When I was a child, I was not allowed to watch “scary” movies, and I was discouraged from reading “scary” books, the reason being I suffered from extremely vivid and horrible nightmares. If I saw or read something scary by accident, I would have wake-up-in-the-night-screaming dreams for up to two or three weeks afterward.
I had no problem avoiding scary stuff. I knew what it did to me, and after I the nightmares stopped, I had no desire to revisit them. While my friends were going through the haunted houses at the county fair, or waiting in line to see the latest slasher flick, I was busy reading a sci-fi novel, or focusing on my 4-H projects. For many years, I slept with a night light, simply for the fact that in the dark, the monsters of my wild imagination would come crawling out to plague me. I suppose I could be called a wimp for it, but that’s the way it was. I hated having bad dreams, and so I did what I needed to to stop them.
Fast forward to the end of my college education. I am writing dark, gothic fiction — and some people have even gone so far as to say I write horror. I always frowned on that; I don’t consider my work “horror.” (But apparently, some do.) I get funny looks when people find out that I write dark stuff. Sometimes I feel funny about it myself, but it’s what comes out, and so I am obligated to put it down on the paper.
I realized today the reason for my writing dark, gothic fiction. For writing about demons and vampires and all the scary monsters of the night. It seems that, somewhere along the way, writing became my method for combating the scariness. By putting those monsters under a high-power lens, I am looking close enough to see that:
- they are kind of fascinating in their own way
- and they might not be true “monsters” after all
My husband and I like to share our dreams with each other in the morning. Often, he says he should buy me a dream-catcher because I shouldn’t be having such bad dreams. In response, I usually shrug, and say that they aren’t *that* bad: I am still dreaming about the same stuff that scared the snot out of me when I was a kid, but it isn’t really scary anymore. While I dream, I often find myself looking at the dream from the writer perspective. I might be the main character. I might be the omnipotent viewer. But through my writing, I have learned to distance myself enough from it, that I can look at it non-judgmentally, and yet in close detail.
And sometimes, there’s beauty there.
I wonder if this is why other writers write horror.