If you’ve read and watched as many horror stories as I have, you’ll know that creators love to set their plots around really creepy places, like haunted houses and asylums. But let’s face it: the same old setting can get a wee bit repetitive because few authors seem to find new, unique settings. So today I’m going to give you some ideas about where to set a unique horror story that is fresh but still haunting. So, let’s go!
Since the rise of horror stories in the Victorian Era, most horror novels tend to focus on the present. There are some great historical horrors set long ago (like TV series Penny Dreadful), few horror books go back before the Victorian era. What I would love to see is a horror story set in Ancient Rome, or Shakespearian London. Horror seems to be completely confined to the modern day or following the Industrial Revolution, and I would like to see some more creative historical horror.
Shopping Mall/Grocery Store
When we go shopping, whether it’s a routine grocery run or shopping spree, malls and stores become a place of consumer focus. We rarely look at the lighting on the ceiling or the cashier checking us out. We are all about getting our product and moving on. However, this is what makes a horror story set in a shopping environment so powerful, because this is a place we don’t give any thought to anything outside the shopping. It is unexpected to see a killer or ghost in such a place. And I always say, go for the unexpected.
One things I’ve noticed about visiting libraries and bookstores is that they tend to be quiet, perhaps unnervingly so for living in a culture where everyone is so loud. I find libraries similar to cemeteries, filled with words written by the living and dead alike. A peaceful, quiet place. For this reason, I would like to see more creepy stories surrounding libraries and bookstores.
During the Day
I get it. The night is creepy, and darkness hides the unknown. However, I think this horror clique has been really overused. One of the things I love about movies like Jaws is that they’re set mostly during the day. We expect darkness to be scarier so, similar to grocery stores, we don’t expect bad things to happen during the day. It would be truly a great horror story where everything horrifying happened during the day and nothing happens during the night, when you expect scary things to happen.
Abandoned places make great settings for horror movies, perhaps because of the haunting emptiness of manmade things being reclaimed by nature. Whatever the reason, there are tons of horror stories set in abandoned houses, towns, insane asylums, and prisons. But not many books are set in factories, where a lot of hours of toil went in. You might write about the horrors left behind by a Victorian cotton factory or a serial killer hiding in an abandoned beer processing plant. Factories have the potential to be an interesting horror setting.
There are a lot of good horror books and films that are set on ships, but it’s rare that I read a really terrifying book that is set underwater, whether it is in a livable underwater facility or submarine. Many people possess fears of claustrophobia and drowning and this setting plays on these fears.
Whether it’s mummies in Ancient Egypt or cannibalistic natives along the Amazon, people (including me) love books set in exotic, beautiful locations. Sadly, however, I don’t see tons of horror stories that are set outside the United States and the UK. Think of all the creepy urban legends of Japan, Thailand, Russia, etc. All these countries would make such interesting setting for a creepy story, and yet add an exotic flair to them that makes it feel fresh and unique.
What is your favorite horror setting, clichéd or not? Do you think I missed any on this list? Let me know down in the comments and, as always,
Best wishes on your life full of adventure,