Five short stories that every horror writer should read

Good writers read. Be it a timeless masterpiece or a trashy novel, every piece fiction has something to teach us. Below I’ve listed five examples of short stories that have something to teach every writer.

“The Lottery” – Shirley Jackson

Jackson’s short story “The Lottery” is a must read for any aspiring horror writer. Jackson’s power comes from her simple and subtle writing that leads to a brilliantly crafted ending. No supernatural elements here, just a look at the power of tradition in society.

“The Monkey’s Paw” – W. W. Jacobs

Jacobs’ story is a classic that will never lose its impact on first time readers. He weaves a twisted tale around a simple, foreign object and leaves a humble family to cope with the consequences. Everything comes at a price.
“The Yellow Wallpaper” – Charlotte Perkins Gilman 

This short story is a great example of how fragile the human mind is. Gilman’s use of diary entries creates an intimate and disturbing read as we are shown how quickly a person can descend into madness when faced with a simple fixation

“Green Tea” – Sheridan Le Fanu

Le Fanu is known for mixing the natural with supernatural, and this story is no exception. Is the protagonist suffering from delusions, or are there more sinister elements at work to torture this man.

“Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to you, My Lad” – M. R. James

James is at his best with this ghost story. He mixes in a little humor but that does little to deter the ready from the creepy effect of his narrative, resulting in one of the finest examples of his work.

These texts can be found at:


  1. Manuel Royal · September 29, 2011

    Nice! If we could expand the list to eight, I’d add Bierce’s “The Damned Thing”, Kipling’s “The Phantom Rickshaw” and Bixby’s “It’s a Good Life”.

  2. alchemyofscrawl · October 3, 2011

    I like this list and there are several here that I haven’t read. Thanks!

  3. dmgarrett · November 4, 2011

    Great list, Hannah. There are so many great stories that could be added to this list but you picked some great ones. My own personal favorites would have to include stories from Poe and Lovecraft. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a stable of authors writing short stories of this kind of caliber anymore. It’s rare to find a horror author who dedicates their writing to strictly the short story format. It’s a real shame because the short horror story is such a great vehicle for horror.

    Great blog! And thanks for stopping by my blog as well!

    David Maurice Garrett

    • Horror Writing · November 4, 2011

      Thanks for the comment. Yes, there are many short stories that I could add, but I wanted to keep it to ones that readers of this blog could easily find online and not have to comb the bookstores to get hold of!

      • dmgarrett · November 5, 2011

        Hannah, can you e-mail me and let me know how I can read a story or two of yours?


        davidgarrett69(at sign)

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