How do You Come up with that Stuff?

The first thing people ask when you mention that you write is, “So, what do you write?”

“Well, right now, mostly horror.”


I used to write non-genre general fiction, but no one wants to buy that, so I’m making inroads with horror.  Of course, when you say you write horror, people look at you like you walked up to them with a vacant stare and a chainsaw.

“So,” they then invariably ask, “how do you come up with that stuff?”

It’s actually pretty easy when you’re scared of so many things.  I think about stuff I’m afraid of, like someone hiding in the backseat of my car, or spiders, my house burning down, something happening to my kids, etc., put a character in that situation, and see where it goes.  My mind automatically writes the story when I see or experience something creepy.   Then I put it down on paper and hope it’s as scary there as what I see in my head.

I’m a horror junkie–I love horror movies and games–because I get a huge adrenaline surge.  But I like monster stories, rather than the “realistic horror,” because I like to be scared by things I know won’t really happen.  I know there are real monsters who do hideous things to others in this world, and I don’t want them in my head, but supernatural things are fun.  The major issue I have is that once I see something, my brain likes to replay it and write my own story around it, which really is hard on the nerves.  One night, after a few hours of Silent Hill with a friend, I was driving home and realized I hadn’t checked the backseat when I got in the car.  There could be a monster down there, so I grabbed my ice scraper and flailed ineffectually around the floor of the backseat, in order to flush out whatever might be lying down there.

That experience led to my current writing project, a ghost story with a very similar scene–although in her case, that thing is actually down there.  Writing these stories allows me to process fear and get rid of it.  As I’ve gained some distance from some of the emotionally disturbed and violent people I’ve known, I’ve begun to filter them through stories as well.  Some people have asked me if I couldn’t write sci-fi or fantasy instead, so I tried, but I have very little emotional involvement with it, so it’s hard to get much on the page.  I don’t really like reading it, either–same reason.  I can’t seem to make much emotional connection; it’s too far removed.  I did write one fantasy book that I like, but I don’t know that anyone else would, and besides, I don’t want to spend the rest of my life writing that.  I think I’ve only got one in me.  But scary stories–just watching the news gives me plenty of material. There’s nothing so scary as the real world.


6 responses to “How do You Come up with that Stuff?

  1. Nice. My current writing-obsession is horror, and I’ve started to see everything as a potential nightmare. But you make a good point. It’s not like I didn’t do that all the time, anyway. It’s just more useful and creative now.

  2. I will be in the bathroom and have that ‘realization’ of how vulnerable I am and how easy it would be for something to get me. And then I end up doing the “I’m not running, I’m just moving really fast” out of the bathroom to hide wherever Chris is at. I also hate trying to sleep in the dark.

    • I have that problem too! And once you have kids, you spend your whole life pretending that it totally doesn’t bother you. “Oh sweetheart, it’s just a spider, it doesn’t want to hurt us!” (While my mind is saying, “It wants to crawl up my nose and lay eggs in my brain, I just know it.”)

  3. To be fair, after we played Silent Hill Downpour the other day, I also pondered how creepy those albino bat creatures and the lounging zombies were. Although, I still love the ambiance with the rain that we had in the car later!

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