Guest Blogger: Mark Henry
The winner of Mark's book is: Katie! Congratulations, Katie. Send me your snail mail information and I'll pass it along to Mark. Thanks so much to everyone who participated.
Then it comes time to actually think of something to write about. I'm at a loss. Did it have to be paranormal, necessarily? Do I even need to talk about writing? Maybe I could just write about my day. No. Too boring. Who'd want to read about me yelling at the puppy that pisses on the carpet or my lengthy daily trysts with my mistress, Facebook? No one, that's who.
So I came up with this . . .
Harvesting Childhood Fears for Fun and Profit!!!
Now before you get your panties in a bunch, I'm not talking about scaring the poor little children here (not that a few good scares isn't what they need), I'm talking about our own fears. Think about it.
I don't write about zombies because I want to touch people in a deep and spiritual way. I want to scare them . . . and gross them out and make them squirm. And laugh. I always want that. But when I sat down to write the first book, I needed to figure out what I could do to make my scares unique. How was I going to tap into people's fear in a new way?
Well, of course, I wasn’t, because, truthfully, there's nothing new under the sun or moon. It's all been done before somewhere, which I learned pretty quickly. Sentient zombie protagonists have an actual history (who'd a thunk it), but hey, at least there hadn't been any in urban fantasy.
What I could do was inject some real scares. Real because they came from my own childhood crap. I'm talking about the baggage. That irrational stuff we all carry with us, all the tiny abuses, the nightmares, and fear. This is where we're each unique.
For instance, when I was 5 or 6, I was trapped alone in an elevator at this old hotel on Westpoint, the U.S. Army Academy. There was no phone and nothing I could do but wait. These are the times where having an overactive imagination can be detrimental. I sat and stared at the trap door in the ceiling for what seemed like an hour. I imagined the roof crawling with rats and even conjured up the sound of thousands of tiny claws scrabbling on the metal.
Bingo. Creepy elevator scene.
Lots of people have fears of the dentist. Me? Optometrists. I'd always worry that he'd poke me in the eye, or that in some weird turn of events, the chart that he'd been writing on would fall loose and he'd have to scramble to pick up all the paper, windmilling his arms in the process and slicing my open eye with the thinnest of lacerations. No joke. That's the kind of crap I'd think about at the eye doctor.
Guess what? That particular fear shows up in the finale of my first book.
I could go on and on. Don't get me talking about finger webbing.
For you aspiring writers, don't imagine that all this stuff has to be generated internally. Poll your friends. Get some conversations going. Chuck Palahniuk (Fight Club) utilizes his social groups for his material. Find out about their fears, do it over drinks when people are less inhibited. Stories tend to escalate and you'll get some pretty weird ideas.
The trick is then to incorporate these fears into your character somehow. Despite sharing some fears and quirks, my character is not me, but at the same time she is. And she's my wife and my mother and probably bits of all the women in my life except she looks like Jennifer Connoly.
You'll have to figure out your own tricks and fears and all that, because in the end, writing is about introspection. Whether you're writing about yourself or inhabiting a fictional character, it's all rooted in some human experience.
Jeebus, that sounded hokey.
How about this? You tell me what scares you and I'll give one random commenter a signed copy of Happy Hour of the Damned. That's as good a way to rap up a rambling blog as any. The winner will be selected Tuesday evening.
Mark Henry's Happy Hour of the Damned, a zomedy with teeth and liquid eyeliner, is in stores now. The sequel, Road Trip of the Living Dead is coming in February 2009 from Kensington Books. Visit Mark at his blog (http://mdhenry.livejournal.com) or the League of Reluctant Adults (http://www.leagueofreluctantadults.com/blog.html)