The Horror! The Horror!: Write Your Fears Away

I am not a horror fan. Even in the absence of gore and blood (which will cause nausea in no time), I have never been able to deal with the horror genre. In a discussion in a workshop last month, I finally realized why I don’t like horror – and it isn’t because I’m scared.

As long-time readers know, I have an anxiety disorder. Aha! you say. So you are scared!

Not really. It’s not the fright that gets to me, it is the disturbing images/thoughts that horror deals in so deeply. Disturbing images stay with me far longer than with the average person—sometimes to the point of obsession. I can get trapped in a downward spiral of darkness that takes me to places I really shouldn’t go. It’s not healthy for me, and it’s very hard to break out once the spiral begins. Not only can it lead to disabling physical panic attacks, but it affects my mental state to the point where my daily activities are disrupted.

So that’s why I don’t read horror.

That said, I actually wrote a horror story last week.

Jonathan Maberry, head of our Advanced Novel workshop, had our class brainstorming outside our usual genres in the last class. One of the things he asked was, “What scares you the most?”

My answer was, of course, something happening to my child.

And that opened the floodgates in my head.

Terrifying visions of things that could happen to my toddler are nothing new for me. I shove them away quite often. They pop unbidden into my head, and I must use my coping mechanisms to turn them off and keep them at bay. Even though I know most of them are extreme and unlikely to happen, the terror is there in my brain. So I have no need to go there intentionally.

Opening that box in my brain even a little bit, one scenario leapt fully-formed into my imagination. I tried to put it back in the box but it evaded me, growing stronger during the long ride home from class. By the time I pulled into my driveway, I was on the verge of an all-out panic attack.

Over the next few days, I wrestled with that scenario, but whenever I closed my eyes it would jump up and laugh at me. My brain could not let it go. So I did the only thing I could do.

I wrote the thing down.

In an hour and a half, I knocked out a 2,000 word rough draft. I poured that horrendous vision out of my head and onto the page, and sent it off to a friend of mine (who was so scared by it, I am surprised she is still speaking to me.)

And, finally, the feedback loop in my head stopped, and the images went away.

I’ll go back and polish it up, and maybe see if I can get it out to the public anywhere, but I can tell you right now any horror stories that comes out of my pen will be few and far between. I can’t live in that place in my head—not if I want to have a healthy life.

So, do you love horror or hate it?


  1. neptune1021 says

    I love horror. The first novel I wrote Twilight Healer is horror, and it garnered some decent reviews. Then a good friend of mine suggested that preoccupation with horror might not be good for me, and that I should switch to another genre like science fiction. This I did, and the nice reviews weren’t as good. Now I enjoy SF but I’ve got to have a heavy flavor of horror in it. So I went back to the horror, and now I’m back in the saddle with another horror book – my anthology.
    I think it has to do with my fear of skeletons – when I was ten, I saw a mummy, but the the people running the exhibit billed it as a 1000 year old healthy woman. They also had some mechanism to make the body move, and the skeleton sat up and pointed at the door. I run out of there screaming, but that experience has ignited my drive to write horror.

  2. I dont love true horror – with blood and guts – but evil doing and psych horror yes (I love to write it!) I do. My husband wonders what’s wrong with me. I love writing twisted things and pound the keys with glee. I must be getting my demons or aggressions out…and its fun to do things you would go to jail for – for the rest of your life! BUT I’m not sure I could write something horrible happening to a child, like you – that is too close to my heart. Danielle Steele wrote a book a few years back with child abuse in it. I had to put it down, couldnt read it. Too awful. So horror YES – but not to little children 🙂

    • I know! I can’t read child-hurting stuff either. But I had to get it out of my head. At least in my story things turn out okay for everyone except the bad guy…

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