Setting Out To Write My Horror Novel, by Clint Greagen
Let’s get to the point. I’m writing a horror novel titled Waxy Flexy. Old buildings, dense forests, the mentally incapacitated, tortured spirits driven by redemption… oh, and a couple of dead kids. If this isn’t your thing you might want to move on to a different author.
I like to be scared – it’s fun. In particular, I like scaring myself.
When I was a teen I used to read horror stories in my room, at night, with a small torch. There was a buzz about it; locking myself inside the story with the focused shaft of light, making the darkness around me more complete. It removed the walls from the room and opened me up to the horror inside the book. I could be in a haunted castle, a dungeon filled with the screaming of tortured souls or a serial killer’s basement. There was no door to safety. No mother and father to run to. And everything was lingering right there in the darkness – the monsters, the ghosts, the human parasites, the werewolves and ghouls; narrowed eyes, long thin fingers, curved sharp teeth, and always the clincher – the intention to do me harm. (Never look over your shoulder!)
I got very good at sitting alone and staying inside my fear. Feeling the torture and the exhilaration of it. When I was finished reading I’d turn off the torch and fumble my way to the light switch on the wall. That was the most terrifying part. I remember it most clearly while reading Salem’s Lot.
In my early twenties, I moved into an old doctor’s surgery with some university friends. There were ceiling roses, old plush carpet worn to a dull grey where it had suffered the most traffic, large mirrors in every room, and all the nightly noises that come with old houses. I loved it. We’d try to guess who had the room where the surgeries had occurred. Had someone died in every room? Did the noises belong to the ghosts of those who still thought they might walk out the front door? And the mirrors – there were many times I thought I saw something there in the corner of my eye.
I’d watch horror movies by myself in my room. Late at night when everyone else was asleep or out. The story coming out to me this time, flickering across the high roofs and bathing me in its light, all of it reflected in the mirror. It wasn’t hard to get scared at that house. And I gave myself no choice but to see each movie through to the end. Then I’d force myself to walk out into the hall, across the living room and into the kitchen before I could turn on a light. I’d have something to drink and eat and then watch the television in the living room to shake of the feeling of dread.
I’ll never bungee jump, or ride white-water rapids, but I’d call myself an adrenalin junkie when it comes to horror stories. It’s the feeling when the story is finished that’s the most rewarding. When muscles hum with fatigue, and the breathing returns to normal. It’s the quiet high that comes when you’ve won the fight. I know I’ll always search for it.
And that’s why I write horror stories. Late at night, my four boys to bed, I sit at the computer and lose myself in the small square of light. When I’m writing well the walls disappear around me, the darkness opens up and the horrible comes alive. The rules change and I allow myself to look over my shoulder when I’m writing. The story opens up and I keep searching through it, trying for that ultimate reward – to scare myself.