True to the name of our blog, as authors, we love to write books that spike a reader's pulse to race. But we also love to read them.
Humans are one of the few creatures on this planet that actually gravitate toward what they fear -- going against the grain of instinct. You wouldn't see a mouse climbing all over a sleeping cat (except maybe in a Tom & Jerry cartoon) just for the adrenaline rush. Yet humans will cluster around a TV set to watch others of our kind get slashed in a Saw or Halloween marathon; we'll tunnel under the covers with a flashlight to gobble up the last gory and violent chapters of a Stephen King novel.
Why? Why do we like books and movies that dance along the fringe of our nightmares? Maybe because stories -- whether we're telling them, reading them, or watching them --- give us a safe outlet to look our worst fears in the face. They take us to that place of terror, tease us and taunt us, yet all the while we know that if things get too scary, we can walk away or shut the pages. Simple as that. We have control.
We want to be brave and face what scares us most, but at a safe distance.
In every book I've ever written, I've incorporated at least one of my phobias -- whether an emotional fear or a physical fear. And I have plenty to choose from, let me assure you. ;)
In my YA fantasy, Splintered, spiders and creepy dolls each have their moments in the spotlight, and as I was writing those scenes, I felt empowered. That's an impressive feat, considering how deeply ingrained these fears are, dating all the way back to my childhood when I was most impressionable.
According to AnxietyZone.com, we are born with only two fears: falling, and the fear of loud noises. Every other fear is learned, as observed by psychologists in studies called fear conditioning.
My doll phobia started one night at the age of seven, while watching a Twilight Zone episode about a murderous talking doll, a pre-cursor to Chuckie. Here's a two-minute summary:
The storyline deeply disturbed me, mainly because I collected dolls. I had them on every shelf in my room. After the show, when I went in to get ready for bed, one of my favorite dolls, a Spanish beauty in a lace and satin dress, faced me from my dresser. I'd never before noticed how her eyes seemed to follow my every move. As I put on my pajamas, I couldn't stop staring at her, aware for the first time how creepy she was. Maybe it was a result of staring too long without blinking, but the edge of her mouth appeared to wriggle, forming a sneer. I screamed at the top of my lungs, tossed her outside my door, and decided I would never like dolls again. I sold the entire collection in a garage sale shortly after, and to this day, dolls still have the uncanny ability to chill me to the bone.
With spiders, I was even younger, maybe five. But I still remember the distinct moment the seed of terror blossomed to a full-fledged thorn in my side. My older brother and I were playing in the backyard. He'd always fancied himself an insect warrior, so when a huge wolf spider scuttled out from the woodpile, he didn't hesitate to smack it with a skinny log. Problem was, this spider had babies all over its back, and the instant mommy got squashed, they scrambled all across the grass and our feet like the red sea closing in.
How many babies, you ask? This might give you an idea:
Wolf spiders are famous for piggy backing dozens upon dozens of babies on their back. YES. They're good mommies. But holy gruesome baggage, Batman! That spider's back isn't the only one that's tingling.
Now that I've used these two fears in a book, does that mean I'm over them? NO. I still get shivers watching those videos above. But, it did give me a moment of control, and a constructive outlet for those irrational emotions.
So what are your fears? Do you find yourself drawn to books or movies that gravitate around those things? Maybe you have more in common with those film makers and writers than you ever imagined. Maybe they have walked inside those same nightmares and wrote a book or film to try face their own fears head on -- from a distance.