Last night, my fiancé crawled up next to me.
“I had a nightmare,” she said, and told me what it was. It was detailed, it had dialogue, examined a number of themes and basically demonstrated a healthy subconscious dealing with the stress of everyday life.
About two weeks ago I woke up in the middle of the night and crawled up next to my fiancé.
“I had a nightmare,” I said. She commiserated.
“What was it all about?”
“Ghosts,” I said. And promptly fell back asleep.
And I’m the writer.
No, really, the dream was just as complex, with lots of themes and allowed me to recognise a fear of mortality that ended up being a blog post from a couple of weeks ago. But having voiced the fact of a nightmare, I put it out of my head and that was enough.
Last night I dreamed that I broke the neck of a rat because it was crawling around inside my shirt and I didn’t want it to bite me. Later in the dream I pushed a man (a bad man) down the stairs and snapped his neck with my boot because he was threatening to turn me in for something that I had done earlier in the dream.
My sister said to me today: “Your nephew is going to be a fantastic storyteller. He loves telling stories – of course they’re incredibly dark and gruesome, but a good read nonetheless. Just like yours.”
I have no idea why I so often go to the dark places in my writing. I write lots of funny, nice and friendly fantasy and science fiction. But the two pieces that have made it closest to being published are the story about the guy who cuts people’s “souls” out of their body to trade with the devil, and the wife who is sick of her overbearing husband and so feeds him to a zombie.
Lots of people laugh at death. Some people even laugh at Death. Maybe not twice. My conclusion is: if you can laugh at it, it’s no longer scary. I think I did the right thing by letting my stepdaughter play Plants Vs. Zombies. Zombies are no longer something that she is scared about. She knows the sunflowers and peashooters are out there to protect her. And a zombie with a bucket on his head just seems less of a threat.
So there’s that. Write funny stories about bad things and don’t fear the bad things.
But I also write pure darkness, with very little humour in it. And Shereen believes that I can write that because nothing truly evil has happened to me. I am living vicariously through my mind to try and experience evil from the safety of the page. I know that I love reading Stephen King and Clive Barker, revelling in every gory death. But I’m still rooting for the good guys. I still want to read the happy ending. And the happy ending means more when they’ve gone through so much more to achieve it.
Of course, sometimes I write horror because that’s where my mind goes when the story pops into my head. That guy just walked into an alley and didn’t come out again. Logically, he walked to the other end and left by another exit. But what if. . . hell, maybe the alley eats people. Maybe another man sends people there as sacrifices to the person-munching alley, to – oh I don’t know, to gain its favour and the power that goes along with that? And what in Bob’s name is a man-eating alley doing in the centre of Melbourne anyway? And then things get convoluted.
I want to read that story now. I should go and write it. And I need to start getting some things published. Or my twisted little four-year-old nephew might beat me to the punch.
PS. Oh, I haven’t put this one down on paper. You wanna see dark? Sometimes, for a good costume, things have to die. For those who are really squeamish and love their teddy bears, you should stop reading now and go and read Penny Arcade instead.