When it comes to finding inspiration, there are two separate fields of thought. The first is to “allow” the ideas to “flow” through you in some divinity-stricken way, or to actually turn the wheels in your mind until you churn out a story.
Although some writing-inspiration books may urge you to think otherwise, I don’t think one is more right than the other, and one certainly does not make you more of a “real” writer. It’s like being naturally thin or having to exercise and diet to achieve thinness – the results are exactly the same. But where do we get ideas? Certainly, toting kids back and forth from soccer practice does not bring about anything horror inspired – or does it?
Ray Bradbury wrote in a room filled with anthropologic icons. Whenever he needed inspiration to write, he would touch, hold and study one of them to help him create a story. Most of us don’t have the space or money needed to surround ourselves with such things. But we can do it on a smaller scale. For instance, I have a tiny mummy statue hanging from a noose attached to the banker’s lamp on my desk. Behind me is a huge “Pete’s Wicked Ale” poster depicting the doorway to a tomb, complete with gargoyles and full moon. Silly, maybe, but inspirational in its kick-ass, ghoulish sort of way.
Still, static “things” may not inspire us as much as full-fledged ideas, or even nature, in its abundance of life and death, where good and evil don’t really have a home.
The rain, wind, thunder, lightning storms, anything denoting change is inspirational – but what about a clear, bright day hovering at 70 degrees? Then you think of contrasts – What does it feel like, down in my dank, musty cellar when outside it is so beautiful? Who dwells down there, escaping the sun?
If you often find yourself with little or no inspiration to write something disturbing, frightening or even “strange” – might I suggest sitting in the middle of your basement during a thunderstorm, or even just in the middle of the night? Any creatively-minded person is bound to see or feel something creepy. (And probably come running up the stairs terrified, to boot.)
Another good method is the “what if” scenario. Take any ordinary daily situation and ask – “what if” such and such happened. I think of the movie Poltergeist – “What if the clown were alive?” “What if that tree branch really was a hand that could grab you out of your bed?” “What if the corpses buried beneath your house brought new meaning to “skinny dipping” in your almost-finished pool?”
Or, asked in a general sense, “What if there is something at the bottom of the stairs where I can’t see?” “What if that noise wasn’t the wind?” and “Can I really be sure that person looking back at me through the mirror is just a reflection? Or is it something else?”
Horror is so much more than gore, tissue and blood. Horror is pure fright; it’s the thrill we get from adrenalin coursing through our veins. I, for one, have always enjoyed the beginnings of “scary” movies more than the ends, when things are new and subtle and merely “insinuating.” The fright is in the wonder, the anticipation of something truly evil. The unknown.
Finally, there’s nothing like reading works by the horror masters to get the creative juices flowing. But in the meantime, enjoy those 70 degree, clear blue sky days, just remember to look beneath the surface, pull back some of the sod and study the worms.