Concerning the use of fear

Not fear as a tool or anything like that, but fear as inspiration.  Let me explain.

Okay, so if you write horror, you want to scare people.  Sure, other things go into it: story, character, the hope that your work might somehow better mankind (or not), but you want to make your readers squirm, shriek, or feel a nice chill across the back of their necks.

So we go to our fears, because what scares us is bound to scare others.  I’ve always divided the things that frighten me into big and little fears, or rather, the scary things that can effectively affect my or my loved ones’ lives or wellbeing and those that can’t.  The big fears are the mugger that steps out of the dark alley, the hundreds of dollars that mysteriously vanish from the bank account, disease, or anything of that sort.  The small fears are often more interesting.  They’re things like the shadowy skull I swore I saw on the living room ceiling when I was a kid, the thing rustling in the trees that makes the dogs bark at three in the morning, or the entire town of Sulpher, Kentucky (I’ll save this story for later). 

These things, no matter how big or small, can be the genesis of a good story.  Stephen King (you’ve heard of him, I’m sure) wrote a scene in Salem’s Lot about a nightmare he’d had since he was a child.  And y’know what?  It was a damn scary scene.

So there you go.  Next time something scares the pants off of you, don’t freak out.  Just sit down and start writing.