Blogs by Joel Arnold
Trying to Figure Out What Scares Me
3/21/2011 10:09:38 AM
Before I sat down to write my novel Northwoods Deep, I’d come to the realization that not much scared me anymore, at least in terms of horror fiction. Don’t get me wrong. I love the genre. Always have and always will. But while horror fiction could thrill and excite me, it rarely scared me. I hadn’t experienced that goose-bumps-on-the-arm feeling in a long, long time. Why? Had I grown jaded? Too cynical? Was I just not reading the right things?
So as I plotted my novel, I asked myself what scares me? It wasn’t vampires or werewolves or mutant jackrabbits. Sure, those can be vehicles for good scares when handled correctly, just as they can be vehicles for romance or comedy or angsty-teen novels. It wasn’t gore, even though I appreciate a well-written gore scene as much as the next fella.
What scared me?
I wracked my brain and eventually realized that my biggest fear was loss. Loss of family. Loss of my faculties. Loss of the control of my body, of determining my destiny. And what if I’d been responsible for the loss of someone I loved? How would I deal with it? Could I deal with it? That’s where the character of Jack came from; a man responsible for the loss of his mother in a drunk driving accident.
Jack’s sister Carol also suffers from loss; the loss of control amidst the chaos of an abusive ex-husband who refuses to leave her alone no matter what she does.
And Allen, their father, suffers from the loss of not only his wife at the hands of his son, but also suffers from the loss of his ability to cope with reality.
When this family – the Gunderson family – finds something hidden deep in the woods that hints at a new reality, although one merely hallucinatory – how much are they willing to sacrifice for it?
So…loss scares me. And while there is suspense and gore and even an evil entity in Northwoods Deep, these are not what make it a horror novel – at least not to me. These are not the things that really scare me. The thing that really scares me is that simple universal fear of loss, and of things never again being the same.
What scares you? If you want to write an effective horror novel, try to figure that out. Sure, you can use vampires and werewolves and mutant jackrabbits, but remember that they’re merely vehicles through which we can provide the scares – not the scare themselves.
And okay, I lied. Mutant jackrabbits really do scare the crap out of me.
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This Here Minnesota Horror Author was a Big Old Scaredy-Cat - Thursday, December 22, 2011
Jack the Blob Killer - Monday, December 19, 2011
Death Rhythm - Tuesday, September 20, 2011
More Writing What You Know - Monday, September 19, 2011
How I Interpret 'Write What You Know' - Wednesday, August 03, 2011
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120 Miles in a Canoe - Monday, June 27, 2011
On Stephen King - Thursday, June 23, 2011
Why Horror? - Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Zen & the Art of Swearing - Friday, June 10, 2011
If Coffee Shops were Run by Airlines - Thursday, May 12, 2011
Trying to Figure Out What Scares Me - Monday, March 21, 2011
My Confession - Tuesday, March 08, 2011
Going Indie with my novel Northwoods Deep - Friday, March 04, 2011
How I Envision Conflict When Writing - Thursday, March 03, 2011
Wall Drug - why it's one of my favorite places - Wednesday, February 02, 2011
Jonesing for a Road Trip - Wednesday, February 02, 2011
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How Do You Remember? - Thursday, January 20, 2011
When your parents are librarians... - Tuesday, January 18, 2011
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Searching for Truth - Characterization - Thursday, December 16, 2010
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Bukowski - Wednesday, December 08, 2010
Flies, Flies, Spam, and Flies - Friday, December 03, 2010
Naivete and the Young Writer - Thursday, December 02, 2010
For Writers looking for some Adventure - Wednesday, December 01, 2010
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