Today’s guest post is by the author of Dreams of Darkness and Realms of Shadow, Barry James. He’s going to tell us about how he writes a horror scene. Be sure to comment below and tell us what scares you or what you think makes a good horror scene.
Barry’s book, Dreams of Darkness will be 99¢on
Amazon from April 14-17.
By Barry James
As she opened the door, a cold blast of air washed over her, sending goose-bumps up and down her body. Elizabeth stepped back momentarily and stared into the dark closet, part of her wanting to turn and run back upstairs. “There’s nothing in the dark that isn’t there in the light,” she whispered to herself. She stepped into the frigid closet, feeling ahead of her for the back wall and the metal panel of the circuit breaker.
The coats and jackets hanging on either side brushed lightly against her shoulders. There was an odor of leather and mothballs, and something else—something rotten? After what seemed an eternity, she recognized the smooth, hard surface of the circuit breaker panel. As she groped for the latch, she was puzzled how much larger the panel seemed in the dark. Running her hand up, she thought the texture felt somehow different too. A sense of dread crept upon her as she slowly perceived that she was touching something other than the panel of the circuit breaker. As her hand reached a portion of the smooth “wall” that seemed to bow outward, Elizabeth tilted her head up to peer into the darkness. To her horror, two pale blue slits suddenly materialized above her. Gradually they widened, and she realized something very tall was staring down at her.
Dreams of Darkness (2012)
I’ve been asked on more than one occasion how I know what will be scary when I write. How do I figure out what will make readers squirm inside with dread and turn the next page? How do I write horror? My answer might at first seem simplistic: my own fears are the seeds for the dark images in my stories.
Yet as simple as this answer is at first glance, applying it to my writing is far more complex. You see, the fears I consider are never everyday worries. They have nothing to do with being afraid that I left a burner on and the house might burn down before I get home. They aren’t concerns that I might embarrass myself giving a presentation at work and lose the respect of my colleagues; they are never mundane. The seeds of my horror are gathered from the visceral fears of my youth. They sprout the nightmares and terrors that were raw and very real to me as a young boy, despite being told by adults that such fears were unfounded.
When I reflect on a fear, I am searching my psyche for primal sensations of dread that have weighed down my soul at times and have woken me up in the dead of night with a heart-pounding terror. They are palpable things to me, terrible presences that make me hurry across an empty room when no one is around or to reach desperately in the darkness for the light switch because I know, without question, that if I don’t reach it first, I never will. The fears that I force myself to recall are the kind that make me second-guess every noise in the house—even in the daytime—and deny all sense of reason at night. Once I have located those particular terrors buried in the recesses of my soul, I reach for them reluctantly, forcing myself to embrace them even though I shudder inside. I don’t attempt to explain them, justify them, or rationalize them. Instead, I let them roll through me with all their terrible nuances and irrationalities, incorporating those aspects into my stories.
When I write horror, the fear I cultivate is very real to me. For a time it becomes hard to uproot again and sometimes leads me to believe that the adults who told me I had nothing to worry about were very wrong. But once I feel my fear in this way, I can present it to the reader so that they too will feel it.
This is how I write horror. I take the seeds of my fears and nurture something dark and twisted that the reader can reach out and pluck from my imaginings. And when they can hold that same fear, then I know I have written something truly horrific.
Dreams of Darkness
By Barry James
Jordan Hanson was having a bad day. His girlfriend was acting distant, his cat had run off, his car was leaking oil, there was something screwy with the electrical system in his new house, and to top it all off he got caught in a storm. By the end of the day, though, Jordan would have given anything to get his old life back. Or any life at all, for that matter. Even an undead existence in which he was not about to be used as a tool to end the world would have been better than nothing…
After averting Armageddon, Jordan Hanson thought life would get easier, but in fact it was just the opposite. While he’d successfully driven away the world-destroyers, the Mondragoran, countless dimensional portals had been torn open in the process. Now, Jordan found himself continually dealing with dangerous creatures entering our world, while trying to hide this new reality from the general public.
For the most part, Jordan felt that he, with the help of his powerful friends, had a handle on things. Then something very ancient and angry found its way back to Earth–something that felt the world would be a much better place with far fewer humans on it….