The birth of a horror story

The inspiration for a good horror story can be found anywhere; you just have to look beneath the surface….

I’ve always been fascinated with the darker side of life, and I look for the horror in everything, in any day, in any situation. I look for it, and then I write it down. Sometimes it becomes a poem or a short story; other times it shrivels and dies.

Sometimes it snowballs, and becomes a monster of a novel that won’t let you go. That’s what happened with my horror novel, The Remainers.

I’d always wanted to tell a tale of the apocalypse, something with lots of characters, with their own challenges and self-contained stories, but I had not even a germ of an idea, and didn’t know where to begin. I had a couple of false starts, trying to conjure up a story from nowhere, with characters I didn’t care about.

I’d look at newspaper articles, unusual little fillers that would let my imagination run wild. I liked looking for the horror in the details that hadn’t been mentioned, spotting the abnormalities in seemingly innocent detail.

“That was when I saw him, only then I didn’t know what or who he was, and what it might signify.” 

And then it happened. I was driving to work, and a beautiful, sunny day had turned into a black and wet one. There were nothing but country lanes between my old village home and the town, and as I drove at 60mph, I spotted something in the distance, a form, moving down the middle of the road.

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“I realised then than it was a man, and seemingly unafraid of the car hurtling towards him. I wondered if he was on a suicide mission; would throw himself under the wheels of my car.”

I remember it so clearly, that strange man. He was very alert, very aware, and he was strolling and as I drove past him, he looked into the car, searching to make eye contact with me. It didn’t feel right. I remember the skin prickling at the back of my neck.

“His eyes black like the marbles I’d played with as a kid. His hair, thick and dark, plastered against his forehead under the force of the rain, and a faint smile played at his lips, which seemed to be moving slowly.”

There was nothing particularly remarkable about him. He was dressed in black and was walking in the road, but it was enough to set the creative cogs in motion. I immediately began to ask, who was he? What was he doing? Where was he going? What were his plans?

“Enclosed in the car, and with the rain pounding, I had no hope of hearing what he said, but I could feel the vibe coming from him, and that turned my insides cold.”

He unnerved me, and as I drove further away, I watched him in my rear view mirror until he disappeared behind the bend. I could swear he had stopped and was watching me drive away. That sealed it for me. This man was up to no good. He’d given me a fright.

He’d also given me the opening scene of my novel.

“He stopped walking and turned, watching the back of my retreating car, his feet apart, and his arms hanging loosely at his sides. He stood there, in the pouring rain, and watched me.”

And so The Remainers was born. This man became a key character to the novel, not the throwaway one I thought he might be. He was the catalyst; a dark, inhuman being, portending something awful.

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The Remainers is an apocalyptic novel about the people left behind after a cataclysmic event. It’s about survival and redemption. It’s one of the scariest things I’ve ever written. I’m proud of it, and it’s taught me a lot about writing. I don’t know if it will ever be published. I think it’s good enough, I think it has its merits. So we’ll see.

“In bed that night, I had this image of him still standing there, out in the middle of the road, his feet apart, his arms dangling, his eyes just as dark as the moonless sky above him.

            Waiting for me to come back.

            It began with him.”

And so, I keep my ears open constantly, whilst watching the news, listening to the radio, reading the paper, listening to anecdotes. Stories are everywhere, just waiting for us to tell them. Sometimes you have to go looking for them, open your mind and let it play with the titbits that are given to you, each and every day. Write them down, ask the right questions. Why not give it a go? And let me know how it went.

I’ve already found my next story. I uncovered it whilst having dinner at a friend’s house. She was telling me the story of her house before they bought it, about the previous owner, a vicar, his church, and his congregation.

Painted

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I can’t wait to get started.

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