Keeping with the new trend of shorter, more informal but more frequent posts...
When it comes to horror, I find I'm not afraid so much of slavering monsters drooling mucus and ripping their poor, hapless victims limb from bloody limb, or demon-possessed serial killers mutilating and raping and hacking people to bits.
These can be great props - external manifestations of internal demons and pain, and in some cases, great fun. Hey, I did the monster killing-thing in Hiram Grange & The Chosen One, a lot of my favorite books have a fair amount of monster killing, and, let's be honest: the project I'm currently working on is FULL of monsters, both physical and supernatural. And, there's something satisfying in rooting for a plucky protagonist as they FINALLY grab that sawed-off shot gun or rip-snorting chainsaw and give the monsters a little taste of their own medicine.
But something changed when I became a parent. I became aware of more subtle, real-life, day-to-day things that scared the living daylights out of me, and concurrently, my reading tastes...and I think my writing, too, has changed with that.
For example, the other night, Zack woke up from a nightmare screaming. When Abby finally got him calmed down, asked him what the nightmare was about, he said tearfully - "All my friends are hitting me!" and even pulled up his shirt to show her.
A four year old boy - autistic, so he struggles with coherent speech, especially when upset - very clearly saying he dreamed that all his friend were hitting him, even pulling up his shirt to show where they were hitting him.
Maybe I'm a lightweight, but that freaked me out. Big time. What's going on inside his head to make him dream that? What's happening (probably nothing) at school to make him dream that?
That same morning, as Abby was showering and I was drowsing after another morning of writing, I heard Madi start whispering over her child monitor. I was half asleep, couldn't make out what she was saying, except that it was a consistent, fuzzy murmur that rose and fell in the cadence of active communication...but I just couldn't hear what she was saying.
And also, my half-asleep mind was thinking: who is she talking to?
Now, these stories - if I ever wrote them - would STILL need some sort of foe or antagonist that can be "beaten" or at least grappled with to appeal to a wide audience. And, let's be honest, at the end of the day, I want as many folks as possible to dig my stuff. But to me, the core of those stories, should I write them, touch very deeply on common fears that affect ANY parent or guardian, whether or they're "horror" fans or not.
And, much as I loved writing Hiram and want to visit him in the future, much as I love my current project, that's more the type of stories I want to write. Something that actually gives ME shivers down my spine, as I'm writing.
Because then, I'm not just making up a story.
I'm giving my own fears shape...and dealing with them, as writers do best.