You may have heard of /r/nosleep, a subreddit dedicated to reader-submitted horror stories that, as per the title, primarily aim to give you trouble sleeping.
There’s a low-level roleplaying-ish shared-world in-character flavour to it, in that the posting and commenting rules state that “everything is true”, even when it obviously isn’t, or the stories are clumsily written or contain massive logical inconsistencies.
Being a public forum full of user-submitted content, the quality level is predictably uneven, but there are plenty of extremely well-crafted tales of horror, ranging ranging across diverse topics such as real-world home invasions, haunted houses, abductions (both human and alien), encounters with cults, narrow escapes from supernatural monsters, and more. The only rules are that your story has to be ostensibly believable to anyone looking out the window or reading the news (so no world-ending catastrophes, for example).
After reading the page on and off for years, I finally started writing a bit over a year ago, and then more recently my brain slipped into a story-writing gear and doesn’t seem inclined to pop back out of it. After writing three stories in the space of a year, I suddenly wrote five just in the past week.
I have been treating it like a writing workshop, challenging myself to write in different styles and genres, picking different narrators each time to keep me on my toes. Many of the stories have been very well-received, and I’m proud of all of them. One or two of them are among the best things I have ever written.
This page is going to be an index for my online writing. For now it’s just /r/nosleep, but I have some science fiction story ides that I’m thinking about that would need a different forum, and as I write new work, it will be added here. I may even get back into writing Black Odyssey, which a few people will be happy about. It petered out after three chapters, and I’ve been regretting leaving it alone for so long (lot least because it popped up on my Facebook memories last week and I realised it had been almost a year since I updated it).
I am also finally getting started seriously on a novel, my first attempt at a novel in over a decade, and one that I honestly feel I might get finished this time. It’s a kind of small-and-personal-but-still-millennia-spanning alien epic, and I am super-excited about it. Having mostly dabbled in horror, I’m a bit shocked that my first complete novel may be science fiction, but life is full of surprises.
Anyway, enough rambling. I have included a rough indication of how nasty each story is so that more squeamish readers can pick out just the ones they think they’ll be able to handle. Note that your mileage may vary: as a horror writer, I tend to write about the things that frighten me. Every reader is different, and a story that appalled me when I was writing it might bounce off someone else without leaving a mark.
A sceptical atheist’s collected supernatural experiences (link)
My first venture onto /r/nosleep, and one of two non-fiction stories I have written there. This isn’t so much a cohesive story as much as a collection of short vignettes, all based around the first flat that my wife and I shared. I don’t actually believe in the supernatural, but that flat was a weird place. Every word of these stories is 100% true. [Edit: I’m told this one leads to a “removed article”. When I get a moment I’ll put it back up somewhere else.]
Nastiness level: Mildly creepy but mostly safe
A Cave in Hungary (link)
Possibly the single best thing I have ever written in any genre. It was based on an idea I had back when I was trying to create an article for /r/nosleep’s cousin-in-user-submitted-horror SCP. Originally written as a kind of simple folk tale, the “this is all true” nature of the forum required me to write a bracketing story to introduce it. It still has a kind of folklore-ish flavour to it, I think.
Nastiness level: A creepy mood and just a brief glimpse of violence
The Thirsty One (link)
This is a nasty one. I wanted to write something based in Australia, and after some brainstorming I conceived a kind of evil drought spirit, a deadly supernatural creature that stalks the parched outback during times of drought, seeking moisture to sustain it. I’m really proud of this one, even though it didn’t click with readers and only got a handful of upvotes.
Nastiness level: Detailed descriptions of some fucked-up shit
Nocturnal Pokemon Go players, look after yourselves out there (link)
Another true story, at least to begin with. This is the one that started my current writing kick. The first half of this article really happened to me a little over a week ago. I got home, feeling very shaken, and decided that it was a tale that needed to go on /r/nosleep. I was tempted to embellish it, add overtly supernatural elements, but in the end I wrote it precisely as it happened. The follow-up story is a work of fiction that I wrote, inspired by my experience.
Nastiness level: Nothing overtly horrible, but pretty scary
My uncle’s bizarre encounter in a US intelligence agency (link)
My commercial sell-out piece. Well, no, not really, but the first time I deliberately chose a clickbait-ish title instead of something more “literary”. Between the title and the contents of the story, this one went nuts, scoring thousands of upvotes. Content-wise, it’s a kind of X-Files-like “government agent encounters supernatural entity” story, and is more a thriller than a horror.
Nastiness level: Creepy with brief violence, like an episode of Kolchak
There’s a new party drug out there. DO NOT USE IT. (link)
My first two-parter! This story was written in a feverish daze, mostly during one uninterrupted eight-hour typing frenzy. The initial, very simple idea (“What happens if a new drug lets you see the dead that surround us?”) turned into a massive epic with an ensemble cast that starts off as The Sixth Sense meets Trainspotting but stumbles into a hole and falls into Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. This is also going to be my first story with a sequel: another chapter has sparked in my mind, and it will be written in a week or two.
Nastiness level: I horrified myself with this one
I can’t delete the story I wrote for /r/nosleep (link)
Meta-story! In the out-of-character chat forum, someone mentioned that they had written a story but were too nervous to post it, so they deleted it. This triggered an idea, and a few hours later I rattled this one off at high speed. It’s a horror story about writing horror stories, and I think it’s absolutely terrifying. I don’t think anything else I have ever written has scared me as much as this one.
Nastiness level: Suggests horror and violence without showing it, but very creepy
Sisters in the snow (my grandmother’s tale) (link)
I wanted to write a kind of “creepy story from the old country told by an elderly relative” and this was the result. There is very little that is spooky or supernatural in here, and it ended up mostly being about family, love, and loss. I knew I had hit the mark when it got 50+ comments from readers saying it made them cry. True confession: I cried while editing it.
Nastiness level: Tame, but sad
That’s it for now. As new stories are written they will be linked to here, so if you like my work so far, come back now and then to check for new stories.
And now… I’m off to do some writing.
Update 12 August 2016
The Body Thief (link)
I wanted to write something radically different from my usual style, so I attempted a fast-paced, relatively short (by my standards), action-packed and gruesome as hell balls-out horror story with minimal dialogue. This is horror science fiction in the neighbourhood of Carpenter’s The Thing, with an extremely unpleasant extraterrestrial visitor making a mess of a group of friends’ camping trip. Looks like my worst performing story on /r/nosleep with only 40 or so net upvotes, so perhaps not a successful experiment, but I quite like it.
Nastiness level: Gory as hell
My Kindergarten Teacher (link)
I had been thinking about primal horrors, many of which go back to our childhoods. What are the fundamental fears we had as children? I think one of them is the fear that the people who are in charge of looking after us might not have our best interests at heart. Then I remembered a two-sentence horror story I wrote last year, and thought it would work well expanded into a short story. This is the result.
Nastiness level: Creepy, but not gruesome or horrific
Update 25 August 2016
The catacomb under the estate (link)
This one had a troubled birth. Originally an idea for an SCP several years ago that never got written, I started this in story form several times, throwing it out over and over again. I finally settled on the idea of a team of burglars breaking into an old house, and wrote it in a very clipped and rushed style with minimal dialogue. The whole thing is meant to feel hectic and confusing, and I feel like I succeeded in that. However, the original /r/nosleep post was pulled by a mod because he misunderstood the ending and thought it broke the forum rules, so I was forced to make some edits and repost it. I wasn’t happy with being forced to make the twist more obvious, because I wrote it with the intention of leaving the reader a bit of a puzzle to solve, so they would think about it long after they’d finished reading it and slowly realise the full horror of it. Thankfully, I feel like I managed to make the story better. I barely touched the ending, but put in a few more clues earlier on, so that attentive readers had more to work with at the end. Anyway, see what you think.
Nastiness level: Little overt horror and violence, but deep existential horror
Update 27 August 2016
Lamp Post Man (link)
It’s funny what can inspire a story. I had a desperately full bladder the other night while I was driving late at night, so I pulled over next to a sporting oval and found some relief in the bushes. As I was walking back to the car, I imagined the silhouette of a naked man, crouched down and perched like a bird at the top of one of the streetlights next to my car. Driving home, I realised that this could make a really creepy story, and had the potential to become a cousin of Slender Man and other urban terrors of the internet age. The story took shape over 24 hours and was typed in one big rush.
Nastiness level: Fairly creepy, and deals with themes of suicide at the end
Update 18 September 2016
Cat’s Eyes (link)
Another one over 20 years in the writing. Back in the early 90s a friend and I would take turns late at night trying to scare each other. I came up with this story of a truck driver who once killed a girl in a hit-and-run, who then died when the girl’s vengeful ghost moved all of the roadside reflector posts on a patch of highway. The story was a bit goofy and I never wrote it properly, but I still found the concept chilling. Last week, I found myself pondering that story again, and I imagined how it could work in a nosleep format, and that’s when the story of two young guys buying a second hand drumkit came into my head. When the supernatural twist occurred to me, I knew I had a story I needed to write.
Nastiness level:Supernatural creepiness, but no explicit violence
Update 22 September 2016
The Girl Who Haunted Herself – confession of a retired cop (link)
This one had a long and weird history. One of the first of many novels I tried (and failed) to write in my late teens was the story of a young man who is latched onto by a kind pf psychic parasite that makes a duplicate of his body in order to gain a physical presence and go kill people. He ends up accused of the murders because all of the evidence points to him. The novel never happened, but the images from the story always haunted me: the guy convulsing on the ground while a copy of himself peels away from him like the backing paper off a sticker, and him dreaming of seeing his blood-stained doppelganger in a mirror and realising later it was a window, not a mirror. Ransacking my old story ideas for nosleep stories, I struck upon these images again, but thought of a way to make it seem like a supernatural story, but for the twist to be that it was not, that the doppelganger was real flesh and blood. I started writing it as a teenage girl’s diary, but it wasn’t quite gelling. On a whim I started it again from scratch from the perspective of a cop investigating her case, and everything fell into place. The funny thing is that the whole backstory was left out of the story as written: I know exactly what happened, but the reader can only guess at it.
Nastiness level: Cursory descriptions of fairly horrible violence
Update 30 November 2016
The Room at the Bottom of the Stairs (link)
I’m a little iffy on the ethics of this one. Many years ago a friend of mine told me a story, which he swore was 100% true, of a haunting he and his mother experienced during his childhood. Over the years I have considered writing it up as a work of fiction several times, and actually started a screenplay inspired by his story, but they never went anywhere. A month or two back I realised it could make a good nosleep if I heavily fictionalised large chunks of it, so that’s what I did, and here it is. Many of the big events are close to exactly what my friend told me, but I completely changed the family situation to not resemble anyone I know and filled in a lot of my own background fiction to plaster the gaps.
Nastiness level: Fairly tame, a mostly non-violent haunted house tale