Tag Archives: fear

Intimidated Part 2

Continuation from here and here.

I’ve struggled for years with the idea of being good enough. That stretched into this blog, especially when I was updating it more frequently. Inevitably, I found people who were doing so much better than I was and they were putting in less effort.

I never really found out what pulled people into those blogs. What was I doing differently? What wasn’t I doing?

And it’s a maddening process in its own. I know I’ve spoken at length in many different posts about not comparing yourself to others and how the ladder you have to climb could vary from someone else’s. Shorter, longer, thinner, wider. What they do with their style and their words is much different from what you can do with yours.

With a fresh fear of failure, I’ve spent years being passed over any time I’ve tried to put myself out there. Things I thought I was a shoe in for, I’ve been rejected for other, more talented people.

But in spite of how much I’ve seen rejection, both in my searches for a job, and for my writing, I have a strong confidence in my stories. Whether it’s well founded or not is to be seen. Though I believe I’ve got decent skills, I’m shown time and time again that not many people probably feel the same.

Still, it doesn’t stop me from feeling a surge of need whenever I see others getting published, whether its on their own or through publishing companies.

I feel like I can do it, too, and have decent success. But if I can’t get many people to read a blog, then what good am I going to have with a book? Hell, what kind of luck would I even have on a bigger platform like Wattpad, for that matter?

This is just me beating a dead horse. Expressing fears I’ve had and voices before. That I want to keep trying, but I’m afraid of being hit on the wrist and told no. Of being shown that my writing isn’t actually as good as I think it is, but rather poor.

Someone I “work” with (I volunteer at the organization she works at), has been working on a novel that’s been such a pleasure for her to write. Her excitement is just absolutely infectious, and even when she’s just starting to get it cleaned up, she’s already thinking about publishing. She doesn’t care what it yields, she just wants it, and I wish that vigor followed me.

I guess I have to regard all processes with the same attitude: Go for it, no matter what the outcome is. Just enjoy it.

But I can’t deny the need to be recognized. To feel like I’ve reached people and they enjoy what I’ve written just as much. Part of me still feels like I’m doomed to be in the background and that my work isn’t worth the attention.

I’ve also had the inevitable, “Well, everyone loved Twilight and 50 Shades, why shouldn’t I be given some time?”

To their credit, both of those stories are easy to read and have a broad, easy message to understand. They’re easy to devour, to get into, if you can ignore the repetition and spelling mistakes and stiffness of the writing.

As competitive as fuck as I am, it’s hard for me to say it’s simply for enjoyment, but I am trying. I know better than to have expectations, but I can’t help that hopefulness that’s burned inside of me since day one. To be seen, recognized, and celebrated.

Whatever this burst of confidence brings, though, at least I’ll have tried. Right?

The Novice Wordsmith

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Guest Post: The Horror Show

October’s coming up, and as such the airwaves are full of Halloween themed ideas and the inevitable horror movie. And of course, with that sort of inspiration, some of us decide to try their hand at horror novels.

We all know what that means, really; naming our fears and writing about them in such a way that someone else can experience what someone would go through if they were afraid of such things.

But hang on a tick… most of our experience with horror is through movies, and novels don’t often relate well to this. A novel is something that has a different pacing, and is missing the visual element.

It is all too easy to make a horror novel about the same cliched tropes that we’ve seen before, in said movies, and then it’s less scary. It becomes expected. In theme. And it will lack the authenticity that a horror story needs to scare the reader.

I used to work in a haunted house; they no longer scare me. I’ve lost my suspenders of disbelief, so that I know that they’re just actors. I can be startled, but not scared. Not like when I was a child and the unknown darkness held menacing things.

Some horror authors use the terror that they felt in order to build up a story. But fear itself is often wordless; panic, fright, and the need to Get Away are things that defy easy description.

Impending Doom is a little easier to write; so is Pain, and Dread. Fear is an emotion, like anger; it just lends itself a little less easy to the mind.

Try this exercise. And it’s a tough one… write about a superstition, WITHOUT using the words ‘fear’, ‘afraid’, ‘terrified’, ‘avoid(ance)’, ‘scared’, and ‘phobia.’ Remember, a good author does a ‘show, don’t tell’, and using any of those words is telling.

Here’s my take:
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He couldn’t turn his back on the water, even though the sand sculpture demanded his focus. He could hear the sinister sound of the surf, rustling behind him like a beast in the bushes. The sculpture site he had been given was far too close to the sea for his liking, and he gritted his teeth as he had to lean down to add some detailing to the mermaid that he was creating out of damp sand.

Let others rely on doing runs to and from the surf to get more water for their works. He had a portable sand block press of his own design, and a wheeled dolly with plenty of purified water jugs on it, and an hour and a half to craft a winning entry. Plenty of time before the tide came in and erased it all.

The wind ruffled his hair; the sky was overcast, and it was a lousy day to be on the beach, but the event planners had set this up months in advance, and they couldn’t control the weather.

He tried not to think about the sign that he’d seen on the way to the beach: ‘Tsunami Warning.’ It had been there since the sixties; there had never been a tsunami off the Oregon coast in a hundred years.

But there always was a first time for everything. He’d seen the pictures of Indonesia and Japan; huge morasses of water, consuming everything in its wake. Cars and buses floating along in the water like some giant bathtub toys, houses collapsing under the unexpected deluge of water coming down the street.

He had been given one of the sites closest to the waterline. He hadn’t been given permission to change with someone else. The safety of the boardwalk was two hundred yards away, possibly closer to three.

He wanted to just quit the contest, because those clouds overhead and the sky had gotten darker. Wasn’t the first sign of a tsunami heavy clouds? He couldn’t remember.

Just the thought of being swept out to sea made him want to look over his shoulder instead of paying attention to the work in front of him.

Was the sea a little closer?

It was. It surely was.
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Balance the internal with the external. Fear is internal. Stimulus for fear is external. It’s something you see – or can’t see. It’s something heard which doesn’t match normalcy. It’s evidence of something Not Right. Or simply feelings of wrongness sometimes.

Think about something that makes you scared for a moment. You can feel your skin crawl, the tension, the want to hide somewhere where it’s safe, or at least lighted. Then try and put the character who is being scared in your own shoes. Can you make them feel that fear, in their own voice, in their own head, and in their own mind?

I think you can.

It’s uncertainty of their next moments. It’s worrying about what MIGHT happen before it does, and then what DOES happen is often unexpected anyway.

And it’s worse than they imagined.

Another element of horror is the fact that it’s drawn out. The inevitable chase scene. The character becomes the prey in a hunt. Trying to escape. Because as you well know, anyone who fights the beastie? Usually dies. Horribly.

In horror, the big bad nasty almost always has the upper hand. They make the protagonist feel mortal. Vulnerable. Weak. Because if they weren’t afraid of it, if they could outfight it, outrun it, or outthink it right off the bat? It’s not scary enough. Their confidence and skill will carry them through.

Of course, there’s always the reversal — the misplaced bravado route, where they think they’ve got it covered – and then they don’t.

Now that is the source of even bigger fear. Maybe they escaped with their life after being foolish enough to brace the proverbial tiger in its lair. And they are scarred by the near-death experience. (Possibly literally.)

That’s a key: any fear a character has is not something they can easily shrug off. Any horror that a character faces has to be something that they are already afraid of to begin with, or something that can apply that (un)healthy fear of that after that first encounter.

It doesn’t have to be blood and guts, or supernatural things thrashing people around, or demonic possession, or aliens, or zombies or vampires… I was rather surprised to see how many people are afraid of clowns.

But that doesn’t help you, does it?

What should be your horror vehicle? What should you make people afraid of?

Anything. You. Want.

A skilled enough writer can make anything menacing. Items can be cursed. Food can be poisoned – or worse. A normal person could turn out to have a hidden past. Or change right in front of their eyes. Sometimes the scariest things of all are things we take for granted to be harmless — until they aren’t.

The thing you want to keep in mind when writing horror is that the object of horror has to regularly keep pushing at the characters. It must continue to vex them, whether it starts eating them one by one or keeps them from leaving the proverbial island (or both), it’s got to be something that they can’t get around or away from that easily.

Just like things we’ve been afraid for for years.

You can be afraid of anything, really — heck, just check out the List of Phobias on Wikipedia, or phobialist.com. Pick something you’ve never heard of before as a challenge, and start from there… and don’t be afraid to write about it.

You Matter – National Suicide Prevention Day

This strays from what the blog is centered on, but this day has a big enough importance to me that it deserves the attention I’m going to give it.

I can start off by saying something about Robin Williams, but I know this disease is gripping more people around the community, the country, and the world, than simply to just give one example. He is the biggest example at the moment, for those who haven’t seen this up close, but I am willing to bet, with how many people follow my blog, and with how prevalent depression is, that there isn’t at least someone who’s lost a friend, or a family member, or a classmate, to suicide.

And the worst of all is that I’m sure one or two of you may have thought about it yourself. I used to.

I lost someone very dear to me to suicide. It was probably the most difficult thing I’d ever gone through, and I still remember sitting up at night, crying, saying that I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy. Because it’s not fair. It hurts, bad.

My biggest plea is that you matter. You mean something to any person in your family, in your group of friends. There is so much more to you than a noose waiting in the closet, or the balcony outside of the hotel room at the seventh floor.

Backing up just a second, for those who haven’t gone through this, it may not have as much of a meaning. It may just be another day, another well-meaning organization is trying to boost awareness, and that’s that, let me elaborate on that:

To Write Love on Her Arms heads this day. They started back in 2006, I believe, where people would simply write love on their arms. I remember hearing about them through high school, and that’s the target, typically, for them. Teenage kids who are going through bullying, who are going through a very rough time, but they exempt no one. Their biggest effort is to get people to understand that it is a disease, and that it can turn someone into something that they aren’t. That, ultimately, suicide is something that they convince themselves that is the only way out.

IT IS NOT THE ONLY WAY OUT.

It isn’t. There is so much more you can do. I know it’s hard to get out of bed, I’ve seen it. I know it’s hard to try and smile, to try and do anything else but cry, but don’t force yourself if that’s all you can do. It’s okay to feel so much, but you have friends, online or in person, that will help you. They can hold onto you in whatever way possible, they will strive to make you better.

The death of Robin Williams opened the eyes of a lot of people. It showed that some people feel like they are beyond saving. It showed that it can be very difficult for any person, no matter how big they smile or how much they make you laugh. It showed that, those who bring the greatest joy, often feel the deepest pain.

It showed that the disease is real, and it helped lift some of the stigma of mental illness in our country, and the world, which is staggering.

Hug someone today. Someone who is hurting, if you’re not. Realize that you matter, or tell them that they do. Don’t worry. Breathe, take it a step at a time. It’s okay to feel too much. You are not alone. You’re here, and there are so many people who don’t want you to go, including me, no matter how little I know you.

Spread the word. Spread the love. Remember that you have love, from friends and family.

Please don’t hesitate either, if you’re suffering from depression, to talk to me. Send me a message and I can be here for you if you need someone to be. If you’re afraid to talk to anyone else. I understand. And I love you.

Thank you.

-The Novice Wordsmith