Bats fly past the window, the trees outside creaks in the wind, curtains rustle in the breeze, spiders drop from the ceiling, mad cackling comes from a distant room somewhere on the floor below, and (on top of it all) there is a muffled clawing and scratching, punctuated every now and then by growling, that comes from the dark, creepy attic room above you. You lie upon your bed, bedclothes drawn up to your chin, eyes straining in the dark and heart beating fast. Lightning cracks the sky and, for a moment, the bedroom in which you are in is illuminated. In the flash of the lightning that illuminates your room, you see a shadowy figure and you’re heart jumps into your throat as your room is once more plunged into darkness with the rumble of thunder. However, your rational mind catches up to you and you realize that the “shadowy figure” is actually your coat hanging upon the wall. You smile to yourself, perhaps all of this is just your mind playing tricks on you. You settle more comfortably into your bed and close your eyes, slowly drifting off to sleep, before you are awoken with a start once more by a clawing on the ceiling of something desperate to get at you.
Believe it or not, this isn’t a story at all! It’s actually an experience that I was unlucky enough to have to go through (though it does sound like something right out of a horror story – or an episode of Scooby-Doo). Somehow I managed to get through it all and, when I awoke the next morning, the sun was shining and the birds were singing and I just laid there, wondering whether I had dreamed all of that up or whether it had actually happened.
Needless to say though, no matter how traumatizing that experience was, I revel in those kind of experiences because of the stories that come from them! I enjoy Gothic fiction, psychological tricks, mysteries, suspense, melodrama – all of the elements that come from the many experiences in our life when we connect with fear and confront the unknown. Now, if I were to add a dash of romance to that list, I would have the most perfect story imaginable (but alas, that is for another time and another blogpost)! However though, when you tap into these feelings you’re tapping into an emotion that every human being on Earth feels – fear.
If we didn’t feel fear, we wouldn’t feel the need to protect ourselves, we wouldn’t be afraid of anything! Many people would argue that that seems like a very nice idea (believe me, in the personal experience that I detailed above, I would have given anything to have not been afraid), but life wouldn’t be the same and, most certainly, the elements and plots of many stories would be lost.
It’s always a good idea to confront your fears and to overcome them, and it’s also a good idea to learn from your fears. Remember, what FDR said? “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” It’s true! If you’re a writer, don’t tuck away your memories that include your fears or fearful experiences – use them, learn from them, write about them, create a story. Undoubtedly, these stories will turn out better than anything you’ve ever written and it’s all because you are writing about a personal and true experience.
Though I discovered that the beast within the attic was actually a raccoon, that the mad laughter below was actually someone on a television show, and that basically the nocturnal side of nature was going about its natural rhythms, I now have the elements to a story that I’m now crafting, all because of utilizing my fears and the experiences that they brought me.
Going forward in blog posts, I plan on sharing more thoughts on the suspenseful/horror side to writing and I do hope you will join me! Remember, you can also keep up with me on the following social media sites: