The 5 Popular Subgenres of Horror Fiction

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Horror fiction writing starts with first understanding the subgenres of horror fiction so that you write better horror fiction and don’t blend the subgenres of horror fiction in one story.

Every subgenre of horror fiction has a specific quality and elements which differentiate it from the rest of the genres, so knowing the basic elements of the horror subgenres and understanding their source of fear can help you write a great horror story.

Related: How to Write a Horror Story?

What is Horror Fiction?

Horror fiction, novels and stories are meant to scare, disgust and terrify its reader.

The main purpose of Horror fiction is to create a strong imaginative fear in its reader’s mind which can frighten and terrify them while they are in their comfort zone reading and enjoying the spooky feeling of fear and death just by turning the pages of a book.

Ghosts are the most popular figures of fear used in horror fiction, but the genre is not only limited to it.

The other elements that can also be used to create a spooky and horrifying horror story plot are– 

  • Monsters
  • Zombies
  • Aliens
  • Spirit
  • Witches
  • Vampires
  • Werewolf
  • killers, etc
horror genre
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The 5 Popular Sub-Genres of Horror Fiction

#1 Gothic Horror

Gothic fiction or gothic horror is a genre of literature that covers horror, death and sometimes romance. The setting of a gothic horror plays a primary role in gothic novels as the location is either set in a haunted castle or an old haunted house.

The origin of he gothic fiction roots back 18th century English author Horace Walpole’s 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto, subtitled by A Gothic Story” is said to contains all the essential elements of a Gothic fiction.

Ghosts or monsters are the primary main horrific characters in gothic novels.

The other elements of a gothic horror includes:

A women (female character) in distress, a gloomy atmosphere, darkness, ruins of buildings, awful weather, rain , thunder & lightening, omens, prophecy, nightmares, eerie sounds are often included as a part of gothic novels.

Examples of Gothic Fiction-

  • Dracula by Bram Stoker
  • Frankenstein by Mark Shelley
  • The Sundial by Shirley Jackson
  • The Sandman, the nutcracker and other dark fairy tales by E.T.A Hoffman
  • Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas
  • The Monster of Elendhaven by Jennifer Geisbrecht

#2 Paranormal Fiction

Paranormal fiction covers ghost stories and horror elements that can’t be explained by science. This subgenre includes beings and creatures that do not exist withing scientific realm or explanation.

Paranormal fiction includes creatures like zombies, aliens, werewolves, apparitions and ghosts which are the primary horrific creatures found in the stories of this subgenre.

The subgenre also includes some popular phenomena like time travel and telepathy which are often included in the paranormal fiction.

Examples of Paranormal Fiction-

  • Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
  • Moon Called by Patricia Briggs
  • A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
  • Immortal After Dark by Kresley Cole
  • Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
  • The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
  • The Changeling by Victor LaValle

#3 Supernatural Fiction

Supernatural fiction generally showcases supernatural beings like witches, demons, vampires, ghosts, devils, angels, etc., and contradicts the natural laws of the real world.

The stories of supernatural fiction also includes the matter of god, archangels and the soul.

Examples of Supernatural fiction-

  • The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe
  • Pet Sematary by Stephen King
  • The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
  • The Shining by Stephen King
  • Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison
  • Dead to the World by Charlaine Harrison

#4 Sci-fi Horror

Sci-fi horro is a subgenre of both science fiction and horror. This subgenre contains the blend of horror and science fiction.

Sci-fi horror often includes a futuristic setting outside the earth atmosphere in space and often showcasing the story of a space exploration with exploring all the possibilities of creating fear in space.

The source of fear used in sci-fi horror fiction are aliens, interstellar elements, unknown planets etc.

Sci-fi horror often describes space as a terrifying place and the story revolves around surviving and escaping.

Examples of Sci-fi Horror

  • The Last Astronaut by David Wellingdon
  • The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling
  • Salvation Day by Kali Wallace
  • Blindsight by Peter Watts
  • Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell

#5 Psychological Horror

Psychological horror exploits the mental, emotional and psychological states of the readers to deliver a terrifying and frightening story.

In psychological horror novels fear, dread and discomfort is created in readers mind by exploring the common emotional fears of human mind and psyche.

Examples of Psychological Horror

  • Psycho by Robert Bloch
  • The Shining by Stephen King
  • American Gothic by Robert Bloch
  • The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
  • The Girl Who loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King

Pro writing tips– Read the works of the popularly known king of horror fiction, Stephen King to develop the art and style of horror writing.

Related:101 Horror Story Ideas


Popular Horror Novels-

Bird Box by Josh Malerman

The Shiningby Stephen King

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

At the Mountains of Madnessby H.P Lovecraft

Neel Rana

About the Author- Neel Rana is a successful short story book author, flash fiction writer, literary enthusiast, entrepreneur and the founder of Pandora Post. Neel holds a degree in BA Honours in English Literature and has been writing since 2017. You can read more about him here