It’s nearly time for Black Library to open their doors and invite potential new authors into the fold once more. This time around, they’re looking for tales that will fit into the Warhammer Horror range. We’re joined by Black Library Submissions Editor Richard Garton to give you all the details.
Richard: With the nights starting to draw in, a whole new season of horror is nearly upon us, making this the perfect time to hold the first-ever Warhammer Horror-themed Open Submissions window!
Grab your best quill, dust off some parchment,* and sit down on a dark and stormy evening to pen a truly chilling tale, set in either the Warhammer 40,000 universe or the Mortal Realms for Warhammer Age of Sigmar. But before you begin, you may ask yourself – what makes a Warhammer story truly scary?
There are plenty of terrifying things lurking in the dark places of the Imperium, the Mortal Realms, and beyond. But the Space Marines and Stormcast Eternals who feature in so many of Black Library’s stories have seen it all, and barely know the meaning of the word fear. The key is to write relatable characters, lesser mortals in isolated settings who are ignorant of the true horrors of the universe they inhabit, whether it’s a lowly guardsman whose reality is shaken by something they witnessed or a villager who wandered into a Shyishan wood and never returned…
The potential for horror in the worlds of Warhammer is truly vast, and execution is extremely important. How are you going to create that unique sense of fear or unease in a setting where almost everything is disturbing? To help with this, we’re providing suggestions for the specific type of horror you are aiming to invoke. You will be asked to choose from Survival, Psychological, Gothic, and Cosmic as categories for your story, and we’ve given some examples below! Hopefully, these will provide inspiration as you scour forbidden tomes in search of your own truly terrifying premise!
We will ask for a paragraph-length summary of an original short horror story, along with a 500-word extract of it. We are looking for writers who can create a chilling atmosphere within a context that is definitively Warhammer. If we are impressed by what we will read, we will ask to see more and your story could be published! We will reply to everyone who submits, but sadly we aren’t able to provide individual feedback to all of you.
You’ll have a limited time to submit your entries. The Open Submissions window will go live on the Warhammer Community site on Monday the 19th of October, and close, appropriately enough, on Halloween, Saturday the 31st of October – so get planning! Good luck, and try not to give yourself nightmares!
Thanks, Richard. If your interest has been piqued by this challenge, check out Richard’s definition of each of the four horror categories to choose from, along with examples to read from the existing Warhammer Horror range.
An individual or group are preyed upon by a hideous, unseen menace, such as a Lictor or malicious troupe of Spite-Revenants!
Examples: Sepulturum by Nick Kyme, Castle of Blood by C L Werner
Someone is traumatised by visions or their own warped mind… the work of the Ruinous Powers, perhaps?
Example: The Oubliette by J C Stearns
Haunted Imperial cathedrals or Nighthaunt-infested castles, anyone? The Gothic genre has influenced all the Warhammer settings over the years and presents great storytelling opportunities.
Examples: The House of Night and Chain by David Annandale.
Mere mortals are confronted by the reality of eldritch entities they can barely understand and become playthings of the ancient star-gods known as the C’tan, or the innumerable daemons of Chaos.
Examples: ‘The Child Foretold’ by Nicholas Kaufmann.
The Warhammer Horror anthologies Maledictions, Invocations, and Anathemas all contain a wide variety of Warhammer Horror short stories to get your creative juices flowing! The best way to get a feel for horror is to have a read of some of these great examples. As an additional aid, Black Library Editor Hannah Hughes has compiled a list of top tips for writing Warhammer Horror stories.
Pull From Your Life
Reach back into your childhood memories and recall things that used to scare you, or think of things you love and put a creepy spin on them.
Write the Title First
Most writers start with the idea for a story and figure out the title later. Try doing the opposite. Titles are great ways to quickly come up with a number of different concepts that can grow into an entire story.
Begin at the End
It may not always be possible, but if you know your ending, then once you start writing, it becomes easier to fool people from the very beginning of the story – and skilfully direct their attention away from what the ending will be.
Hook the Reader Right Away
Start with a shocking first chapter to set the tone and quickly introduce the who, what, when, and where of the story. Putting the key elements into play early allows the rest of the plot to unfold seamlessly.
Pique the reader’s interest in events to come and compel them to keep reading to see what happens next.
Add Plot Twists
Carrying the reader through the middle of a story is challenging, and there needs to be enough excitement to keep them reading to the end. An unexpected plot twist can help!
Include details that purposefully mislead the reader and prevent them from predicting the outcome of the story.
Borrow From Your Influences
You can generate a lot of ideas by absorbing story concepts from other authors. Watch horror movies and read other horror books to improve the quality of your writing. Find a writer you admire and study their body of work. How do they tackle things like surprises, twists, and cliffhangers? How do they set the mood and create suspense?
Thanks to Hannah for this great advice. You’ve got two months to absorb it, read up, and gather ideas before the submissions window opens on Monday the 19th of October, so check out the Warhammer Horror range and get to it!
* We assume Richard’s being metaphorical here, and filling in the online form will suffice.