Getting older as a writer is about letting go. I always thought I'd be writing about the monsters in the basement, but that's not what I'm choosing to write. Nope. I've gotten a little retrospective in the past year or two. Being hit by a semi gives you a whole new perspective on life. I think I know how Stephen King felt when he got hit by that van now!
I haven't gone all sappy and sentimental. There will be no kittens wrapped up in little pink bows basking in the sun under a rainbow with a unicorn nearby, but that's okay because I feel my writing is more authentic. I'm not writing what I think the dark fiction genre should be, but what I feel dark fiction is for me. It's made my stories original, realistic, and cathartic.
Zombies and vampires are still great stories for me to read, but I've discovered if I delve into my life, there are a few of my own ghosts to discover. I'm not going to lie to you and say I wouldn't change any of the bad experiences in my life because of all the wisdom I've gained. Some of them were painful and/or scary. Who really wants to experience pain or fear? Nobody does. Yes, I can say I took something positive and valuable away from a bad experience, but that's just my way of coping with bad situations and making the best of it. Many people do this. What I will tell you is that reflecting on events that shaped me has opened me up to new story ideas.
For example, I finished reading Be Afraid!: Tales of Horror selected by Edo Van Belkom. It's a collection of children's horror. In the introduction, Mr. Belkom writes:
What scares you? What is it that causes you to be afraid? Is it vampires? Werewolves? Evil demons? Sure, those things can be scary, but no one has ever really seen a vampire walking down Main Street ... horror is not about monsters - it's about people's personal fears and emotions.
So true, Mr. Belkom! I could not have written it better myself. This introduction led me to reflect on how the stories affected me personally. What memories were dredged up while I traveled, safely tucked in my bed with my trusty cat at my feet and my husband snoring beside me?
Well, a few reared their slimy heads. One of them involved walking through a cemetery with my friends when I was about four - a common occurrence many adults can remember. The cemetery sprawled just around the corner of my block - literally. Kids used it as a shortcut home. I remember distinctly how the older children tried to spook me with ghost stories after they convinced me to walk with them, but the ghost stories didn't terrify me one bit. What did terrify me was the wino masturbating in the back seat of a junky old car who wasn't too pleased to be disturbed by a group of annoying kids. That was scary! I remember him sitting up and swearing at us in a slurry tongue, positive he would get out of the back seat and chase us down with a fury I'd never seen. I didn't know what he would to me when he caught me, but I sure didn't want to stick around and find out! There's a story here and I plan to write it very soon. It's not another werewolf adjusting to a new life or another vampire searching for a soul, but it'll work for me.
If I search harder, I'm sure I'll find even more. What are your stories?
As always, happy writing and happy reading to all!