Scary movies. I have sworn off them numerous times over the years only to get sucked into watching something that will give me nightmares for weeks. It all started with those flying monkeys (The Wizard of Oz) and seemed to have spiraled from there.
I find scary movies both frightful and intriguing – frightful for obvious reasons, yet intriguing because someone wrote it, the book or the screen play, it all started as an idea in the head of a writer who then wrote it down. What fascinates me so is that a tore up scary movie formed itself first in the mind of the writer – all the horror and terror, the blood and gore, the bare-knuckled fear was all birthed in someone’s imagination.
I remember being in the audience when Alien debuted. The special effects were nothing any of us had ever seen before, cutting edge for its time. When that guy started choking everybody though a piece of cornbread or something had gone down the wrong way, but when that alien came out of his stomach, you wouldn’t believe the screaming going on in the theater. Grown men drowning out the shrieks of women and children, I kid you not.
Now that’s powerful. Pulling people out of the security and safety they know they’re in and transporting them to the scariest block in the neighborhood, some lone cabin in the backwoods, a space ship a bazillion miles away from everyone and everything. It’s the greatest tease the brain will ever experience – the knowing that you’re sitting in a chair – safe and sound, watching or reading something, with the other part of your brain fully entrenched in having the crap scared out of you – now that’s crazy powerful.
The scariest movie I’ve ever seen in life was The Ring. I got caught up in the premise: watch the video, get the phone call, dead in seven days. The curious side of my brain just knew there was a way out of this and I wanted to see how the latest victim would beat the curse. I still don’t know how the movie ended. When that kid came out of that well I started screaming. I was screaming at the guy watching this play out on the TV to turn it off and get out of there. He didn’t hear me. He just sat there spellbound while that kid came out of that well and was moving, like some weird stop-action closer and closer, and then shocks of shocks….when that kid climbed through the TV set….I’m surprised the neighbors didn’t call the police, I was a screaming mess. It was like she’d climbed through my TV set and into my living room. That’s the last thing I remember.
I turned on every light in the house (why did I watch it at night, alone?), made sure all the doors and windows were locked (twice) and I spent the night on the sofa with a blanket over my head and a Bible on my chest. It was either that or get up and drive over to my kid sister’s.
That hot mess of a movie was first a writer’s creation. Somebody sat down and imagined it and then wrote it down. As traumatizing as that movie was to me, the thought that a writer wrote it is fantastic. Don’t you see? I was scared and traumatized and ready to throw-up and pee all at the same time – I was physically and emotionally and yes, psychologically effected and caught up and spent and I didn’t even last the whole movie!
Look, as a writer I don’t want to scare the bejeezus out of anyone, but I want to take the reader on an exhilarating, crazy wild rollercoaster ride. I want the reader to be giddy, shocked, angry, moved, excited, teased, floored, bowled over – and happily spent when they finish reading a book of mine. I want to pull the reader out of their present setting and take them on the journey of a story with me and my characters. I want to give the reader a break from life as they know it and I want them to eagerly join me on an imagined adventure. I want to have the same effect on the reader that reading books have always had on me – joy, bliss, satisfaction.
Me and the scary book writer both have this one thing in common – regardless of your emotional state after reading something we’ve written we want you to feel your money and time were both well spent.
(reprinted from guest blog – Long and Short Reviews YA, 10/26/15)