How to Write a Flawless Horror Script - 4 Part Class

Taught by David Ian McKendry


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Class hosted by: David Ian McKendry

Writer/Filmmaker/Producer (Blumhouse, Universal, Fangoria, the Nerdist)

David Ian McKendry is a professional screenwriter and filmmaker who has worked for Blumhouse, Universal, Lifetime Networks, and The Hallmark Channel as well as numerous independent production companies. He began working in the entertainment industry for Fangoria Entertainment before later putting together his own horror films, including the recent ALL THE CREATURES WERE STIRRING, starring Constance Wu (CRAZY RICH ASIANS). He also produced the Nerdist's BLOOD AND GUTS with Scott Ian. Full Bio »


Learn how to write a great horror script or improve one you've already written with the support and guidance of horror expert David Ian McKendry who's worked with Blumhouse, Universal, Fangoria and More!


From classics like PSYCHO and THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, to newer and highly acclaimed films like A QUIET PLACE, GET OUT, and US, there is a worldwide audience that loves a good scare! Horror is consistently one of the most popular and sellable genres. This is an exciting space to be in for a writer, because there are endless possibilities for storytelling and production. Yet not just any horror script is going to find success. Writing a great horror screenplay is surprisingly hard and requires the writer have a handle on many important elements.

David Ian McKendry is a professional screenwriter and filmmaker who has worked for Blumhouse, Universal, Lifetime Networks, and The Hallmark Channel as well as numerous independent production companies. He began working in the entertainment industry for Fangoria Entertainment before later putting together his own horror films, including the recent ALL THE CREATURES WERE STIRRING, starring Constance Wu (CRAZY RICH ASIANS). He also produced the Nerdist's BLOOD AND GUTS with Scott Ian.  Through his vast experience in the industry as well as writing, producing and directing horror films, David has a keen sense of what makes a script successful in the horror genre and will be sharing what he knows exclusively with the Stage 32 community.

David is going to take you through the elements of any good horror screenplay and walk you through how to improve your own by focusing on characters, setting, and each act.

In this 4 session on demand class you will:

  • Learn all about story and building your iconic protagonist and villain.
  • Learn to build a strong foundation in Act One and hook audiences in within the first few minutes.
  • Learn Act Two and building out the story and your protagonist’s journey.
  • Learn how to keep audiences guessing at your ending throughout Act Three and write mind-blowing endings.

At the end of this class, you’ll be able to deliver a fresh scare with unforgettable characters.


Case Studies for This Class Include:




Praise for David's Previous Stage 32 Webinar


"Excellent presentation, easy to follow examples, real advice, and I felt hope after listening and participating."

-John M.


"Such a fantastic deconstruction of the way to construct a horror story."

-Shrader T.


"David was really great and well-versed. He confirmed I was on the right path for some of my storytelling methods and I became aware of areas I need to work on."

-John R.


"David was extremely knowledgeable, well prepared, articulate and enthusiastic. His answered during the Q&A were honest and not sugar-coated yet supportive."

-Margaret M.

What You'll Learn

Session One: Character and Setting

  • Character
    • Protagonist vs the Iconic Character
    • What is the difference between the two
    • How to create an engaging horror protagonist that audiences want to follow
    • Building an Iconic villains
      • Examples include Hellraiser, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th 
    • Iconic Protagonists/ The antihero
      • Examples include American Psycho 
    • Who are your other characters and what purpose do they serve?
  • Story
    • Going from idea to story
    • Can you tell your story in one sentence?
    • Synopsis
    • Treatment
    • Outline
    • Applying Character to Story
    • Best Character for the story
  • Q&A with David


Session Two: Moving into Act One

  • Building a good foundation
  • Hooking into your audience
  • What goes where – When key events should happen
  • Is my first act as strong as it can be?
  • Does my protagonist have a plan for moving forward?
  • What does it meant to crossover into Act 2?
  • Q&A with David


Session Three: The Second Act

  • Building towards something
  • Is my protagonist starting to change?
  • Boring vs thrilling – trying not to repeat yourself – the dangers of recycling your own scares)
  • When is it ok to borrow from other sources (the subtle art of the homage – and why it works in the first act)?
  • The importance of supporting characters
  • The subtle art of misdirection
  • Q&A with David


Session Four: The Third Act

  • Why do 3rd acts fall apart?
  • How to keep viewers from guessing your ending
  • Am I satisfied with my ending?
  • Does my ending make sense to others?
  • Mind blowing endings and why they worked
  • The importance of editing and getting outside opinions
  • Q&A with David


This class is a recording of a previous live class. 

About Your Instructor

David Ian McKendry is a professional screenwriter and filmmaker who has worked for Blumhouse, Universal, Lifetime Networks, and The Hallmark Channel as well as numerous independent production companies. He began working in the entertainment industry for Fangoria Entertainment before later putting together his own horror films, including the recent ALL THE CREATURES WERE STIRRING, starring Constance Wu (CRAZY RICH ASIANS). He also produced the Nerdist's BLOOD AND GUTS with Scott Ian.


Session 1: Character & Setting 

Session 2: Act 1

Session 3: Act 2 

Session 4: Act 3 

If you can't make a live virtual class, don't worry. It will be recorded and you can watch it at your leisure on demand.


Q: What is the format of a class?
A: Stage 32 Next Level Classes are typically 90-minute broadcasts that take place online using a designated software program from Stage 32.

Q: Do I have to be located in a specific location?
A: No, you can participate from the comfort of your own home using your personal computer! If you attend a live online webinar, you will be able to communicate directly with your instructor during the class.

Q: What are the system requirements?
A: You will need to meet the following system requirements in order to run the webinar software: Windows 7 or later Mac OS X 10.9 (Mavericks) or later.
If you have Windows XP, Windows Vista and Mac OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion): The webinar software does not support these operating systems. If you are running one of those operating systems, please upgrade now in order to be able to view a live class. Upgrade your Windows computer / Upgrade your Mac computer

Q: What if I cannot attend the live class?
A: If you attend a live online class, you will be able to communicate directly with your instructor during the class. If you cannot attend a live class, you will have access to the entire recorded broadcast, including the Q&A.

Q: Will I have access to the lab afterward to rewatch?
A: Yes! After the purchase of the lab, you will have on-demand access to the video recording, which you can view for one month after the class is complete.


If you have a generic question about Stage 32 education you can take a look at our frequently asked questions section on our help page, or feel free to contact support with any other inquiries you might have.

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