On Writing Horror

I’ve got a lot of horror shorts in the works that I want to post up here so I’m gonna talk about writing horror.

What do you write about? How do you get ideas?

If you have an abundance of anxiety and imagination, the possibilities are endless.

Write about what scares you. Gussy it up, though. Don’t be mundane about it.

Here is a list of fears that cross my anxiety-riddled mind, from waking up to going to sleep, on a more or less average day.

  • Waking up, still believing I’m in whatever nightmare I’ve just had.
  • Convincing myself, sometimes downright fighting to reclaim the reality that my nightmares have robbed me of.
  • Go to wake up my son for school. Vague worries of whether or not he will be there/be breathing.
  • Wait for my wife to text me that she made it to work okay. Did she crash? Did someone hide in the backseat and kill her on the way to work? When she texts me, is it her or is it someone just pretending she is ok?
  • Wonder why my daughter is still sleeping so quietly. I peek in to see if she is awake. If she isn’t, I wait for some sort of wiggle before going back to whatever I’m doing.
  • Worry about the fate of family but don’t check on them because that isn’t an example of stability. I’ll be informed if something happens. Right?
  • Worry about what could be happening at school or if the bus even made it there… because these days? Who knows.
  • Wonder if the reality I fought so hard to reclaim, managed to recall in such vivacious detail after some struggle… is it in fact reality or is it the dream.
  • Neither is more vivid than the other after all.
  • Panic if I hear the bus and more than a few seconds pass before I see my son.
  • Wonder what catastrophe befell my wife when she isn’t home by 4:15… She gets off work at 4:00 (Usually more like 4:10) and it’s only a half hour drive…
  • Once everyone is home, it’s pretty chill until bed time…
  • Kids are in bed and we have gone through our nightly routine… we are settling in for bed and my daughter cries…
  • I step into the living room on my way to see what’s wrong… she’s not crying, she wasn’t crying. But I can still hear it as clear as day.
  • I know it’s in my head so I don’t go check. Still, it’s there. What would happen if I checked anyways?
  • Why, why, why? Every time I lay down I hear it again. Vividly as though she had started up crying for real.
  • Several rounds of getting up to check, because I can’t bear it. No, she’s not crying. Yes, I still hear it.
  • Lay down, for the final time. Did I lock the door? Rather, is the door locked? When it was just me, the answer was always yes. With others? The answer is almost always no.
  • Lock the door.
  • Lay down. I’ve accepted the crying isn’t going away. Now there are a thousand other sounds. From outside? From inside? If I can’t accurately place each one? I get up. I look out until I’m satisfied.
  • Sometimes I’ll need to go to the bathroom at this point. Hold it? No. That wouldn’t be the proper response to not wanting to pass by the mirror.
  • Struggle with the decision to turn on the bathroom light and possibly wake my wife, or to go in the dark. Sometimes I manage in the dark. But the mirror? Even if I don’t feel her watching me from it, I remember the days when I was alone. When she used to.
  • It’s no longer a thought I’m comforted by. Even when it was, it still frightened me.
  • Some nights, on the way back to bed I’ll stare into the mirror. Defiance? To ground myself in reality?
  • Other nights? I’ll keep my head down and get out. Closing the door behind me. These are the nights where I feel like she is actually watching.
  • Get into bed. Try to sleep. I can’t. Not with all the doors shut. I open the door to the living room so I can better hear the actual noises about the house.
  • Get into bed. Try to sleep. I can’t Not with the door open. I ignore it until I drift into some approximation of sleep. I swear I’m never completely unconscious though.
  • Still, dreams come. Well… do I ever really dream? Nightmares… they aren’t as bad as they use to be. Still vivid. Sometimes realistic. Sometimes strange.
  • I don’t feel pain in them anymore. Not like I did when I was younger. Or have I just gotten used to it?

Yes, that’s a fair representation of an average weekday. It gives me material for a lifetime.

That is the me that has coped with my issues. Many of the stories I’m working on are from before.

But like I said. Don’t make your writing cover mundane fear (alright… some of that wasn’t so mundane). Take the core of it. Write about that. Don’t be forthcoming. Pacing is key.

How do you know if it works?

Some of those nights that I can’t sleep? I get up and write.

My favorite time to write spooky shit is in the middle of the night. Lights down low… or off. If you are scaring yourself, it’s probably going well.

Entire body is shivering.

Can’t bear to look up because you know you’ll see your reflection in the window. At least, you hope your reflection is what you’d see.

Can’t bear to turn around because you work with your back to an open office. There’s no telling what’s going on back there at this point.

If you can evoke those feelings in the middle of the day? Great!

That’s hard for me with kid(s) running around.

But ultimately, if it scares you it will scare someone else. Not everyone, but someone. Not all fears are universal though. Not even death.

And if it doesn’t scare someone. If you do it right? It will probably make them laugh. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

So you can’t go wrong with writing the things that make your skin crawl or keep you up at night.

Also, just curious, what happens when you blink?What goes on when you can’t witness it?

A whole world that we miss out on just because we have to close our eyes? Or lingers on the edge of our vision simply because it doesn’t want to be seen?

Most of us probably don’t want to see it anyways. Just another thing I think about too much.

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