writing our wounds

The other day, while writing the sequel to Eidolon Avenue, I found myself facing a familiar fork in the narrative road. That moment when, like it or not, I have to put on the page something I find abhorrent and confusing and wrong. Something painful. Something only the most shattered of souls could even think of doing. Something the story demands, that the story has been building towards, but which still makes my heart wince and my soul sob.

As I said over on Facebook:

…I’ve just ended up on a road I dread because I know what’s coming next and it screws with my head and makes my skin crawl to have to write it. The depravity and pain and wounding and heartbreak is something I simply do not – thankfully – understand or comprehend.

Now, after writing that, a reader who’s familiar with – and thankfully a fan of – my work sent me a PM with a simple question:
How do you write what you write when it’s obviously so difficult to do?
After some thought, this is what I sent back:
Writers, in many cases, as odd as it seems, write what they know, to some extent. A lot of creativity and imagination goes into it, of course. And if you’re writing in a different genre – romance or self-help or something – then, obviously, the arc from personal to page doesn’t bend too dramatically.
But those who write horror are digging into their wounds whether they realize it or not. Only when you touch the darkest, deepest, most vulnerable parts of yourself, your psyche, can you put the worst of the worst fears on the page. And when you write with your body and soul, you feel that worst of the worst. You feel those wounds. You write with blood and tears and dread and hope.
And that’s what readers respond to. There’s a tacit acknowledgement, more subconscious than not, of the courage it took to tell your story. As if the writer’s taken a metaphorical bullet in order to guide the reader, from the safety of the page, into the dark and then safely out again.

After some thought, I suspect the above is more accurate than I realized. And that’s why I strongly believe horror is a necessary genre. And the stories we tell – as dark and f’ed up and terrifying and “wrong” and twisted and boundary-pushing and unique and brave as they are – are as widely accepted and applauded as they are.

We’re the brave ones who forge the trail and cut back the brambles and, torch in hand, show you, the reader, the way into fears you didn’t even know you had. And then help you back to safe ground. Because we’ve been there. We’ve opened the way. We dug the earth with our bare hands to make the trail. It’s our home.

In writing our wounds, we, in some way, help the reader face and hopefully heal theirs.

Then again, this could be the second cup of coffee talking, so-

 #backtowork #writing
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An Anniversary painted darkest black

Anniversary. Apartment 1D. The fourth story in Eidolon Avenue: The First Feast.

After the grand scope of Lucky, the gut punch of Bullet and the nightmare of Click, I desperately needed a change of pace. And so out came Marta and Benji and Mr. Peabody. Out came levity and a bit of humor. Characters who share truly horrible experiences with a sense of aw shucks fun. The focus of the story more condensed than the others with the action taking place at a kitchen table during a meal, the narrative driven by dialogue.

Having cut my teeth on screenwriting, I’ve found it helps to shift from prose-driven stories to dialogue-driven stories once in a while. It snaps the senses of the reader, throws the rhythm a bit, and keeps them engaged and on their toes. Plus I suspect they enjoy it when a writer surprises them by landing a playful left hook.

But, as with everything on Eidolon, there’s a twist. And with Marta and Benji, considering it’s their 50th Wedding Anniversary and they’re celebrating it by finally getting their decades-long murder/suicide pact right (with Mr. Peabody’s help) I needed to take the carefree lightness and levity of the story and not only turn it on its head, but paint it darkest black.

I needed to take everything good about Marta’s love for Benji — and Benji’s love for her — and, by revisiting what’s been said, alter the context, revealing the reality to be something entirely different.

Then I needed to allow the building to exact its price. And, in Anniversary, the cost for what’s been done is chilling and haunting and, in the end, sad.

Again, after the grand scope of Lucky (1A), the gut punch of Bullet (1B) and the truly living nightmare of Click (1C), Anniversary, for me, hit the right blend of fun and frightening.

And it was a blast to write.

Eidolon-Peabody-crop