Falling In Love With Being Scared

While I’m sitting here writing this post, some asshole with a haircut twenty years younger than his face is chatting inanities about his kids. He’s not talking to me – I burnt that bridge around Christmas time – however, he’s projecting his voice to a cluster of bored accountants who are pretending to give a shit.

‘My oldest daughter…’ blah blah.

Does he not understand I’m writing? Silence!

I persevere nonetheless.

So. Editing. The first third is pretty much sorted. I’ve brutally chopped scenes and rearranged characters.

Scrivener has been invaluable. The ability switch around scenes, lay them out on a corkboard, track when your characters appear in is wonderful. If you’re struggling with the structure of your novel, buy Scrivener. Or at least try it out for the 30 day trial. Like all good software, it simply works.

For every pass at a scene, I feel I’m adding flesh to the bone. However, something has come to light during this process: I was surprised at how much my influences have snuck in.

My novel is, essentially, a futuristic, political thriller. I guess. I hate to pigeonhole anything, but that’s probably the best description for it (although by the time I’ve finished editing, it’ll probably be a medieval love story). Anyway, imagine my surprise (and delight) when I realised how much horror had crept in there.

My first memory of being overtly scared by fiction – I was nine – was from a novel called ‘The Scarecrows’, which was written by Robert Westall. Brief synopsis: A kid lives in a house by a field that contains a bunch of scarecrows. The scarecrows move gradually closer to the kid’s house.

It was fucking petrifying.

And it’s still worth a read today, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Next up…

I’m twelve years old and my brother is ten, we’re sitting in the living room of our suburban, redbrick house and it’s Saturday, around 2pm. It’s raining (#England) and we’re bored (#Kids). But luckily, I’ve recorded Alien and The Omen from BBC2 the week before. That’ll while away the afternoon…

I put the tape in the machine and push play.

Cue two hours of sheer terror as Sigourney Weaver runs, sweating around a dark spaceship from an indestructible monster. I was enthralled. And if that wasn’t enough, we follow it with two hours of a sinister smiling kid and ‘accidents’ orchestrated by Satan.

I was sold.

My brother spent the next year in therapy.

Good times.

And then, even though I had never seen A Nightmare On Elm Street, a friend of mine owned the videos. The artwork was enough. His face. Oh Jesus, his face. My teenage years were littered with dreams of Freddy Krueger. And we all know that dreaming of Freddy is the worst thing you can do, because that is how he kills you.  

It was only in my twenties, when I was bed-ridden for a week from an operation, that I plucked up the courage to watch A Nightmare On Elm Street. Following that, I devoured the boxed set in two days. The third movie was a personal favourite.

There’s also the aptly named Stephen King. Well, you know there are some folk who say they don’t trust people who dislike dogs? I don’t trust people who dislike Stephen King.

Pet Sematary or Christine. They’re the two that really got me. The former, bleak and horrible; the latter a superb allegory on obsession and love.

And if you’re feeling brave try Richard Matheson’s Hell House. Go on. I dare you.

But not all horror appeals to me. Dean Koontz is pretty much Dean Kuntz as far as I’m concerned. The Hostel and Saw gorefests strike me as pointless exercises in shock. And many, many horror movies I find distasteful for their misogyny. The role of the female is to get naked, scream and then die.

Beret-wearing ‘70s budget horror director: ‘Get your tits out, love. There’s a good girl. Now let’s throw some blood on ‘em. Nice. Beautiful. Scream a little louder, darlin’ That’s it.’  

Ah fuck off.

From my lofty position as thirty-something white, western, middle-class male, I’m probably not best placed to comment on these sort of things. But really, you have to be some sort of fucking idiot a) not to notice gender inequality is still a huge problem, or b) be cool with it. Latent or otherwise, misogyny in any form always leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Perhaps as a reaction to the female role in horror, my favourite book/film in the genre is Clive Barker’s The Forbidden, which was later filmed as Candyman. I love ‘em both. The protagonist is a smart, savvy woman. The villain is threatening, partly due to his absence of screen/page time and partly because he guts people with a hook. It also has lashings of sadness to it. It’s really a very beautiful story once you get past the razorblades in the sweets and the disembowelments.

And the bees. Never forget the bees…

So yeah, I love horror. I love being scared. If you delve into the psychology of it (which I won’t do here), there are some very interesting theories as to why it’s so popular. Personally, I liken it to the rush I get from spicy food. Without it, a meal can often seem bland.

So if I ever finish this novel and if you are kind enough to read it, there might be the odd scary moment.

Embrace it.

A little pepper with your sugar everyone in a while.

17 comments

  1. We have so much in common it’s scary (no pun intended). I’ve been in love with being scared since I was a young kid. I grew up reading Stephen King and watching scary movies. One of my favorite movies of all time is Alien. Sigourney Weaver was the first believable female action star (at least for me), and the movie scared the living daylight out of me. Ha, ha! I loved it. Still do. I don’t like movies or books like Saw or Hostel either. It’s nothing but gore and the senseless torturing of mostly women. I prefer epic fantasies with dark elements but horror is definitely up there on my list of favorite genres. 😀

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  2. Somehow I find that writing something scary is scarier than reading it. Perhaps you fear as a writer that it reflects something inside you, a dark side you don’t want to face. I’m in awe of anyone who can embrace his own darkness and lay it bare on the page. Looking forward to read your novel!
    Ps: need to download Scrivener. Sounds awesome!

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    1. I can’t seem to embrace anything else! I tried to incorporate a love story in my novel, but it ended up…well…that’d spoil it…but it wasn’t pretty! I think for certain people, some things come naturally. For example, you seem to have an optimistic sincerity in your writing – that’s something I would love to have! I guess we have to lean on our strengths and learn from others how to cope with the rest.

      Also, Scrivener is excellent. And they don’t even pay me to say that.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Good sir, your blog posts are so entertaining that I must urge you to to complete your novel no matter what, so that I might read it. I can only imagine it will be similarly enjoyable. Shout out if you need an extra beta reader later on, yeah?

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  4. Ah, how I love to be terrified. King was one of my early influences and I was fortunate enough to finally meet him several years ago. It was in a casual setting and he was as nice and friendly as I could have ever hoped for. Just a regular guy that writes amazing books and makes gazillions of dollars. Matheson is also a favorite and I’m with you on Koontz as well. Dean Koontz, in my opinion has written one novel, over and over again.

    If you find horror creeping into your story, maybe you should just let it happen. If that’s where your imagination is taking you, run with it. A bit of fear never hurt any story (I’ve always said throwing zombies into any movie would make it better. Imagine “Titanic” or “The Wizard of Oz” with zombies. Priceless!)

    I agree with Daniel. Based on what little I’ve read from your blog, I am eagerly awaiting your novel. Best of luck.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have King envy now. But yes, he does just seem like a regular guy who is superb at telling stories. Simple as that. Thanks for the kind words. And re: your post on S5 of Game Of Thrones. Fuck Olly!

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  5. I love horror — books, movies, campfire tales. I haven’t read King’s “Christine” and only watched the movie version of “Pet Sematary” but when it comes to horror, he does it so well. I love “The Shining” and “Needful Things.” The movie about the little boy, Damien, scared me when I watched it as a kid. Now I’m intrigued about your novel. Any chance you’ll be wanting beta readers? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Great! 🙂 “Needful Things” does build up! All that tension and excitement… It’s scary and disturbing how the people in Castle Rock start doing things. Leland Gaunt didn’t even have to try hard.

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