When I think of horror it’s about the times I spent alone as a kid. My father wouldn’t come home for a couple of days. I’d spend that time watching horror movies on HBO or Cinemax or I’d read. But the books weren’t horror, they were military/political thrillers. Later they were dubbed techno-thrillers, but I digress.
Horror was my safe space. I felt safer watching those movies than at any other time. It was in those long nights of being home that I watched Basketcase, Creepshow, Tales From the Crypt, and a myriad of other movies. I watched movies a 13-year-old maybe shouldn’t watch, but it was the ’80’s and us latchkey kids didn’t have many rules. The rules we had were about school, but everything else was open and free to explore. I took advantage of that.
I’m sure the reason I fight with myself over writing horror or thrillers is because of those days and nights alone. When my father was home I read thrillers. When he wasn’t, I watched horror. Horror made me feel safe. It scared me of course, but I knew it was safe. T
he thrillers were about the world ending in a war or some random shooter. But horror wasn’t like that.
When I write horror I consider it a dive into my deepest, darkest memories and how those memories scarred me.
It’s within the construct of a horror story that I feel safe. I’m allowed to explore those bad memories. Those bad events. I’m able to parse those things into a story and allow my mind to explore them in a safe space. It’s this same safe space that I felt growing up watching those movies.
It’s the darkness staring through our eyes. Our memories of tragedy, of abuse, and of learning to deal with it in our own way. My way of dealing with abuse was to shut down. It still is.
When I consider where I came from and what I’ve learned about myself and the fear of things in the night, regardless of what they are, I think of long nights alone in the dark. The flicker of a horror movie on the screen is my solace and when I’m depressed or upset it’s these movies that bring me joy.
A new story comes from these dark places and they bring me joy in the same way those movies do. A new story comes when I’m ready to deal with the past in any shape. It breaks through the barrier I keep around myself. Those stories endear themselves to me. They show me the dark isn’t that bad and that I can work through anything.
My own development as a writer is to put this process through it’s paces. I must feel the story. I must understand that it’s going to get rough for these characters and that through them I can work through whatever trauma I have. I did that with the story, ‘Carnival of Darkness’ in my collection. I dealt with a situation from my childhood I’m still working through.
I must hear the story and the characters in my head and it’s only with horror that this happens.
While writing thrillers it’s the story, but with horror it’s the characters and their feelings.
I come to a story with an idea, but getting to know my characters and their feelings about life, love, and what trauma they’ve dealt with is where I play my cards.
I will let you get back to your regularly scheduled program.
I will be at the same Bat Channel tomorrow.