Since today is the day before Halloween, I wanted to talk about fear.
Fears vary so much from person to person. My husband is afraid of spiders, while I'd rather catch and release them into the yard. Riding my scooter makes me fearless, yet fear of failure can make me an emotional train wreck.
The one thing that we all have in common is that our fears will make us do things we might not normally do. Fear is a universal motivator, although what it motivates us to do is as variable as our fears. Concern for ourselves and others will motivate us to act, or even to overcome another fear. As writers, fear is an important tool to convince our characters to do what we want them to do. Of course, the flip side to that, is that these fears must be established early on as a quirk or flaw of the characters. Ah, the joys of characterization!
But the most interesting part about fear is how humanity seems to crave a good scare every once in a while. Scary stories told around the fire pit didn't originate with the Boyscouts of America, they are as old as fire pits themselves. Americans go in droves to scary movies, especially this time of year, wanting to get their blood pumping and endorphins flowing.
I love a good haunted house, but none will ever be as frightening to me as the first one I ever went to-- first grade at my school overseas. I was six, a little gypsy, ironically enough, and I'd never been so frightened in all my young life. Not even when I fell off my trike when I was four and got glass in my knee. I wasn't scared then, because my big strong daddy picked me up and took me to the hospital. But without Mom or Dad to cling to in the haunted house, I'd never felt so vulnerable, even in a familiar place where I knew I was safe. I had nightmares for months of rubbery bats dropping out of the ceiling on me, and tripping over bones trying to get out of the dark. I still draw on that chest constricting fear for my writing, even though my rational adult brain knows that my first haunted house was probably not very scary at all. But the memory freaks me out far more than going to the House of Shock or the Mortuary as an adult.
Scary movies still give me nightmares, which is why I prefer campy horror of the Evil Dead and Cabin Fever persuasion. Only movies, though. I have no problem with reading horror. Something about the vivid imagery of the movies supplants itself indelibly in my subconscious and flashes behind my eyes when I'm trying to sleep. That's why you'll see me at Zombieland before Saw 87 gaziilion.
What scares you? How do you use fear to motivate your characters? And do you remember the first time you went to a haunted house? Does it still chill your blood and keep you up at night?
“All writers are vain, selfish and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives lies a mystery. Writing a book is a long, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” ~George Orwell
I'm a YA writer who delves into urban fantasy, paranormal and romance, and who loves reading good books almost as much as writing them.
When not writing—or working—I enjoy daydreaming, drinking tea, and walking in cemeteries. I used to spend the rest of my time checking my inbox for manuscript requests, but am now proudly represented by Rosemary Stimola, of Stimola Literary Studio.