Tag Archives: frightening things

The Toothbrush of Terror

So, yesterday evening at around 4.45 or so, I was brushing my teeth.

Image: scienceblogs.com

Image: scienceblogs.com

Don’t ask why, all right? I have a weird life.

Anyway.

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.

WAAAAARGH!! Image: oddities123.com

WAAAAARGH!!
Image: oddities123.com

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.

Wail... Image: usatoday.com

Wail…
Image: usatoday.com

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.

Image: eofdreams.com

Image: eofdreams.com

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!

 

Occupational Hazards

As a writer (for, even though I have not yet been paid to do it, that is what I consider myself to be), I spend a lot of time alone. I focus intently on a screen for hours on end, and I am – most of the time – lost inside my own head. A lot of the people in my life do not actually exist.

This, while wonderful, can lead to a few problems.

Actually, if you think about it, there are loads of drawbacks to having an active imagination. One of these drawbacks is that you see things everywhere. By ‘things’, of course, I don’t mean things like tables and chairs and spoons, and so on, or any of the detritus one might expect to see in any normal house; I mean things like the flicker of shadow in the corner of your eye which could be a) next door’s cat, b) an errant eyelash, c) a serial killer hiding behind the ironing board, d) a vengeful ghost or e) your own addled brain trying to drive you crazy. Perhaps all of the above. When this happens on a daily (or, perhaps, regular) basis, it is enough to fray one’s nerves, just a little.

Telling myself that bad stuff doesn’t happen to people in their houses doesn’t help much, either. Proof to the contrary abounds.

Image: movieramblings.com

Image: movieramblings.com

I tend to be a jumpy sort at the best of times. I’m a terrible person to watch any sort of frightening film with, even one which is only mildly scary, because not only do I spook easily but I also tend to scream and/or weep at the most inappropriate places. Scenes in a movie which would make a normal person laugh with derision will have me under the sofa, gibbering in terror. When one combines this with my, frankly, overactive imagination, then things can get a little hairy. It also doesn’t help that I’m on my own a lot; when I’m with other people, I can control my irrational fears out of a sense of propriety. When alone, my terrors have full rein.

I’ve been convinced, so many times, that I’ve seen the reflection of someone sneaking up on me in my computer screen. Imagine my embarrassment, then, when I whirl around in a karate stance ready to thump my ‘assailant’, only to find nothing there. Nearly every time I pass our kitchen window I tell myself there’s someone in the garden, but it’s just the shadow cast by the shed; whatever way it falls, it lands on my eye like a marauder, waiting to pounce. Most times when I pass the spare room, I am convinced there’s someone sitting in the chair – but there never is, of course, because it’s impossible. Every creak is someone breaking in; whenever the phone rings, I hit the ceiling.

It’s ridiculous. Being aware of it makes it seem even more ridiculous, if that makes sense.

Having said all this, I don’t mean to paint a picture of myself as some sort of Victorian-era lady, living on her nerves, clutching her scented handkerchief to her powdered nose, and spending every day in a paroxysm of horror. When I’m totally absorbed in what I’m doing, and when a story has me gripped tight in its claws, I tend not to let anything distract me – not even reflections which could be stranglers creeping up on my unassuming back, their fingernails dripping with blood, or strange dark shapes in the corners of my vision which could be an intruder lying in wait (but which are, most likely, a bag full of old clothes which I haven’t got around to recycling yet, or something similar). Perhaps, sometimes, when I’m tired or my focus is not quite right or something isn’t working in the story, I allow myself to get dragged out of my fictional world, just a little; my imagination is still on overdrive, though, and so I see and hear and smell things that aren’t real, for a short while.

At least, that’s what I tell myself.

Image: spectrumculture.com

Image: spectrumculture.com

All this is another reason why it’s important for us solitary workers to get out and see the world a little every day. If I’m going to be talking to myself and muttering at shadows, I might as well do it outdoors and get some fresh air at the same time.

Happy Thursday. I hope your day is slightly less neurotic, and equally as productive, as mine!