October 29, 2015

Afraid of the Dark, or some thoughts about my novella, Nite-Lite

As an engineer, I'm sort of turned on by complexity, which is both a blessing and a curse when you're a writer.

When I first started working on my MFA at the American Film Institute, the first screenplay I wrote was a big, sprawling modern fantasy piece with multiple layers of reality and a deep secret history.  It was pretty trippy.  When I presented it to my writing group, I remember my instructor pointing out that my classmates who loved weed were the ones who appreciated it the most.

The major piece of advice that my instructor gave me consisted of one word: "Simple."

It took another script before I really began to take that advice to heart.  And, as most of us in the film industry know, the simplest kind of movie to get made is a horror movie.

Now, you know I love horror.  So I set about to work on the most direct, straightforward horror story I could imagine.

Which, of course, led me to think about my childhood, where, let's face it, just about everything is scary.  Dogs are scary.  Strange people are scary.  Weird looking food is scary.  Clothes are scary.  Plants are scary.  TVs are REALLY scary.

But the single scariest thing of all was the absence of light.

I'm not sure how old I was before I stopped requiring the hall light to stay on to ward off the darkness before I went to sleep, but it was definitely a while.  So I started to mine that base fear to find a simple story to tell.

And, since I'm a research nut, I started looking up the history of things that scared children.  And I started talking to friends and family about their experiences.  As it turns out, for many of them, that fear of the encroaching darkness didn't end with childhood.  If anything, for some, adulthood only crystallized it into something hard and fast and unrelenting.

But it wasn't until I started writing an outline that I started having night terrors.

Imagine lying in bed, suspended in a sort of waking sleep, where my mind, and, in some case, even my eyes are aware of the room around me, but control of my body has left me.  I can't turn.  I can't move.  I can barely breathe.

Now, imagine being in that state, and sensing, no, KNOWING that there is something else in the room with me.  And, let me be clear: not someone else.  SomeTHING else.  Something so awful that its very presence made me tremble.  Something that, if I were to find the strength to roll over and meet it face-to-face, I knew, at the core of my soul, it would result in the end of me.

And now imagine being in that state, KNOWING that is there, and trying to scream.  Trying, and failing.  Trying, where the only thing to come out of your mouth is a faint, breathless whisper that doesn't even amount to the only word with any meaning at that moment.


So, that happened to me at least three times, maybe more over the course of writing the first iteration of what is now my first horror novella, aptly entitled, "Nite-Lite".

I'm sure those with sharp eyes will catch some of my influences, which I'll talk about at a later date.  Let's just say, of everything I've ever written, this is the one piece, after all these years, that I've never tried to re-write.

I'm not sure that IT would let me.

I don't have night terrors anymore.  I actually sleep pretty well.

As long as all the doors are closed.  No need to look the darkness in the eye,

Click the link or the image yourself, then.  Read.  Enjoy.  And sleep tight.
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