What Scares You? Are You Brave Enough to Face it Through Words?

There are a lots of phobias and fears out there. And all of us have some dark fears lurking in the depths of our subconscious (or maybe not that deep at all). A belief in the impending apocalypse is supposed to be (I’ve heard), both a symptom of these fears, as well as a kind of cathartic relief. For me, the actual idea of the world ending terrifies me, but there are other things that give me nightmares which aren’t, actually, all that scary at all.

Yep, here come the zombies.

My fear of zombies is completely irrational. Zombies (at least, the flesh-craving, shuffling creatures of Hollywood), do not exist in our world. The possibility of a reanimated corpse seems actually less likely than the possibility of other supernatural beings (shape-shifters, spirits, etc). And yet, if there’s a zombie movie on and I even just overhear parts of it, I’m sure to have nightmares all night.

So, when it came to actually trying to write about them in a recent WIP, I found myself a bit paralyzed. What were my zombies like? What made them so scary? And worse, how could I actually tap into my irrational fear to make my zombies scary, not silly, and yet also still be able to sleep at night?

Perhaps the core of this problem is really that of the many things I fear in this world, zombies are not actually one of them. After all, there are no zombies. But there are car accidents. And accidental poisonings. And tragic losses of family and young children that happen all the time. Why not focus that fear on something fake rather than on something that really scares me, on something that is far the more frightening because of the increased likelihood of becoming a reality?

The bonus about facing what really scares you in your writing is that a) you can try and come to grips with it, and b) you have complete control of the outcome (whereas in real life, we’re certainly not so fortunate). But, the hard part is that even facing it through a character or a plot point, you do experience the very real fear that may lurk inside. Sure, this can make your writing great, but will you make it through?

I’ve found that when I have written and faced some of my darker fears, it has lent a greater reality and emotion to the character and situation. But it can also be emotionally draining. I guess in the end, I’m kind of torn about it. I’m not sure if I’m always brave enough to face my darkest fears in my writing – especially when it comes to my child and the loss of loved ones. Self-sacrifice is one thing, but the loss of a loved one you’re supposed to protect and shepherd? That’s quite something else.

What do you think? Do your fears surface in your writing, or do you somewhat limit what appears there?

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