Let’s Talk (or Write) About Scary Stories
Updated: Nov 1, 2019
Hi, genuine writers! This is Innovative Editing’s Jeannette DiLouie welcoming you to episode #39 of The Genuine Writer Podcast. We keep things short, sweet and to the point here so that you can learn what you need to learn and get back to writing already.
Today’s episode – which discusses scary stories – is sponsored by The Politician’s Pawn. Why is it sponsored by The Politician’s Pawn? How about because it’s Halloween week. And politics are crazy scary these days. Not to mention rather annoying.
What’s not annoying is reading an intense thriller full of mistaken identity, men in masks, kidnappings gone wrong, and fighting for one’s life against powers that you can’t control. You can only die from them. Or defeat them.
Check out The Politician’s Pawn on Kobo and Barnes & Noble’s websites to read it in e-form, or Amazon.com to download your Kindle copy or order an actual physical book if you’re old-school like me.
Or old-school like Stephen King, I guess, who reportedly lives in a sweeping manor of a house that was built in 1870. (I mean, to me, it’s not historically old-school unless it was built in 1776 or earlier. And I’m quite sure there are more than a few Europeans out there who would get a good laugh at even that.) I bring this up because King is now opening up his house as a writer’s retreat, and I’m sure he’s charging a pretty penny just as I’m sure people are more than willing to pay a pretty penny to get inside those doors.
Especially horror writers. Naturally.
People like to describe the house as all sinister looking, and I guess that the wrought-iron gate with bats and spiders is somewhat creepy. But honestly, I wouldn’t think of it as particularly scary otherwise. If a romance writer lived there, no doubt it would be seen as romantic – the perfect place to write about two lovebirds: a Hallmark movie in the making.
No offense to Stephen King, of course. Or his fans. I’m sure they want to murder me right about now.
I’m just saying that writing the perfect scary story can be done without spending a fortune to write it there. You can find appropriate ambience elsewhere. I promise. I know that one of the creepiest places I’ve ever been was an old abandoned insane asylum somewhere in central New Jersey. It was all boarded up, with a drivable path through the tree-shrouded campus, which was pretty expansive. I think that, sadly, they tore all the buildings down since then.
But let me tell you… It sent more than a few thrills down my spine at the time. Especially when I got out of my friend’s car to actually walk up one of the unkept paths to one of the facilities’ front doors. Probably not the safest thing to do, I’m sure, considering how it was a known haunt of homeless people and delinquents. But hey, it was the middle of the day. And I didn’t actually go inside. Or say anything stupid like, “I’ll be right back.”
Even though I’ve never written an actual horror story in my life, I’ve got to say, it definitely made me want to try it out. And there was a set of benches next to an overgrown gazebo that would have been just perfect for sitting down on to draw further inspiration.
Even if you don’t have an abandoned insane asylum nearby or some other creepy site you can work with though, you probably have a creepy memory to fall back on to give you the right level of inspiration. Everyone has experienced something that got their blood running with that kind of tears-in-their-eyes, fight-or-flight adrenaline. For me, it was the time I was driving with that same friend – maybe it’s her fault somehow – down a perfectly pleasant neighborhood road on a perfectly pleasant day.
There was this one house that had an enormous front yard. Just really, really long. I think it must have been an acre easy. There was absolutely nothing on that yard, as I remember. Nothing but some bushy trees hedging it in on either side. But other than that, there was really no landscaping done whatsoever, which was kinda odd. There was only it. The creature.
I’m not making any of this up, for the record. This really happened. Danae and I both noticed it right away, so much so that she backed up the car so we could do a doubletake. It was too weird and out of place to be true. Yet there it stood nonetheless.
It was the ugliest little statue made of I-don’t-know-how-many twisted pieces of wood.
Perhaps all of a foot high, its eyes were slits and its face was twisted into a grimace. Or maybe it was a sneer. It looked sinister regardless. Sinister and entirely out of place. It was like nobody had put that creature there. Why would they when there was no décor it could have matched since there was nothing else on that huge lawn regardless? Like nothing. And, for the record, it wasn’t anywhere close to Halloween either. I think it was mid-August – way before anyone should have been putting up scary stuff.
I swear that thing chose that spot for some reason all on its own.
When Danae and I drove off, we both could feel its eyes on us and sense some lingering presence inside the car. I even turned around to check in the backseat more than once, convinced it was lurking back there, waiting to pounce. I can’t tell you how pervasive that presence was. It was freaky.
But the creep-fest didn’t end there. Because, after we went to Staples and bought what we were there to buy (which was the whole point of the trip that day), we went driving back through the neighborhood to see the creature one more time. Don’t ask me why. I’m not going to be melodramatic and say we were drawn to it, but something did prompt us to see it one more time regardless.
Except that it wasn’t there. By the time we arrived at that expansive property with the enormous front lawn maybe an hour later, the creature was gone. There was no trace of it either. No impression on the lawn where it had stood. No nothing. Like we’d both hallucinated it up before.
That was 10 years ago, and my eyes are still tearing up at just the thought. And if I ever do write a horror story, I swear that critter’s going to be in it. Because he was creepy as anything.
But let’s say you’ve led a sheltered life. Let’s say you’ve never had that level of in-your-face (or backseat) creepiness to draw off of. In that case, I’ve got one more suggestion. Do an online search for “terrifying.” Then switch over to pictures.
The results you’ll get should be more than enough to make you afraid to go to sleep. You’ll be staying up all night to work on your scary story just so you don’t have to close your eyes. Trust me on this one. I did the search and let myself peek for half a second.
It’ll do the trick.
Alrighty. That’s it for this week. Thanks as always for tuning into The Genuine Writer Podcast. Happy Halloween! Stay safe out there.