Thursday, June 24, 2010

People are Scary

People are the scariest things out there. Or at least, they have the potential to be.

I’m in Colorado right now for a wedding, and had the chance to get together with some friends and just talk the other night. Since most of us were writers, we started talking writing (obviously) and then started telling stories about the creepiest things that have ever happened to us, or stories that we’ve heard.

I think everyone at some point has a brush with something inexplicable. At least once in their life, and sometimes more. And as we were sharing these stories, about strange figures seen in the middle of the night, fingers waving you into a creepy basement, or scary children with solid black eyes, one of the stories really stuck with me.

A friend of mine was up late, his parents were out of town, and he was all alone in his house. Around two in the morning he shut off all his lights, and passed by the front door to head up the stairs. And there, on the other side of the window next to the front door, was a man.

At two in the morning. Less than five feet from him. We all agreed that even with the ghost stories, a stranger outside the window was the scariest by far.

Like I said before, people are the scariest things out there. I think one of the things that makes urban fantasy novels so interesting is that, at the end of the day, it’s not about the scary vampires, or the blood-thirsty monsters: it’s about the people. On some level we’re conditioned to understand when the monster does something evil. But when it’s an ordinary person? Or worse yet, someone you used to consider a friend? That’s when we really get invested, and where the real fear starts.

In my YA novel, A Touch Mortal, one of the overarching plots of the book involves the war between Heaven and Hell, and some of the kids that are trapped in the middle. But it isn’t the angels in the book that strike a chord with me: it’s the teenagers. Lovable but damaged teenagers who make their choices listening only to the flood of emotions tangled up inside them. Some choose well. And others not so much.

But I think that’s what makes people so interesting. They have the potential to be super creepy, like popping up on a stranger’s doorstep at two in the morning and just STARING inside. Or like a best friend who decides he’d rather be evil than your friend anymore. Or like dating the bad boy who turns out to be REALLY bad. We expect monsters to try and hurt us, and we expect the supernaturals to be more than just a pretty face. We sympathize with their struggles. But at the end of the day, we all have to decide if we want to embrace our inner scariness.

What do you guys think? Leave me a comment and let me know.


nymfaux said...

Good topic!!! (And your book sounds interesting too--will have to add it to my TBR list)

I totally agree--I mean, the thing about vampires and werewolves, is that we would be more able to recognize them as monsters.

But it's scary when ordinary people that you know, or walk past, could be monsters, because how do we recognize them?

nymfaux said...

Also wanted to mention a book I read grade-school/middle-schoolish, that still sticks with me, called The Girl in the Box.

A girl is kidnapped and locked in a dark basement with a little bit of food and water and....And the kidnapper never comes back for her. You hear about all the scary things that happen, but this is all about never knowing if ANYTHING will EVER happen to you again--We never find out why she was taken, and we're left unknowing if someone will save her in the nick of time.

And I think my other top scary story is Misery by Stephen King. It's kind of the opposite of the other story--where the main character is held hostage by a rabid fan, who will go to any lengths to get what she wants, even to physically crippling him.

I can't sleep whenever I read these.

Leah Clifford said...

So true on Misery. I'll have to pick up the other book too! Monsters are so predictable, but people can be either good OR evil and sometimes you don't find out which until it's too late.

Nicole Murphy said...

We writers have fabulous conversations, don't we? :)

I think one of the hardest things in life is acknowledging the fear of not knowing what another person can do to you and going out and living anyway.

At least, it's hard for me :)

nymfaux said...

If you're looking for it, The Girl in the Box was written by Ouida Sebestyen--I haven't read it since I was a kid, but when I looked it up on goodreads, almost all the reviews were adults who had read it when they were younger and had the same reaction I did, how chilling it was...Creepy!!!

Patricia Lynne said...

That's the really scary thing about people. they can look so normal and be absolutely evil! Look at serial killers. ted bundy was thought of as handsome and he used that to lure women (along w/ a fake cast) vampires and werewolves and other supernatural creatures can have something inhuman about them that you can see and say 'hey that's evil' people... you honestly never know until it's too late.

nymfaux, the story you mentioned, the girl in the box, something similar really did happen.

Leah Clifford said...

Nicole, the best is having an intense writer conversation and realizing mid "Well if you took his head off, it'd end the problem." that all conversation around you has stopped.

Patricia, it's also interesting when those "monsters" are the good guys :) Love me some gray area!

nymfaux said...

@Patricia, I totally just got chills when I read your comment! I feel creepy all over! I mean, anything else, you can live through (assuming you live)...

It also makes me remember how there was an early (colonial?) prison where the prisoners were locked in individual cells and never allowed to see the guards or anyone else--was closed after developing the highest rate of insanity among prisoners.

Jacqueline C. said...

Love this post! I remember what I was usually afraid of when I was a child and it was rarely the "Boogieman"-type. Strangers and strange people used to (and still sometimes do) scare the wits out of me. It's true though that, as humans, we all possess the capacity to do harm or be monstrous.

I remember being afraid of a cousin of mine who had a mysterious scar on his face (that was really caused by a car accident). In my childish reasoning, I had decided that only bad guys had scary face scars.

My mom loves shows like "Unsolved Mysteries" and, when I was growing up, I used to run from the room when something like that was on. Hearing about these heinous crimes and their free perpetrators was terrifying. To this day, I still don't like watching shows about real-life murder.

Patricia Lynne said...

nymfaux, I've read a good chunk of the serial killer profiles on the crime library and that's where I found out about the story. what's even more creepy is watching stuff like CSI then going to the crime library, reading a profiler and realising that what you just saw on CSI really did happen almost event for event!
When some one says video games or movies influence life is dead wrong. it's the other way around. we get our stories from real life!

John K said...

I think one of the great things about UF is that the characters cane be really human too. Like Rachel Morgan in the Kim Harrison books. She's a witch, but still very human. I think the genre gives authors an interesting way at looking at humanity.

I'm tearing through Stacia Kane's Unholy Magic right now, and it's great how human all the characters are, and even though they're going through these crazy supernatural things, they're all human.

nymfaux said...

@Patricia...if it makes you feel better, on a recent episode of CSI, Langston is threating a suspect that he'll go to jail...and not a nice one, but Lompoc

Which is where I just moved...yea...federal prison

But I totally know what you mean...I mean it's easy to tell yourself it isn't real, except then you find out it is....

Cassie C said...

Great Post!

The serial killers on Criminal Minds always freak me out, its crayz to believe there are actually poeple out there like that

Cassandra C

Patricia Lynne said...

I love Criminal Minds! they create all their criminals with how real criminals think and act.
That's the good thing about books, movies and stories the bad guys eventually get their comeuppance. Real life may not be so clean cut but in books the evil guy is defeated.

Crystal said...

Great post, and I agree. People scare me. I hate watching the news and can't watch movies like Saw because there are some crazy people out there and they look just like everyone else!
The movies that really get to me are the crazy hill people that trap you and eat you. My hubby always makes fun of me when we travel or drive through the booneys because I am always looking on the road for some tire trap or someone in the trees.
My imagination is too active to watch movies like that or read books like Stephen King. And Misery freaked me out!
In HS I practically lived at my friends house and she lived in front of a wooded area and there'd be this guy who'd come at night and just stare in her window. And then there was one time I woke up in the middle of the night to find her brother-in-law sitting in a chair just staring at her watching her sleep. Creepy.

nymfaux said...

@Crystal--your post made me think of Deliverance...Creepy Mountain People!!!!

Tori [Book Faery] said...

I would just like to say that the story with the guy you knew scared the CRAP out of me!

We have two doors: the super heavy screen door that we usually lock in the summer (to get a nice cool breeze at night) and then the main door that we lock. So we just have the screen door locked now, and it's so easy for people outside to see inside the house because it's all glass etc.

Anyway yeah so I went downstairs, and I kept thinking someone was going to be standing at the other side of our door because I had JUST finished reading this post.

Thanks for making me paranoid! LOL

AngelGoneMad said...

This was a great topic and a great post :)

I agree strangers can be scary but I don't think that's the sole reason that make you scared of them. I think the situation has a lot to do with it also.

If you were in daylight in a street with a few others, and a stranger approached you, I wouldn't be too scared as they could just be a friendly stranger asking for directions or something. But if it was night and the same thing happened I would be a bit more freaked out.

I think it's because we have been conditioned to think that everything at night is scary, e.g. monsters only come out at night etc.

I would definitely be freaked out if someone was outside my house lurking about whether it was daylight or night time, but I think the added scare factor would be if it was at night time.

That's just my thoughts :)

Helen Lowe said...

I think that was one of the 'big points' at the end on Buffy Season 6, ie Buffy is there to 'slay the vampyres and the demons' etc, but what about when humans do stuff that is just as bad if not worse (which is when Willow goes all 'big bad' because Tara's been killed and Buffy can't/won't kill the bad guys.) But I thought the point was well made, which is that in real life it isn't the vampires and the werewolves we have to worry about.

Jessica said...

Definitely good topic!

People scare me more than the "creatures of the night". People have the tendency to be downright horrifying. All the pedophiles and rapists and other sadists and sickos. They're a lot scarier than any monster type creature.

When I was little I was more afraid of people like that than the boogeyman. People like Hannibal Lector albeit a fictional character, but he was supposedly, human.

I saw too many horror movies where the killer was just a psycho human when I was a kid. Thanks to a stupid "parent" and I was scared go in the basement because I thought Freddy Kruger or some rapist was waiting around the corner. **Freddy Kruger is probably back to horror movie monster, but still he was freaking scary.

Humans are far more scarier than creatures because humans are supposed to be humane, hence the name.

queener said...

Love your books, Kerrelyn! Keep up the great work! How about "A hot summer romance with a Vampire." Because we all love vamps & because you right the best novels!

Libby said...

What a great topic!!

That story you posted about your friend is scary!!!

& that book mentioned, The Girl in the Box? The summary alone freaked me out.

Criminal Minds is one of my all-time favorite shows. Such a well done show! I'm a late-comer (still catching up on past seasons 1-3ish - I LOVE marathons at night on Friday & Saturday. I TiVo them and watch them in the middle of the night)

2 stories happened to me as a child and the scary thing is - well, they still freak me out. When my mom ran errands, I would sit in the car and read and listen to music. (I was 12-13 when this happened) My mom came out of the store with groceries and saw a man standing next to the car just watching me (but behind me enough so that he was in my blind-side.. I had NO idea anyone was there) She froze & watched him - he just stared. He walked away once he saw her and just watched us leave..

Another one - I was probably 4/5. I was in the library and in the kid's section. (I don't remember this - it was told to me by my mom) She says I ran up to her and told her that some creepy man was following me/watching me. She looked up and he was watching me. So she went to the librarian and tried to let them know - they did nothing.. (he was hiding) She kept moving us around the library and once she realized he was following us everywhere & hadn't left yet ---- she grabbed my hand and we ran out of the library and out the door.. and hid around the corner. She says he followed us out of the library and looked up and down the street trying to find us. That FREAKS me out --- I was glad my lil 4 year old self had the sense to go tell her he was creeping me out.

Melissa said...

My scariest dreams always involve the human kind, not the monsterous kind. I so agree people are scary!!