Guest post: “The Terror Within” by Sara Jayne Townsend

I met Sara Jayne Townsend online through Absolute Write Water Cooler.  Awesome writer.  There’s something irresistible  about this sweet, innocent-looking woman writing horror.  ~Lucie

Sara Jayne Townsend, author of SOUL SCREAMS
Sara Jayne Townsend, author of
SOUL SCREAMS, a terrifying anthology.
Click to visit her web site.

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The Terror Within

By Sara Jayne Townsend

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Write what you know”. This is something that all new writers are told. It can be quite daunting, especially if you write genre.
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For horror writers, it’s about scaring the readers by writing about what scares you. Stephen King, the master of the horror novel, quite often writes about things that he must have had nightmares about. Anyone who has children fears the death of a child most of all. PET SEMATARY deals with a toddler being killed by a truck. MISERY is about a writer being tortured and kept prisoner by a deranged fan. A lot of writers have received letters from a crackpot fan – it’s just a short “what if” to imagine a circumstance when you find yourself at the mercy of such a fan, and it’s not hard to imagine that it was a particularly strange letter that gave King the idea for MISERY. And in IT, the creature that has the ability to appear in the form of whatever scares each character the most finally sheds its disguises to appear in its true form – a giant spider. Personally I found this disappointing, but I am not particularly scared of spiders. Stephen King, however, has arachnophobia. To him, a giant spider must be a pretty terrifying concept.
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My own fears are generally more abstract. Betrayal, abandonment, loneliness and despair are recurring themes in my stories. The stories in my short story collection SOUL SCREAMS are a catalogue of my fears. I am scared of fire – I even get nervous around matches. There’s one story with a fire. I have a fear of injury resulting in the incapacitation or removal of body parts. There are two decapitations. I am terrified of the concept of being involved in a car accident – though I’m getting better at not dwelling on this, or else I’d never get behind the wheel of a car. There are no less than four fatal car accidents in the thirteen stories in SOUL SCREAMS, so this fear is clearly not buried too deeply in my subconscious.

SOULSCREAMS-2
SOUL SCREAMS is available now in Kindle Nook or Paperback

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The terror within is that primal fear that gnaws away at us all the time – sometimes irrational, sometimes perfectly justified, like the person who was bitten by a wasp as a child and grows up to be terrified of wasps. Edgar Allen Poe, arguably the father of the horror story, had a medical condition that threatened to take him into a coma so deep he appeared dead. Victorian medicine being fairly primitive, it wasn’t unknown for people to be mistaken for being dead and buried alive. A number of Poe’s stories feature someone being buried alive. It was clearly something he had a hang-up about.
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But tapping into that fear can be a rich resource for horror writers. If you want to scare your readers, the best place to start is with something that scares you. And scary stories have a long history – going all the way back to the Victorian ghost story. Horror’s enduring popularity is that there is something thrilling about being scared – and a good scary story can give you a scare in a safe environment. After all, you know the monsters aren’t really real. If people tell me that my stories keep them awake at night, I take that as a compliment. Although the terror within is what makes us see shadows in the dark, logically we know that when the morning comes, so does the knowledge that the monsters are gone and we’re safe once more. At least until we pick up that book again, knowing that the terror is still there, hiding in the shadows when the sun goes down.

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