Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Effect of a Short Story

Even in grade school I liked short stories. The one that stuck with me was a very short one I read in a comic book. It involved a child coming home after school, reaching her house, finding it dark when she opened the door, calling out and receiving no answer, reaching in to turn on the lights. Instead of the light switch her hand lands on a large spider. She screams, wakes up from the (wait or it) dream, still in class.

After school she laughs at herself for being silly, reaches home, a dark house and no answer when she calls out. This time when she reaches out, touches the spider, she doesn't wake up.

I never forgot the story. Never reach for a light switch in a dark room without the spider visiting me.

I graduated to Poe, Saki and other horror writers, read better crafted stories, but none of them took hold with the same intensity as the first. Of course, even before I read the horror comic, my grandmother prepped me with bed time stories about a killer in the 1940's who scattered body parts in the sewers of Chicago, or the lady who kept hat boxes on her shelf with children's heads stored in them. Both supposedly true stories. If my grandmother had been alive when mother found out about the sweet bedtime visits we had, mother would have killed her.

Now, surprise, I write horror, dark urban fantasy, paranormal mysteries, and love it as much as I loved those first tastes of the macabre. Safe scares, that's what it's all about. And placing characters in the situation of realizing the monster under the bed is real.

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