Strength’ available here

If you don’t have one already, buy a tarot deck with a tarot book, or, you can download a free tarot app on your smartphone, though working with the actual cards is easiest for me.

Shuffle, pick out cards. See what combos you make. Look in the book and try some spreads. Or put cards together randomly. You can read the descriptions in the guide for an in depth look at the card meanings. They are rife with symbolism and archetypes. Use the combos to prompt your writing! Learn more about the universe in the process.

Look for archetypes on the cards, from there, narrow down your characters. Is your character a priestess archetype but a stay at home mom? The king of pentacles may be an accountant, or successful businessman. The knight of cups may indicate a love interest. The knight of swords might indicate a love interest in a action/adventure story, or a love interest with anger issues. The chariot might be a taxi driver. The star might be the protagonists dream girl. ETC.

Create plot by layering cards on top of your characters. Do they face heartbreak (3 of swords), destruction (the lightning stuck tower), does one get pregnant? Etc. Is their jealousy? Where is the jealousy? At work? In the home? The symbols on the cards will create conflict if you look for it.

Look for setting in the backgrounds of your cards. Are they in a city? A home? The country? Is there a mountain? A forest? What combinations have you made? Do the cards indicate travel?

Here is a basic structure you can use:

Major Arcana: major character archetypes and big plot movements, plot arcs

Suit of cups: emotion, romance, drama, love, water

Suit of pentacles: money, career, the home, family, earth

Suit of wands: creativity, passion, spirituality, sex, fire

Suit of swords: conflict, violence, tragedy, battle-scenes, protection, air

Page cards: young man or woman, message, communications

Knight cards: romantic lead, hero archetypes, competition?

Queen cards: leading ladies, matriarchs, women on top, competition?

King cards: action/political/patriarch leads, the chief archetypes, villains?


Take it a step further and do “readings” for your characters. Take notes and use them to build emotional profiles or to add depth to your characters’ motivations.

Happy writing!