Monday, May 31, 2010

If I Only Had the Nerve!

The spooky/lying challenge sent my way by Mari Juniper has me thinking. A lot of you spoke about spooky things that have happened in your lives. And you know I've got a few in mine. (I was alone in the school on Friday. It was relatively early - only around 6 pm - and I heard the steps again. I thought the evening caretaker was in, but no luck. I didn't stay much longer. :) When I went in on Sunday I was alone for about 4 hours & no footsteps.)

Even though the school footsteps don't really bother me much, I'm a bit of a wimp. Okay more than a bit. I read King's The Shining in high school and haven't read a horror book since! He scared the bejeepers out of me. I had nightmares for months (okay...years). To me the characters were so vivid - and he made the situation real. I believed. So I was terrified.

I heard years later that King himself is a bit of a 'fraidy cat. I don't recall the details, and I don't even know if it's true, but I read that King checks under his bed and in his closet every night before he goes to sleep. Hmmm.

So, does it help to be easily frightened if you want to add some horror or spooky elements to your writing? Are the brave souls not the ones who write the best horror? Does it take those of us who imagine the worst horrors to write the truly terrifying stuff? What do you think?

113 comments:

  1. Wow! I'm just spooked out because I am the first one to comment. I think you just posted this 4 minutes ago?

    I am a wimp, too. I watched horror in high school, but I remember being totally freaked out by the Wizard of Oz when I was a little younger - just like your pic.

    I surprised myself this year by writing my first horror story - didn't think I ever would. But it was more creepy than frightening (I think). I don't know if I could ever write the truly horrifying - I would scare myself, and you have to stay in that place a very long time to get a book done - so flash horror is for me.

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  2. I think you make a good point. If the writer is easily scared then they can better write about scary things. If things don't scare you, how can you write that fear (you don't feel) in your work? Good post.

    Mason
    Thoughts in Progress

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  3. Huge wimp, my family finds it very amusing that my list of phobias is longer than the one we need to do our grocery shopping. Amongst them - I can't go to sleep with the wardrobe door ajar. I don't even know why.
    You would probably write fear better if you felt it, if you knew it so well that you could conjure up those trembles and shivers just by thinking about them.
    And my scariest Stephen King novel is 'IT'.

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  4. Anne - that's a good idea! Flash horror might be all that I can handle too! The thought of staying in the book for the length of time it takes to write a novel? *Shudder!*

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  5. Thanks Mason :)

    I definitely could find lots of scary things - but for the most part, I'd rather not dwell on them!

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  6. Charmaine - yeah, I never got to "It". Too freaked out by The Shining! :)

    I'm so glad I'm not the only wimpy one!

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  7. I don't write horror or read it. But I think it would be easier to write it than to read it. It might be fun to work the words so you're building tension, then easing back, then tightening it again...Except I'd probably scare myself.

    Helen
    Straight From Hel

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  8. Helen - really good point! It wouldn't be as scary (probably) if you were in control of it. Although I'd probably scare myself too! :)

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  9. I have no idea! I love horror movies and scary books, and I get spooked when I go to the bathroom at night. But when I tried to write something scary, no luck. It wasn't scary at all. Oh well. Guess horror is not my genre!

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  10. Aubrie - lol :)

    I don't know how you ever sleep! I couldn't do it! And it's probably not my genre either :)

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  11. When I get a chill from something I've written I can get into it more and hopefully I get my sense of fear across to chilling the reader as well. I think effective writing has a lot to do with empathy.


    Lee
    Tossing It Out

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  12. Arlee - you're braver than I am! :)

    I completely agree - empathy is a requirement for good writing - and for good reading as well! :)

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  13. I love this topic. I'm a fan of horror, but I can't even find a Horror section in most bookstores these days. Is everyone 'fraidy cats, or is everyone so jaded nothing scares them anymore?

    I know I'm a look-under-the-bed-and-in-the-closet sort, but I still watch horror movies and read creepy stories for the thrill. I also tend to put a touch of horror in all my manuscripts, wherever it fits. Not necessarily the gruesome kind but at least something that gives you the shivers.
    I think writing is about stirring emotion in readers, and there's nothing more visceral than fear. It's also where my talent lies, as I'm no good at romance (even though a love scene elicits some nice visceral emotions too).

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  14. Lorel - I'm surprised there's no horror section. I'm wondering if a lot of it is tied up in the fantasy section. When I'm shopping there, I do see a lot of 'horrory' stuff I couldn't read. Interesting - I wonder if it's one of those pendulum swing things.

    Fear is a great emotion to evoke. My current ms has moments of suspense. There's fear for the characters, but just suspense for the readers. I think :)

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  15. I'm guessing you'll be great at adding it in b/c you're easily scared. I think with scary book scenes it's the little things--the sounds, the mood--not the big action like in movies.

    I worry about writing ANYTHING well enough. You seem to be headed down the right road already. A spooky school has me freaked out already! Use it!

    Michele
    Southern City Mysteries

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  16. Michele - yup - me and the Cowardly Lion, we're like that! :)

    The sounds always get me - and scents too.

    Maybe my school will show up in a book someday! :)

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  17. Just started following your blog...Great post! The spooky school and the little noises are things that would freak me out. I think you have the right idea.
    Renae

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  18. I don't know if it made my writing any better, but I scared myself quite a few times when I worked on my mystery WIP at night!

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  19. Hi Renae - nice to meet you :)

    The school really doesn't bother me - I'm not sure why because I am NOT a brave soul!

    Thanks so much for dropping by!

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  20. I once read an interview with Stephen King or Dean Koontz or someone like that where he said that indeed the best horror story tellers are the fraidy cats and he writes about things that frighten him. It does make sense - if the author's not frightened, why should we be frightened? And The Shining is a super scary book, one of his best, I think.

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  21. Belle - lol - I'll bet it did make it better! If you're scaring yourself, you KNOW others are going to feel the same! :)

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  22. Susan - Koontz is one I've never been brave enough to even try! I've missed out on a lot of great authors because I'm a wimp :)

    I can't imagine writing something that terrifies me! But now that the idea's stuck in my head, you never know... :)

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  23. Jemi, I really want to check out your school next time I'm in your area! I'd love to record those foot steps or try taking a few pictures to see if I capture a spirit. That would be so cool!! In regards to writing horror, I'd say the ones who feel the deepest fear will write the scariest scenes. "Write what you know." I believe King say that too, I believe!

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  24. Please excuse the typo in my previous comment. Can I blame Ghost Repeat?

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  25. I don't do scary. I can read Koontz and not be scared, but I've never made it through a scary King book without abandoning it in fear. I don't do scary movies, either.

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  26. Lynn - you can certainly blame Ghost Repeat! :)

    I've never thought of taping anything. I actually just kind of sigh when I hear it now. I guess you can get used to anything. :)

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  27. Christi - yeah I can't do the movies either - way too vivid. The Shining was also the last horror movie I saw :) Don't plan on going through that again!

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  28. I have an overactive imagination when it comes to horror as well -- I'm not sure it's helpful for writing horror, because I'm much too scared to even think about it. :)

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  29. I'm a total wimp with horror. The last horror movie I saw was Seven- totally creeped me out. And then I imagine what really is going bump in the night. Bad combo!

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  30. I get frightened easliy, like hearing footsteps on the stairs when I'm the only person in the house. I love in an old house and have felt a precence every since moving in.

    Yvonne,

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  31. I'm not easily frightened. Real world fears and threats are enough.

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  32. Sandy - that's what I've always thought. I don't want to dwell on the stuff that terrifies me!

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  33. Stephanie - me too. My daughter enjoys horror movies as long as they're relatively realistic. She doesn't enjoy fantasy too much - and I'm really not sure how that happened seeing as I love fantasy! I can't imagine watching all those movies & then sleeping. *shudder* :)

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  34. Yvonne - I love old houses - but the noises can be truly terrifying! And of course I prefer to sit and worry rather than investigate :)

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  35. Alex - very true. I think that's the allure of horror for a lot of people. It can't be as bad as what's happening in the world. And at least we know it's not real. :)

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  36. Jemi, this is a great topic for discussion. I don't like scary books or movies. When I have tried to write something of that genre, I have a hard time judging if what seems frightening to me is going to be scary for a reader. It's subjective, I believe. Thanks for your post!

    Marissa

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  37. I'm such a wimp I get scared s,o easily but I love that kind of creepy (somethings under the bed) being scared, where it's all implied. I've never tried a Stephen King book, I always think I wouldn't sleep. Not sure I'll ever try writing it.

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  38. Suspense is great but scary books/movies are not my cup of tea.

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  39. I found Koontz a tad scarier than Christie. But King, his is the stuff to induce nightmares. In horror at least I think it would be almost impossible to write it if you couldn't "feel" it somewhere inside.
    My guess -- you'll use the school somewhere and it will be great. Because admit it or not you are feeling at least anxiety there.

    Maribeth
    Giggles and Guns

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  40. Maybe when I was younger. Not so much any more. I'm too busy to be frightened. But I like to read scary stuff sometimes. Like Maribeth, I like Dean Koontz too.

    Stephen Tremp

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  41. This is a really interesting question! I'm a 'fraidy cat, too. Okay, I'm a great big baby when it comes to spooky things! I've only read three Stephen King books, non-horror ones, because I'm way too scared to read his others. I don't think I could ever write anything scary because it'd spook me too much!!! So I really don't know how to answer this question, lol.

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  42. great post and yes i think so! I often write horror and while I do my ears are filling with tears and I glance behind my back every few seconds!

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  43. Absolutely. I think those who can tap in to those fears and understand them the most, can write them the best. Just my thoughts on it though. :)

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  44. you know, i have no idea! haha, but i do have to say that i'm the BIGGEST SCAREDY CAT IN THE WORLD. and while i hate reading that kind of stuff, i think i could write some pretty scary scenes if i wanted to, haha..

    weird, huh?

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  45. I saw The Amityville Horror in high school, and slept in my little sister's room for a month!

    I think that the reason people get freaked out is because they have such good imaginations, therefore they make good writers. Or at least, that's what I tell myself! :)

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  46. I am SUCH a wimp! I'm such a wimp that I refused to watch Poltergeist in hgih school, and just listening to it freaked me out so much that I had to wake my parents up when I got home. NOT good.

    I am rubbish at writing horrow stuff because I refuse to scare myself by even thinking about it.

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  47. How interesting! I get scared really easily, so I don't think I'd want to let me imagination run to scary places. I'd probably never sleep again.

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  48. Good question! I don't write scary stories, so I've no idea.

    I'm sometimes too brave for my own good. When I was sixteen, I glanced up at our dining room window and saw a man walk through the room. (This was the house that was haunted.) I coud see my mom was outside in the garden and we were the only two there. What did I do? I ran inside to investigate. Probably not the smartest thing... But I never found anyone.

    On the flip side, werewolves freak me out. Yes, stupid fear. There's no such thing!

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  49. I don't know if it makes it easier...but it makes sense. Who better to write something scary than someone who knows what its like to be afraid! :)

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  50. Ooh, good question. And like others have posted, I think those things we feel deeply about (good and bad) really resonate in writing. Then again, I also love reading books from those who have been there then conquered.

    Writing can be very visceral when we add whatever emotion we're very in touch with.

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  51. I'm the biggest wimp ever!!! You know what makes it worse?? I've got an awesome story idea that came through a nightmare, it's been going off and on for over a few months now. I told him that I would write him when my husband worked days again, this is second week working days and the MC came back the first week! Terrible nightmares again!

    I think it would definitely make it better if you are easily scared, though being that terrified does make it hard to keep in touch with your story... hard to pick up because you are too scared to write it down. Luckily my husband protects me as I write. This story is awful, scary and my husband is dying to read it... the problem is at times I'm too scared to write it! haha!!

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  52. I loved watching horror when I was younger. I got over it as soon as I had to live alone. Too scary when you're alone in a house and hear all those night sounds.
    I think someone who is afraid of those bumps in the night would be better at putting the emotion into their work than someone who is never afraid.

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  53. I'm a wimp too. I can't watch horror movies like Nightmare on Elm Street because they freak me out.
    Oh, and creepy footsteps = check. I used to work in a shopping mall, and the storeroom was down a long maze of corridors with fire doors leading outside. During Christmas I did night-time stock filling/deliveries and hated walking along there if a door was open. I used to run, with a cage full of stock, down the corridor. lol.

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  54. Marissa - I agree, it's very subjective! I've always assumed (and probably rightly so) that I wouldn't write horror well. I don't read it because, well, because I'm a wimp :)

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  55. Alexa - I started having intense nightmares pretty early - still remember one repeating one from when I was 6 (according to my mom). It was about something creepy under my bed - so I've never liked that feeling! :)

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  56. Agnes - I'm with you! I like suspense & romantic suspense, but not horror. Glad I'm not alone :)

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  57. Maribeth - yes, King is downright scary!... well his writing is!

    I've been at the school for 6 or 7 years now, so I'm used to hearing the footsteps - but I never race into the hall to see if I can spot anything! :)

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  58. Stephen - I'm not a fan of being afraid! :) I've never tried Koontz - King was enough!

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  59. Laura - lol - that's right where I am! :)

    It would be interesting to try writing some scarier stuff (maybe) but I'd have to do it in the summer because I wouldn't be able to sleep at night!

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  60. CSR - exactly! I'd never get anything done - I'd probably have to sit in the corner with some weapons at hand if I were to write it! :)

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  61. Lisa - probably true - but do they really want to go there??? That's the part I have a hard time imagining!

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  62. Tahereh - yup! I think I'm with you on that - only I'm not sure I'd ever want to try it! Sleeping's hard enough as it is! :)

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  63. Layinda - sounds good - I'm going to tell myself the same thing!

    My boyfriend at the time tried to get me to watch that movie with him. Not. A. Chance.

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  64. Talli - that's so funny! I actually hid in the back seat when some friends tricked me into seeing Hallween #??? at the drive in in high school. You're right - the sounds are enough to scare me too! :)

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  65. Natalie - that's my worry! Sleep is a hard enough commodity to come by - I just don't need to make it any harder :)

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  66. Diane - that's awesome! I'd have yelled for help :) I'm glad no one was there though - you never know...

    Okay - the werewolf thing made me smile! Sorry :) (Feel free to giggle at all of my sillier fears!)

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  67. DL - we're always being told to 'write what you know' so I guess that part makes sense. I just don't understand why someone would want to live in that scary world for the months/years it takes to write that story!

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  68. Jackee - so true! Strong emotions = strong writing so much of the time. Problem is, I don't want to spend any more time with those particular strong emotions than I have to!

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  69. Jen - that's hysterical! I definitely wouldn't write any of it if my hubby worked nights. Yikes!

    You're very brave - I'm impressed. Once it's published I promise to buy it --- and read it in the early mornings :)

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  70. Susan - yeah - I can't imagine watching or reading horror alone or while I was living alone! Too scary for sure :)

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  71. Lindsay - yikes! I'd have been right there running down the hallway with you. That's an awful job! *shudder*

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  72. I have a hard time with horror...my brain just doesn't want to process it without all kinds of nightmares. When Nightmare on Elm Street came out (the first one, not the terrible remake), I did see it. But that was the last horror movie I've ever watched. No Saw or Creepers, or whatever movies/shows my kids love--nope. Not gonna happen.

    I do like creepy though...just a little shiver is perfect. But no full-out screams! :)

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  73. Mary - I don't mind shivers either - gore and horror and full-out screams are NOT for me!

    One of these days I wouldn't mind trying abit edgier suspense. We'll see. :)

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  74. Hmm, that's a good question. I'm definitely a scaredy cat, but I'm also the one that loves a good suspense, horror flick. Seriously, I don't know what it is about being scared, but it's just. It feels good ;o)

    I think you need to have a little spookiness around ya to write the really scary stuff ;o) If I were King I'd be checking under my bed too!! I often wonder what his dreams are like...

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  75. If you scare easily you know what it feels like, and it's always easier to write what you know. Fictional horror on the page doesn't usually bother me, but horror movies and true crime scare the heck out of me. The book Helter Skelter, for example, terrified me.

    I'm a total wimp. When I was little, my older brothers loved torturing me with urban legends. For years I was afraid to look in a mirror for fear of seeing Bloody Mary Worth. In fact, I still refuse to have a mirror my bedroom!

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  76. Erica - you're right, I bet King has the creepiest dreams!

    My hubby & daughter love the scary feeling too. I never have. They're always able to blow off the images as 'not real'. I wish I could do that, but my brain's always saying, 'what if...' :)

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  77. VR - For me, the written horrors stay with me longer, although I can't handle the movies either. Maybe it's because I can close my eyes during the movie, but not the book!

    Always wondered what it would have been like to have a brother - now I'm maybe glad I didn't have one :)

    Love the new pic! :)

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  78. I'm the same! I can't read scary books if I'm home alone. Every creak in the house will drive me demented!

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  79. Those footsteps sound weirdly scary. Has anyone else ever heard them? Could someone be playing a trick on you? Being rational I've never heard of anyone being hurt by a ghost so it's unlikely to start happening now. Having said that, I'd be first out of the building if I was there. I'm a real wimp. I don't read horror. I hate watching it on films and TV... but the strange thing is that I occasionally write it. Maybe it helps that I'm in control of what's happening.

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  80. Stephen King scaried the beejeebies out of me too! He's a master at that! But I get freaked out easily, which is why i don't write it. :)

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  81. I love the dark and sinister. I read CUJO in sixth grade. But I'm am such a scaredy pants. The things that go bump in the night, the horrors you can't see, the unexplainable, are far worse than those you can. That's why I write them. :-)

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  82. Wow! That is one heckuva lot of comments! :)

    I'm with you on Stephen King! I read several of his books when I was in my 20s and wound up with horrible nightmares! Finally asked God to take them away and I wouldn't read any more horror. We've both kept the deal! :)

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  83. India - I'm totally in agreement! I don't even do suspense well when I'm home alone :)

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  84. Rosalind - A few other teachers (who've now moved on to other schools) have heard them. One of our students a few years back wrote a story about them. Because I'm the only one at the school currently who's heard them, the talk has kind of died down - I don't mention it :)

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  85. Jennifer - me too. I don't think I could actually write more than a short story. Writing anything of any length would be too hard! :)

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  86. Oh, I am a total fraidy cat, and I could never picture myself writing horror. Yet, I love hearing true scary stories, like people who live in haunted houses. That stuff interests me. But fiction scares me more, I don't know why! Strange, huh?

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  87. Sarah - love it! I can't believe you read CUJO in grade 6! Wow. I wouldn't have slept for years. So many people enjoy the shivers and chills from reading horror. I think it would be fun to try - but I don't think I'd ever sleep well again. :)

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  88. Beth - yup! I've never read anymore Stephen either. I think you made a very good deal! :)

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  89. Shelley - that's funny. Although I think you're right - the fiction is usually more intense. I always think 'what if that was real', and that seems to be what makes is scary for me :)

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  90. Wizard of Oz is about as scary as I can watch! For some reason when I write flash - I'm drawn to writing suspense

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  91. Michelle - The Wiz is one of my all-time faves! :)

    It's interesting that you enjoy suspenseful flash... a few of the other commenters thought they could control the fears a little better with short works because they don't have to live in the scary worlds for very long. Interesting!

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  92. Great question.

    I'm a wimp when it comes to horror. It's not hard for me to imagine scary scenes, but writing them out is difficult.

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  93. I actually love a good scare, but I usually get mine from psychological thrillers rather than straight horror.

    To me, straight horror of the Freddy/Jason crowd are too unrealistic to be creepy. It's the books that can really happen when a normal mind snaps that get me shaking internally.

    And I think there is truth in the fact that you have to know fear to write about it.

    Hope they catch your school ghost soon~ cat

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  94. Thanks Shannon - I've never tried writing any scary scenes - I'm sure I'll ever try it. Maybe some morning I'll give it a shot :)

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  95. Cat - I wish I was braver - I can read a lot more suspense now than I used to. It's usually romantic suspense, so it's got some up sides as well :)

    You're right - the realistic ones are definitely the creepiest!

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  96. ooh I love horror. I think it must take a brilliant vivid imagination to write something that people find scary.

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  97. Ha! You know sometimes I worry about people actually getting to see what's in my head. But if and when I get a book published, I'll take my chances...

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  98. Niki - I agree - I think horror must be very difficult to write. Especially if, like me, you'd only be able to write in the early morning :)

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  99. Lisa Gail - yeah I worry about that too. Probably why I don't have a real photo on my pic :)

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  100. I used to love horror - movies, books - all of it.

    As I grew up though, I think my imagination went into overdrive, and none of those things seem quite so entertaining anymore.

    I am a complete wimp now - even if someone TELLS me a ghost/scary story, I'll be up for nights thinking about it, expanding on it and making it into so much more.

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  101. Writing Nut - I agree completely. I was definitely braver when I was younger - although I've never been particularly brave. Now, though, my imagination knows how to weave a tale... or a nightmare :)

    Thanks so much for dropping by!

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  102. Oh, Jemi, my best spooky stories are written in near darkness. I am a scaredy cat. I think good imaginations check under the bed. I'm just saying.

    Teresa

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  103. Oh my, that is spooky! I don't do well with creepy things! Although I like to add creepy things in my writing. Weird.

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  104. Journaling Woman - wow - I'm impressed - they scare you and you write in the 'near dark' anyway? Pretty sure I'd never sleep!

    Thanks for dropping by :)

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  105. Carol - you're not alone - it seems a lot of people who don't like creepy enjoy writing it. Maybe I'll have to add a bit to my next ms and see what happens!

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  106. Good question! I honestly don't know. The only book I ever read by King was "It" and that rather took any interest out of me for reading anything else. I did, however, watch "The Shining" (Jack Nicholson movie) and I almost went out my mind being home alone after that. I was about 25 at the time, too. I think, perhaps, the person who can most easily paint a vivid picture or terror and what could lead to terror will write it best - and that probably rests more solidly upon the shoulders of the person who can latch onto what frightens them the most. So, yes, a 'fraidy cat I think has the advantage.

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  107. Kimberly - yeah I got dragged by friends to The Shining movie too - what was I thinking??? I'm impressed with 'fraidy cats who have the courage to write any of it down!! :)

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  108. I don't know. I think everyone is scared of something and if you can tap into that feeling you can probably write a pretty effective scene.
    Thanks for sharing this excellent post.

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  109. I feel that experience horrific things helps because you drudge up the emotion of it and can insert it into your POV MC...

    *Shudder*

    I wrote a horrific short story in highschool and ripped it to pieces years later. I totally freaked me out!

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  110. Thanks Cassandra. You're right - everyone is afraid of something. Well, maybe except for sociopaths, but they don't count :) Some of us are just more 'fraidy than others!

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  111. Elizabeth - that cracks me up! Did ripping it up make it easier to live with?

    When I'm trying to sleep I have t stop my mind from wandering down the creepy roads - it's too easy to not sleep at all! :)

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  112. If I wrote horror, I'd probably scare myself, too.

    Helen
    Straight From Hel

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  113. Helen - I guess that's the curse of having good imaginations. So many of us can scare ourselves!! :)

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