My good friend Febe Moss’s post about her fears has inspired me to make a blog post about my own fears. I do, after all, confront these things every day as a horror writer. But I’m putting a twist on it, because as I created this list I realized a few things. For starters, the things that scare me in real life are totally different than the things that scare me in books and movies. (I have no fear, for example of being possessed in my daily life – but that totally pushes my buttons in well-done movies.) And also, I realized that I’m oddly unafraid of some of the main things other people list, which I found interesting. So I’ve broken it up into three “top 5” lists.
Top 5 Things I’m Most Afraid of in Real Life
1. Someone or Thing Grabbing Me
Walking up the stairs, getting into my car, crossing a partially open doorway… gets me every time.
2. Hitting a Person with my Car
Thank heavens I’ve never done this. But the fear is so overwhelming to me that it became the opening chapter in my zombie novel. I don’t even like hitting frogs with my car. A person would be unbearable.
I could have taken up more than half of this list by specifying roaches, spiders, and *God help me* centipedes, but the truth is that all bugs make me squirm. Centipedes especially. It’s just not right to have that many legs. (To read my poem inspired by this fear, read “The Centipede” on page 74 of the September issue of Underneath the Juniper Tree.)
4. Being Locked Up
You know that scene in The Sixth Sense where the kid gets pulled into that closet at the top of the spiral stairs? Yeah, that’s what’s waiting for me in Hell. A dark little cubby that I can’t get out of.
5. The Dentist
I wish I could show you guys my poem, “Incapacitated,” that hones in on this fear, but I’m still hoping to get it published elsewhere, so I can’t. Just take my word for it: the dentist scares me. A lot.
*1st Runner Up: Dogs
Big ones. That bark.
*2nd Runner Up: Open Water
Open water is like outer space. It’s just so big that you become aware of how small and helpless you are, which (I think) strikes at the core of every person’s fears.
Top 5 Things I’m Most Afraid of in Fiction
1. Undefined Things in the Dark
For me, horror is like erotica (bear with me) in that they both play off of suspense for their impact. The best horror, like the best erotica, builds toward the pay-off. Desire is sexier than sex – anyone who’s ever been celibate for more than a few months can tell you that – and fear is scarier than the monster. So for me, it’s the undefined and the dark shadows that scare the most in fiction. Once I know who the bad guy is and what he wants, I’m rarely as afraid.
Gong insane is a scary thought, but I figure… well, I’d be crazy, so I wouldn’t mind, right? It’s other people going insane that really gets me. How do you deal with someone that can’t reason on your level?
3. Hiding at Risk of Being Found
This goes back to the unknown. Talk about suspense. If the hider has to be silent, which they usually do, all the better. Think of how many scenes there are in horror movies where the victim hides behind a shutter-slatted closet door with a hand over their mouth as the killer stalks by. Clearly, I’m not the only one this works for.
4. Unknown Contagious Diseases
This is usually in the vein of zombies, these days, but disease in general is pretty scary. Even the bubonic plague makes my heart speed up if I think about it too long. There’s just no good way to guard against a new, unknown disease.
Possession is very similar to insanity, for me, at least as far as the reasons it’s scary. But added to that is the aspect of religion – and the idea that this type of insanity might be purely belief-based. I mean, if you don’t believe in God or Satan, you can’t be possessed, right? The concept intrigues me, and works especially well as ambiguous on screen.
Top 5 Things That Scare Others but Don’t Scare Me
1. Violence & Gore
Violence and gore can be gross, impactful, shocking, disturbing, and even fun, and I’m not afraid to use them to their best advantage. But they are not scary. Pain, the chase, death, motive, moral ambiguity, and suspense all can be, but not the violence itself. Murder with no motive of characters we don’t care about is not scary. Torture porn is not scary. It’s just cheap tricks.
I don’t know why, but this just doesn’t scare me. I’m more worried about getting in a car accident than a plane crash. It’s certainly more likely.
I actually like heights. I mean, sure, if someone was threatening to throw me over the edge of the Eifel Tower I’d probably be freaking out, but in general being high up doesn’t do anything but make me think, “Look at the pretty view.”
This is almost too deep a topic to explain. Everyone has different thoughts on death and afterlife and what it all means. I guess I’ve mostly made my peace with my interpretation of it. I’m not ready to die, but then, who is? To me it’s not worth sweating over something we can’t control.
5. The Devil / Malevolent Spirits
This might seem ironic, since possession is on one of my lists of things that do scare me, but there’s a key difference, for me. Possession involves a taking over of the victim, body mind and soul. The devil or demons or whatever are outside beings – and usually executed pretty ineffectively, in my opinion. The best exception? Paranormal Activity. But I think I like that because it ties back into my #1 fear: Undefined Things in the Dark. If that evil spirit were given a name and/or a motive, it would be infinitely less effective.
So there you have it, folks. The skinny on what makes me quake and what makes me snicker. How about you? What keeps you lying awake at night, pulling the covers up just a little bit higher? What’s your number one fear, and which do you think is over-played?Share this: