I Want to Scare Myself

My friend and I were walking and talking the other day, of things mostly inconsequential (world peace, geopolitics, and the price of tea in China) when suddenly the sun went down, abandoning us in the dark in the middle of nowhere with no way to get home except by walking through the chilly air and moonless night. As our feet became more and more sore, we discussed something more serious. Namely: how much we would like to write a horror story.

I’ve wanted to write a horror story for some time now. In fact, I had decided that the next book I write will be a horror tale. (Not the book that I’m kinda-sorta-every-other-Wednesday-if-I-feel-like-it working on. Or the book that I’ll write after that, the one I’ve researched for over a year for, and then got tired of. The one after those.)

The reason I want to write a horror story is because I think writer’s love to write what they love to read, and that as artists they fear boredom more than anything else on God’s Earth.

A low key ghost story is something that I can’t stay away from. Not because I love to feel a cold tingle run up my spine, or because I have bloodlust, but because a supernatural tale is unlike I’ve ever written or have been able to write.

I recognize that good horror is a work of literature like any other good book, but admittedly it uses different methods to work its effects than most, if not all, other fiction.

As a writer, I read a story and can see the workings of characterization, plot development, and the revelation of a theme or motif. However, I stand in dumb amazement like a yokel at the construction of atmosphere. I have no idea how it works, or how to do it.

Writing an atmospheric piece comes closer to simply artistic taste than other facets of writing. Yes, to be true every step of the writing process is a flexing of the muscles of art, there are nonetheless flexible rules for making characters, setting the tone, and pacing out the plot. But when you want to create atmosphere, the teacher must throw the student at a keyboard and say:

Try to scare me. If you can, you will. If you can’t, you won’t.”

Undeniably, I am not a structured writer. I’m largely self taught, prone to excessive mimicry, and shallow at best. But my attempts to be structured have laid me bare and exposed to the effects of atmosphere in a story. I am the person who stays up through most of the night staring wide eyed at pulpy pages I grip with damp sweating fingers.

This is why more than anything I want to write a horror story. I have no idea how to do it. I want to experiment with the nuts and bolts of making a reader’s emotions dance like a puppet on strings. I want to carefully craft a tale of foggy New England, the crash of the cold sea waves, and exploring the forest at night by candlelight.

I want to scare myself, if nothing else.

Wish me luck!

IDK how this will work out, but I at least want to try. When I get something going, I’ll share some snippets of my atmospheric writing with you guys. Thanks so much for reading! -BW

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