So, yesterday evening at around 4.45 or so, I was brushing my teeth.
Don’t ask why, all right? I have a weird life.
As usually happens when performing this tiny task of personal hygiene, my mind was wandering as I scrubbed. I was thinking, of course, about my latest WiP and where the story was going, and – specifically – about the last scene I’d written. I’m wandering into a new area with this latest work, you see: I’m tiptoeing, somewhat reluctantly, into the realm of scary stuff.
And I don’t really like scary stuff.
I’d left my story at an interesting point (I try to do this every day when writing a first draft, so that I start off every morning with a bit of a pep in my step – useful tip, writer fans!) However, this particular interesting point was more interesting than most: it involved a girl, in a room, by herself, in the dark, who doesn’t manage to look closely enough to see something which is lurking in the corner like an oil slick on water… waiting.
I hadn’t actually intended to end up there. This story, so far, has really been surprising me in how it’s coming together and telling itself. Of course I realised, when I started this project, that it’d have to be a little scary, but it’s taking me further into the darkness than I thought it would. In a lot of ways it’s brilliant; in others, it’s giving me brain-melt. One thing it means is that I have to keep turning around in my office chair because the open door to the room I work in is behind me, and I keep convincing myself that there’s someone standing in it… even though there’s nobody else in the house.
But anyway. Back to the teeth, and the cleaning thereof.
Toothbrush in hand, I was engrossed in my thoughts. I was thinking about scary things, lurking things, turning around and seeing unexpected things standing in doorways, haunted things and tormented things and things with lots of tendrils.
And then I heard the front door to my house bang closed.
As you might imagine, I fair near swallowed my toothbrush.
After flailing, foamy-mouthed, for a few seconds, searching the bathroom for a weapon (it’s surprising how little there is in a bathroom, actually, which you can use in an offensive manner in an emergency), I almost wept with relief when my husband yelled up the stairs: ‘Hello?’
He’d come home early from the office in order to work from home. That’s all it was. Not a marauding murderer or a poltergeist or a possessed toilet brush: just my beloved.
But for a minute, it was as if my thoughts had become reality.
If this had happened when I wasn’t lost in thought, thinking about scary things, I’m sure I would’ve reacted entirely differently – like, with smiles and cheers and a mini ticker-tape parade. I don’t generally welcome my husband home every evening with a wide-eyed, white-mouthed shriekfest at the top of the stairs. But, because my mind was completely absorbed in the weird, I found it hard to adjust quickly from one mode of thinking to another. Funnily enough, for a person who doesn’t like scary things, I find it easy to let myself get lost in them – which is probably why I don’t indulge in them too often – and, when I’m caught in a spiral of panic I go straight down the plughole of irrationality.
So. Hopefully, I can channel my deep sensitivity to scary things into what I’m writing without driving myself mad in the process, or letting things veer into farce. It’s good to write about the stuff that affects you emotionally, as a writer, and I think I can bring a lot of depth to the scarier details of the story I’m currently telling.
I’ll just have to remember to take regular ‘checking the house for monsters’ breaks – and, of course, start brushing my teeth first thing in the morning.
Are there any things you don’t like to write about because they impact you too much, on an emotional or mental level? Do you think it’s a good thing to write about the stuff that frightens you? And – most importantly – do you have any effective demon-slaying tips? Do share!