Writing what you are afraid of

I’m not afraid of much. Insects, arachnids, vermin, and snakes only get a flight response if they get the jump on me or happen to be poisonous. (Hmm. I wonder if there is such a thing as a poisonous mouse.) Death has never bothered me because I know where I’m going. Public speaking is fun. I’ve always loved to climb trees, so heights are no big deal.

I will admit I am not a fan of snowmen. Frosty has no muscles, but he can move. He shares this disturbing quality with reanimated skeletons. My conclusion is there is something downright ghoulish about top hats. Frosty and his frozen compatriots is not allowed in our home. I am considering a similar ban on top hats. You probably think I’m kidding. I’m not.

I digress. Frosty is creepy, but he doesn’t actually scare me. There is pretty much only one thing I’m terrified of.

The vacuum of space.

When someone goes on a space walk on Star Trek or Battle Star Galactica, I cover my eyes. It doesn’t matter if they are in peril or not. The whole idea is my worst nightmare. You’re surrounded by nothing. No air. Nothing to breathe, nothing to feel, and absolute silence because sound can’t travel in a vacuum. It’s three degrees above absolute zero, so the spit on your tongue will start to boil. This is your experience for the last fifteen to thirty seconds of your life before oxygen deprivation renders you unconscious.

Tell me that doesn’t freak you out.

The atmosphere on Mars might as well be a vacuum, so every time a character in my book goes outside, I have a minor panic attack. I’ve avoided working on those scenes because they make me feel sick. I start writing and find myself contemplating what could happen if there’s a tiny tear in the fabric of the main character’s space suit. There is also an accident that involves depressurization. I haven’t even started on that scene because it makes me nauseated.

Why am I writing this book!?! I must be a masochist.

On the one hand, if you think something is scary, you might be able to write it in such a way that everyone is terrified by it. I often wonder if horror writers are just crazy-scared of everything and turn that into fiction. On the other hand, maybe the scenes that make me ill will make readers wonder why I’m such a ‘fraidy cat.


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