Personal Essay #8 – Finding the Fear in Me

Personal Essay Button I’ll be writing and posting Personal Essays on the last Tuesday of every month. They will be honest, sometimes vivid explorations of my life.

I’m writing them for two reasons: to help put my experiences in perspective and to purge myself of any residual compost.

Since it is good therapy, you are invited to join me, post your link in comments and I’ll be sure to drop by.

Let it begin:

I decided to write a horror story and found this project the most challenging to date. It began with a book titled, “On Horror Writing,” and if you’d like to know more about the book look at my post for Teaser Tuesday last week. It helped me sift through some ideas, while I sought out how to add the horrific atmosphere. But atmosphere was not enough for me I also wanted to add a twist because like most writers I’m always looking for a way to surprise my readers. I`ve got most of it down, but there is still a lot of smoothing out required.

I took a course probably over two years ago on writing horror. Don’t get the wrong idea; it was not my genre of choice. I just really, really wanted to take a writing course and this was the one available. The course introduced me to “On Horror Writing“. It pointed out there are two kinds of horror—monsters and more of an atmospheric type of writing.

Without a monster, the writer has to delve in and find what scares them most. Capturing the feeling for me wasn’t that hard, almost everything can scare me to a degree: someone facing a chance of death (a small child is the worst); walking through a dangerous place—neighborhood, wilderness, country; losing all my money and assets; losing my ability to see, hear, feel; being rejected by my community or loved ones; being proved guilty when I’m innocent; and it goes on. The list I imagined did scare me, but not as deeply as I needed for my story. I was forced to choose one and exaggerate it to the extreme to get in the mood I needed to create the horrific atmosphere. It turns out I could give myself chills deep into the marrow

I started off with my main character`s reprieve of a death sentence, let her think she’d live happily ever after; then I had the very unhappy accuser appear to make their own kind of justice. The more I thought about it the deeper my fear grew. I related so well with the main character, Lottie, and was able to do a deeper point-of-view. It was a journey, a role play, that I’ve never done to this degree. And amazingly enough, I could reread a paragraph and jump back into the project rarin’ to go.

I guess the biggest thing I’ve learned attempting to write this story is that deep down I’m scared. Bad news—a lot more scared than I knew, but not about the typical things most people pushed out of their heads. Good news—I’ve more emotion to draw on; and I can purge myself through the usual expression of writing it out. My preferred the method is to be constructive and therapeutic and not sinking into a depression where I cry on passing shoulders like forevah. 🙂 Anything scare you, and do you want to share what that might be?

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30 responses to “Personal Essay #8 – Finding the Fear in Me

  1. I have sorta conquered one fear that I really hated – heights. My hubby took me to so many places where I couldn’t avoid heights, that it is not that bad any more, though I am careful. lol Another fear I find very annoying, especially living down here near so much water, is the fear of bridges. I don’t know why, but I see myself going through the barrier and into the deep, deep water, unable to get out of the car. Maybe I’ve just watched too much TV. LOL Great post, Anna.
    sherry @ fundinmental

  2. Cool. If I were to wright, I would also temp horror. I wish you well. I hope it turns out amazing.

  3. I love this post. I don’t write horror but you’ve reminded me that for a part of my YA series I need that atmosphere thing. Dang. I may have to read up on horror writing.

  4. Being a control freak, many things scare me, everything from texting drivers to, the drought in California, to the new open carry laws in Georgia (I live in New England, for heaven’s sake). But you’re absolutely right, it provides a very rich source of emotion for my writing. 🙂

    VR Barkowski

  5. Well done. I’ve never wanted to write or read horror, but I know people who make a credible argument for its popularity. I’m sold.

  6. I think setting is the most important aspect in a horror story for me. It the well timed build up to the moment when all sh!t breaks loose. I’m lured in with the anticipation.

    Good luck!

  7. Definitely with you on this one. I did an entry back in June about my fear of insects crawling on me and how many horrible, frightening things that can be done with bugs. It creeped the hell out of several of my blog’s readers, so I must have done something right. ^_^ The real trick will be writing the story, someday, without constantly feeling like there’s something crawling on me.

    • I freaked myself out more than once. Lucky for me I’m only dealing with an insane woman who wants revenge. Excuse me, I’ve gotta check the locks on the doors and windows–again. 🙂

  8. I’ve used horror in some of my stories, but I’ve never written a true horror story. Maybe one day I will.

    I’m afraid of fire because of a wild fire that nearly took my home when I was a kid. I guess I’m also afraid of drowning because I don’t really know how to swim.

    • Both — I think you better do your horror on a ship too far from port. 🙂

      I don’t know if you remember but Kelowna BC had a fire that took out part of the city. I had a river between us and I still get shivers when I think about it.

  9. Wow, that’s a really good exercise. Just reading your list of fears made me think of one of my own…the fear of being buried alive. Just the thought of it makes me feel panicky.

    It’s cool that you’ve taken on the challenge of horror writing. For me, the scariest of stories are not those that include vague monsters, but those that could really happen to Jane Doe. Those are real and terrifying.

    Good luck!

  10. That’s interesting that you didn’t choose the genre but, in a way, the genre chose you. I write suspense, but I always fold in stuff that scares me in real life. I find the process of incorporating them in my stories cathartic.

  11. My daughter’s future mother-in-law. *snort* I love horror stories,and that scared feeling you get in suspenseful plots, but no I have no fears that hold me back from living.

  12. I wrote this story so very long ago and i remember the fear I felt when I asked 2 of my closest writing friends to read it. I was terrified they wouldn’t like it. (Shaking terrified) and I don’t terrify as easily as I used to. The thing is Em, I’m very proud of you for taking that jump. For making yourself write it. Because it’s only when we go through the Scary that we get to the other side. You, my dear, are sitting on the other side. Yes, there might be more “scary” on the other side but there might also be some sweetness and perhaps a little less fear.

  13. jenniferbielman

    Horror stories just come out of me naturally. I am not easily scared of anything. 🙂

  14. Really enjoyed your take on horror writing. I wrote a novella with scary snakes in it. I’m not afraid of them but my friends were terrified of any of them–even a small garter snake. When I submitted it to the publisher, she wanted to put it in the horror genre. Say what? I was surprised at that. But when I looked at it again, the story was a horror story. How did I miss that? So far, I haven’t attempted to actually write horror, although murder and mystery have their horror, scary, heart pounding moments.

If you're new to writing, ask me anything and if you're experienced, feel free to share what you know. Learning something new in the craft is always welcome.

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