Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Freaking Myself Out

So on Molly's dialectic of chicken-sh*ttedness from yesterday, I have to admit that if I'm not the Queen of Chicken Sh*t, I'm at least the Crown Princess. Seriously, I'm the biggest scaredy cat of all time and writing scary books has not helped that at all.

I scare easily. Back in the day when the first Halloween movie was in the theaters (and yes, I know I'm dating myself here), I got so scared during the movie that I actually ripped the sleeve off my boyfriend's shirt. I had trouble going to the bathroom by myself after seeing the first Friday the 13th movie because I thought that Jason kid might pop out of the toilet tank. For that matter, at the age of three, I was terrified of sculpture because I thought they were called "Snatch-yous" rather than statues and that gremlins were going to pop out of the pedestals and drag me off somewhere.

How did I get through the day with so many things to scare me at so many corners? I taught myself not to think about it too hard. I practiced a mental version of stuffing my fingers in my ears and chanting "la la la."

But now . . . now I think about scary stuff all the time. It's my job to think about scary stuff to put in my books. I first noticed the impact it was having on me when my boyfriend came home from work while I was deep in thought working and my reaction to him walking in the door was to leap up off the couch screaming. Then there was the fall night when I walked into my bedroom and smelled smoke. Did I think that maybe the neighbors had lit their first fire of the season? Nope. I decided there was someone hiding in the bushes outside my bedroom window, smoking cigarettes and waiting for me to go to sleep so he could sneak in and slit my throat. I ended up standing in the doorway of my kid's room brandishing fireplace tools, ready to fend off the intruder.

One of my regular running routes takes me past a marsh that's being preserved as a bird habitat. I saw a pair of little girl's shoes and a pink play purse lying by the side of the path and with about ten seconds hesitation went crashing into the brush to search for the dead body that had clearly been dumped there. Ten minutes later when the kid's mother came back out of the nearby apartment complex to retrieve the toys, I was really embarrassed.

What really scares me is the idea that the tragic and terrifying lurk just beneath the surface of our everyday ordinary lives. Sure, the idea of an asteroid hitting the earth or a giant tsunami washing California out to sea holds some terror for me, but the stuff that makes my heart pound is the idea that real monsters might be lurking in the house next door to mine or right down the street.


Molly O'Keefe said...

Oh Iknow - it's like our job to imagine the worst case scenerio - the worst possible thing that could happen! And it's hard to turn off - it's not like I sit down and go - okay - think terrible terrible things and then when it's time to make dinner or go shopping - I can only think happy thoughts. Those terrible terrible things linger.

Something about running, too! There was a highly publicized missing child in toronto a few years ago and at that time I was running down this long spit of land surrounded by high bushes and past that - the lake. I kept thinking I was going to stumble across that poor girl. The number of times I saw a discarded piece of clothing and leapt into the bushes...too many to count.

You however are a tougher woman than I to actually get into that world!

Maureen McGowan said...

Oh, my fraidy-cat post is going to be so much like yours, Eileen.

It is amazing how we can freak ourselves out.

And you've made me think about a few books I've worked on that really started to seriously invade my moods, even when I wasn't writing.
I've worked on storylines and characters who made me question my life choices and sent me into a huge funk. Reading other people's books touching on the same topics doesn't do that. There I can detach and recognize it as fiction, but with my own work, sometimes it's not so easy.
This makes me think I've been smart to stay away from suspense as a genre, but I'm a never-say-never gal these days when it comes to picking genres.

Sinead M said...

I have a pretty high tolerance for the scary, but there are certain lines in the sand for me.
Ares I don't think I could go in my writing, like the murder of children. I couldn't try and get in the villain's head, and truly, don't think I could manage writing it down in any way that wouldn't cause me serious problems.
But the rest, no problem.

Sandy Britton said...

Eileen, as usual you cracked me up (especially the part about the guy smoking in your bushes and the fireplace tools), but I know exactly what you mean. These are the perils of having a very active imagination. At least you're making an income with yours!

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