Monday, September 19, 2011

More Writing What You Know

As a feller who enjoys writing horror, I’m always trying to think of interesting situations in which to put people in jeopardy. At the same time I’m trying to think of how to frame it in a frightening, or at least tension-filled, way. So I spend a good amount of time trying to come up with things that I’m afraid of.

Well, sort of.

Because some of the things I’m afraid of don’t really translate in a literal way to horror. For example, I don’t think H.P. Lovecraft ever wrote about the fear of trying to mingle at a party, or the prospect of being a cubicle-dwelling office drone for the rest of his life (shiver!). But – those experiences/feelings can still be used to create horror.

Take the fear of mingling with a group of strangers. While in and of itself, not very horrific for a lot of folks. But when I’m in that situation, I experience anxiety, self-consciousness, a fear of drawing attention to myself. What should I say? What if I try to talk to that person and they think I’m a bore, or annoying? Would I be bothering them? Everyone else seems to know each other. Maybe if I stand here quietly, no one will notice me (but maybe this will make me stand out even more.) Maybe I should just leave – can I leave without them noticing? And if I do leave, can I live with that? Another social opportunity down the drain? Unwarranted feelings in the above situation, sure, but I can transpose those feelings into a fictional narrative.

Say a character finds himself alone in a park late at night and he stumbles across a murder being committed. The character suddenly feels anxiety, doesn’t want to draw the killer’s attention, feels very self-conscious. Am I breathing too loud? Can the killer see me in this darkness? Do I dare try to run for it? Or should I attempt to help the victim, opening up the possibility of also becoming a victim? And if I don’t try to help, can I live with that? An opportunity to help a fellow human being missed?

That’s just another way of writing what you know. I’ve never stumbled across a murder being committed in a lonely park in the dark of night, but it’s fairly easy to transpose feelings from other situations I’ve experienced that have struck fear in me. 

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