Should A Horror Author Scare Themselves?
To write? Or not to write? That really isn’t a question for me. I have to write. It’s a feeling that consumes me. There are times when I should be sleeping or catching up with friends… Where can you find me instead? Either furiously typing on my computer or at my desk, scribbling out a story longhand.
There are always those tales that end up being tedious to get out. You start off with a great idea, only to have it disintegrate as you lay the words down.
Others come together so beautifully that you sit back and wonder where a particular phrase came from. Sometimes you are just able to hit the emotions and imagery on the head and it reads exactly how you saw it happening in your mind.
There is an interesting facet of writing that deserves some consideration – how does an author write stellar horror without scaring themselves? How do they evoke the reactions of fear and unease without falling victim to their own words?
I’d bet there are authors out there writing in the genre that would maintain they are immune to their own words. I can’t help but wonder if that is a good thing – how can you hope to scare, to evoke feeling, if you cannot even scare yourself?
It’s a benchmark that I strive to attain each and every time I craft a story. I know that I’ve hit the mark when I can sit back and let the shudder course through my body or feel that tingle of fear run up my spine. Emotion is a universal concept; we all feel. Injecting your writing with emotion is the best way, in my experience as both a writer and as a reader, to engage your audience.
As I write each of the books in my Days with the Undead series there are times when I genuinely have to sit back and take a break. The living dead are some of the most sinister monsters that anyone can imagine – when you look into their slack faces what is it that stares back at you?
A reflection of humanity’s demise.
Now, add any situation that could likely arise during the Apocalypse. Car crashes, extreme weather, the death of the loved one. In some cases, it’s the element of surprise that gets you; and in others, the gentle, sustained build of tension and fright that makes it hard to swallow.
If I were being honest, I want all my readers to feel the same emotions I do as I write. I want the tense moments to quicken your desire to devour my words. I want each page turned to make you pause for a moment, if only just to catch your breath before the next scene. When you are finished reading a scene in its entirety, I want it to stick with you for long moments after; to take up residence in your psyche and for you to mention it at the oddest moment in unrelated conversation. I want to take the things that you think are unimaginable in the horror realm and creep you out to the utmost level. Those are the emotions that I want you to feel, but I don’t want to simply do it in the most graphic way. Simplicity and subtlety are the tools that I prefer to use. That, and just a little touch of poignant creepiness. When you read my words, I want you to feel uneasy, the same way I did while writing them.