Thursday, May 17, 2018

Writing Those Scary Parts

by Linda Thorne

When I wrote my first book, I came across big segments where I found myself drawn so heavily into the story, I forgot who was writing and editing it. There were moments when I’d sit up and bat my lashes, returning to reality. Other authors have told me they do the same thing. I think it comes naturally since it’s our work, our love and our passion. Unfortunately, none of this means the reader will have the same experience.

With my second book this happened, still does, but with one big difference. In the second book, my work-in-progress, I find myself truly frightened by the inciting incident. Why?

The scene was created from something that happened to me when I was 22 years-old. My boyfriend had talked me into following him to a college town in Kansas where I found a job and a place to live with two roommates in an upstairs room of an old rickety house. The landlady and her daughter lived downstairs in a section beside the stairwell. On the day before Thanksgiving with a major blizzard imminent, the landlady and her daughter left to stay with relatives, my roommates took off for their family homes in other parts of Kansas, and the neighborhood became a ghost town. Many things happened to me that Thanksgiving weekend while I was the sole occupant of the old, frame house.

I wrote my experiences of that weekend into backstory, where the inciting incident occurs. In this flashback, my lead character is 20 years-old and she goes through everything I went through, culminating in a dangerous incident followed the next day by terrifying news.

So, starts the story of my second book, A Promotion to Die For.

What about you? Have you written scary scenes from real-life experiences or totally made-up fiction that frighten you when you’re reading or revising your own work?


Zari Reede said...

Ok, you got me. Now I’m dying to hear the rest of your story! Our third book, Sins of the Sister, spawned from a real incident that happened to me in my thirties. I was in a bar with my friends, and someone drugged my drink. I felt immediately sick, and I ran to the front of the bar and outside the front door. My husband at that time thought I had just had too much to drink. I barely had three. The next time we visited the same bar, the same thing happened, but this time a girlfriend interrupted me and drank my champagne before I even had a sip. She was immediately sick and ran to the bathroom. The staff insisted they had to close and wouldn’t let us stay. They wanted us to leave her there in their bathroom! Luckily we were a large group and the guys we were with went in and carried her out. We never went back and it was a few yrs later that the bar was closed due to abducting girls for sex trafficking. They were targeting girls with long blonde hair. It was scary, and I try not to think about what if I had ran to the bathroom instead of grabbing my husband and running out the front of the bar.

Linda Thorne said...

My goodness, Zari, that is a really scary true event. That's a book - a movie!!! Sex traffickers! Wow.
Actually, what happened to me when I was 22 was something I got out of because of an absolute fluke. A one-in-a-million little thing that happened at just the right moment. It was like some force was watching over me. It makes for a good inciting incident.

Beth Fine said...

Oh Linda, as a flashback from your 20s, that scary part holds so much potential for the reader's heart to thump-thump-thump uncontrollably. The scene seems so clear in your mind, as if it happened yesterday. As a writer, I wonder how you will fit it into the rest of story. Personally, I can't imagine sharing much less reliving the most terrifying events of my life. Those would definitely be contraband or too adult for my middle school mystery series. However, many write paranormal stories that are only derivative from what they have read, without understanding the true terror of having extra-spiritual encounters. However, I lived in a real haunted house in Washington State, saw/heard creepy things, and watched my marriage fall apart. When I moved 1000s miles away, I exorcised every box that entered my new home but later mistakenly allowed a visiting ship's captain to enter my new place. After he told me he had recently bought a castle in Wales,I should have heeded the warning, let my antennae rise, and suspected something he arrived sorely depressed, even oppressed as if from a spirit of some sort. When he left a few days later, lights came on and off, inexplicably. Voices screamed in the night. Such disconcerting occurrence wore me out. I finally threw in the garbage a gift he had brought me, prayed for that spirit to leave my house, and finally felt relief a while later. Fortunately, I finally figured a way to use that horror by converting it into a whitewashed version in Mary Jane of Canton, Maine where Ima rents a haunted, colonial cottage. Learning from that, I have since transformed other difficult experiences into mysteries/dilemmas for my young detective to solve when she's gotten in tough, tight spots. Respecting my audience, I don't delve too deeply and have allowed only one murder in 8 books.

Linda Thorne said...

I can see how a history that includes spirits and haunted houses would inspire writing about it in one form or another. How perfect for you to tone down the horror and use the experiences in your series for middle-school and above aged kids. Perfect subject to entice children and young adults to read one of your education series mysteries. Good job.