I recently posted on Facebook about irrational phobias and got a whole lot of responses, so I decided to write a little more about them and how they’ve been a useful tool in writing for a long time.
I’m a rational person, really I am. As a paranormal investigator, I even hunt ghosts, things that tend to scare a lot of folks. There are things that frightened me as a kid and still give me the wiggins even as an adult. I use those memories in my writing, and sometimes attribute phobias and irrational fears to characters in my books. It makes them seem more human, with faults, and also can spice up scenes with a little bit of tension. It’s also cathartic in a face-your-fears sort of way for me.
Horror writers and film makers have cashed in on phobias, so I know I’m not alone in these irrational fears. I was a kid who, from the time I can remember, watched horror shows and read ghost stories, so I enjoyed being scared. At least, when it was a safe scare. Of course, the mind doesn’t always make rational decisions about what’s scary and what’s not. Take a simple thing like a doll. Millions of kids play with them every day. So why should anybody fear them?
Well, when I was a kid, I received an antique doll as a gift from my great-grandmother. She spent a lot of time making the beautiful dress, hat and shoes for the doll. Despite all her hard work, I couldn’t get past the glass eyes and the rows of teeth. Yes, it had teeth! The Twilight Zone’s Talky Tina rerun came to mind immediately whenever I looked at this doll. I hadn’t been too fond of dolls in the first place, except maybe the Barbie versions, so this one went straight into my closet with several others. I think it got passed on to a cousin some years later. I never really asked.
Here’s a particularly scary doll with teeth that I found listed on ebay. Be warned, she might just fuel some nightmares.
Going back to The Twilight Zone’s Talky Tina – She’s so memorable, you can now purchase a replica on Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/Twilight-Zone-Talky-Tina-Replica/dp/B004MCO78S Yeah, let me just get my credit card out for that.
Chucky is probably the most well-known of the nightmare dolls. At least for my generation. And they made movie sequels, giving him a homicidal wife. Stores even sold Talking Chucky dolls, complete with replica murder weapons he used in his movies. Great to have in the family, don’t you think?
Clowns are another thing I’m not too fond of (real or doll versions) and they’ve been used numerous times in books, films, and TV shows. Stephen King’s IT is probably the most famous book with the Pennywise clown. If you were a teen or adult sci-fi buff in the 90s, you probably remember Xander’s nightmare scene from Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. http://www.hulu.com/watch/1015/buffy-the-vampire-slayer-killer-clown
And who can forget what is probably one of the most famous clown dolls, from the Poltergeist movie? A two-fer scare for those of us who aren’t fond of dolls or clowns. My brother had a clown doll like the one in Poltergeist and we joked about it after we saw the movie. But I do believe it went into his closet that same day. Or maybe he donated it. Hmm, maybe I should ask him. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yc7oJhvNr4w
Clown and doll phobias are so popular, USPS even made a commercial that uses one to sell services. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zwXdSH2Co78 Thanks to a Facebook friend for reminding me of this one. I hadn’t seen it in a while.
So, next time you have to face your own irrational fears, think about using them to write a scene. While it won’t make the fear go away, it will make for interesting writing. And you might get a little cathartic therapy out of it.
Happy writing and Happy New Year!