According to Google the definition of Fear is “an unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain, or harm.“
I’d agree with that, wouldn’t you?
The cold clammy sweats, the shaking, the heart racing, the tensing of the muscles and widening of eyes. What happens next depends on who you are. Do you run away screaming or stay and fight?
Ever walked through a dark graveyard alone at night and wondered who was following you? Cliché I know but it has power over us. You get to the other side (hopefully) and laugh at yourself for being such a wuss.
Wandered between abandoned factories during a high wind and heard the whistling through broken windows and between walkways. The wind itself has a kind of power over us. We know it has power and on certain days, in certain circumstances, it can almost feed fear.
You can draw power from things like the wind, the ocean, a storm or a dust cloud. Extremes of nature can inspire strength or fear. It’s all in how you use them, the situation you are in, or the experiences you’ve had with them before.
Fear comes from other things too. Clowns, creepy crawlies, reptiles, dark shadows, new items and many more besides. We learn fear of certain things in our early years. The reactions of others around us tell us whether we should be afraid or not. What are you afraid of? What have you been afraid of for so long you can’t remember how it all started?
Making Fear your Bitch!
Just like the Ocean or the wind, the storm or the dust cloud, fear can be harnessed to make you feel more powerful. That moment when you think “shit I’d better run away” or “OMG why aren’t my legs moving?” stop and take control. Accept that you are afraid and that you aren’t going to let it control you.
Fear does an amazing thing if you stop and pay attention. It heightens your senses. You can hear better and see better. You are more aware of your surroundings so you can determine where the threat is. Your heart is already pumping to get the blood around your body in case you need to make a hasty escape or fight to defend yourself. The adrenaline is already there – use it.
You should feel fear but it shouldn’t render you immobile or incapable. It’s a base instinct and there for your protection.
It is a monster too though. It can hold you hostage, paralysed, in it’s grip for years. It can imprison you. Stop you from doing things, stop you from reaching your true potential.
Why Fear Works so Well in Stories
As the reader we live through the protagonists eyes. We see as they see and feel as they feel. We live their story. From beginning to end we learn from them and with them. If they are sad then we are too. If they are excited so are we. But if they are in danger, in fear for their lives, then so are we (from the safety of our duvet). We live what they live as if it were our own experience.
There is a little part of our brain that can’t determine reality from the story in the book. It’s why a good book is such a great escape and why when you are finished and look up and realise the world hasn’t changed.
It’s why a good horror story can have you making sure your toes are covered by the duvet. That you are close enough to the light switch to turn it on again if that shadow in the corner moves. It’s the reason there is a shadow in the corner, despite you never noticing it before. It’s the reason your built in the seventies house suddenly feels like an old asylum with dripping pipes and scuttling mice.
It’s why your other half saying “There’s nothing in the bathroom, we don’t even have a shower” doesn’t mean a thing when you suddenly need to pee and insist they go with you….. just in case.
Seeking the Adrenaline Rush
The truth is those of us who hunt out the scary are more than likely already aware of the adrenaline caused by fear, and love it. But once you have felt it that first time it’s ability to effect you gets less and less. A movie that would have had you hiding behind a cushion twenty years ago now has no effect.
But it felt so good the first time you want to feel it again. You become a scary movie junkie on a mission to find your next hit. The trouble is you are, in effect, facing your fear and, as a result, conquering it. What you need to feel the same adrenaline rush gets more extreme. Movies just don’t seem scary enough any more, the books just don’t have you cowering the way they once did. You take up an extreme sport or begin spending nights in abandoned buildings with ghost hunting groups. There are whole industries based on your need for fear.
P.S. What makes you afraid? Do you prefer one type of movie over another to get your fear hit? Let me know in the comments what makes you scream.
Horror and Fantasy Author – Also writing as K.T. McQueen. Love Western Horror, cowboy boots, my cactus Collin, & my Demon Cat.
Moths – I hate moths, the way they flutter at your face!