Mixing What You Know with Something You Don’t
In writing horror, we sometimes mix something we know with something we don’t. For instance, we pick a town, any town (or city), and set some monstrosity upon it. This has happened since writers first took up ink pens. Stephen King knows Maine. I’m assuming, he doesn’t know any vampires (Salem’s Lot), girls with supernatural powers (Carrie and Firestarter), or evil clowns (although, okay, It’s representative could walk into our lives via a circus or carnival), but here’s the heart-and-soul of the matter: he makes us believe that he does. How? By convincing the reader of the authenticity of the character/horror in question.
This is what we want to do with our own stories. We want to make our creatures/the evil our characters are facing: plausible according to the rules of the story world we write in. The cast around them has to be both drawn to/and repelled by the monster. So we make them something we could see ourselves encountering: death of a beloved pet, our favorite writer, or an isolated hotel in winter. The normal meets the unnatural and things are never the same again. In horror, these possibilities overlap forever. Sometimes, it’s wanting to see a dead body to get a look at the thing that took your older brother away or discovering someone you thought you knew, you didn’t at all.
So take something real that you know (relationships, grief, high school) and send it on a tailspin with zombies, skin-walkers, etc. All it takes is a new twist on the old, telling your story your way. Happy writing.