Thoughts on the Scare Scale.

Wow, I kind of disappeared there. Sorry about that.

With Halloween right around the corner, I’ve been thinking about something I call, the Scare Scale. Going from Teletubby (though some would assert that these belong in the “horror” zone) all the way up to Self-Wetting.

I fall somewhere in the middle.

My stories tend to have an element of creepy. At least a cup of it in the overall recipe. But anyone who knows me knows I frighten REALLY easily. As in, I shy away from scary movies, and if I watch them, I have to watch cartoons after, so I can sleep.

Nonetheless, I can’t seem to write a book without reaching “creepy” on the scale. I don’t write fluff, or cheer, or anything approximating. My first project involved Death (note the capital), NW involves disappearing children, and my new project involves Histories, which come pretty close to zombie + ghost + murderous intent.

I think there’s a fine line, or several lines, between creepy and horror, between back-of-neck-hair-raising, and oh-god-I-can’t-sleep-because-X-will-get-me-even-if-X-is-entirely-fictional.

I try really, really hard to stay on the creepy end of it. And I do have the benefit of being the author. Which does NOT mean my own creations don’t creep me out. But it DOES mean that they can’t worm their way off the page and into my head, since they started out there. Some people love to get the crap scared out of them, but as the kind of person who doesn’t, my enjoyment begins to ebb as things climb the scare scale.

I like to write things that make you wriggle in your seat a bit, or wonder about how empty the shadows across the room are, but I *try* not to cross into “Boo!” or nightmare-inducing.

Anyway, random thought as Halloween draws near.

Which do you prefer? The kind of stories that make you wonder, that crack a window in your mind to the more impossible things, even if they go bump, or the kind that make you want to leave all the lights on?

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15 thoughts on “Thoughts on the Scare Scale.

  1. britmandelo says:

    I love stories that make me feel. Whether that sensation is sorrow, or horror (harder to do but heart breaking), fear, love… I want a story to grab me by my guts and yank. I can deal with it if I can’t sleep afterwards. After all, some ingenious soul gave me Lovecraft when I was 11. It’s sort of hard to top that later on. *g*

  2. noirbettie says:

    I’m funny. With movies I like them pretty scary, with plenty of gore. With books, though, I don’t want overt scares. The Haunting Of Hill House is the scariest I’ll go and really, it’s a bit much for me in places.
    When I was about 11, I read Ghosts Beneath Our Feet and didn’t sleep for three nights. Five (or maybe more) years later I decided to read it again and see what had scared silly little Annika so badly. And then I DIDN’T SLEEP FOR THREE NIGHTS. So apparently that book is my actual limit.

  3. veschwab says:

    That’s a good point. Maybe it’s not so much a Scare Scale as a reaction one, running up the degrees of intensity. I definitely like to be impacted by stories. I’ve never been big on fluff, or books that I forget as soon as I’m done. Regardless of genre, I need the book to stick with me.

  4. veschwab says:

    I scare SO easily, books and movies alike. I couldn’t sleep after The Ring, and I cannot read things like Stephen King before bed. Beside books are meant to help me settle down and grow quiet, NOT wake me back up :p But as I said to Brit in the comment above, I think it’s reaction. I want to have a reaction to the books I read, and I want to get a reaction out of readers, and I think that’s what I mean by creepy. I want them to *feel* something reading it, a prickle of something, but I still want them to be able to sleep after! If anything, I want *thoughts* about the book to keep them up, not fear!

  5. lswing says:

    I’m the same! I, personally, cannot handle horror. Can’t even watch those trailers for horror movies at the theatre. However, I write “creepy” things all the time. Like you said, it’s not horror – can’t sleep sort of deal – but it’s provocative creepy. Maybe somewhere deep inside us there’s just a creepy person waiting to burst out~~~ hahahaha.

  6. seeyouupside says:

    Lots of things scare me. I think I like it better in books because I make it up in my head versus movies (I’m a very visual person–once I see something its ingrained in my brain). The worst thing I ever did (reading something “scary”) was reading NIGHT by Elie Wiesel. I read it once when I was 12, understood it but didn’t quite grasp it. One night at 15 I couldn’t sleep so I said to myself, “Why not reread it?” BIG MISTAKE. I ended up not sleeping for two nights.

  7. I absolutely love a good scary story, and have been an avid horror fan since I was really little! There’s something about that tiny adrenaline rush that’s just so gratifying 😀
    With my own stuff, I have to admit, I lean toward the macabre. I’ve been known to do gory, but only as a means to an end. (I like zombies, and gory kind of comes with the territory.) More often, I’m inclined toward things that are psychologically creepy. I think that can be handled lots of ways, plenty of which have nothing to do with physical violence. I guess I like things that are conceptually startling–something a reader most likely won’t have seen before. I want to startle someone just by showing them what they weren’t expecting.

  8. veschwab says:

    Haha maybe! I wouldn’t be surprised if I have a creepy writer beneath this cupcake-loving exterior. And I think ‘provocative’ is an excellent word to use here.

  9. jongibbs says:

    Undead Teletubbies! Now that would be scary 🙂

  10. veschwab says:

    Ack, my imagination is wayyyy too vivid for fright-inducing stories :p

  11. veschwab says:

    I’m all for the psychological creep factor. I have never been a horror fan, and even the best zombie stories make me crinkle my nose, but I do like writing macabre things. I think I try to stay o the side of fairy tale brutality, not real world gore. I adore the brother Grimm :p

  12. I love writing creepy scenes in my book. I love the kind of creepy that is subtle, but makes you do a double take, like a line someone says that feels off or a flash out of the corner of your eye kind of thing. I have a thing about ghosts. I keep putting them in my books and then writing them out later. One of these days, I’ll write and actual ghost story. For me, the creepy scenes are the most fun to write.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I used to LOVE being scared.
    Then I had children and now I cant stand it.
    I agree, creeped out is ok, fun even, if its fictional. But SCARY….nope. cant do it anymore.
    I have ALWAYS been terrified of total darkness though, so its great that now I have an actual excuse to leave the hall light on 🙂
    Tye xx

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