What Scares You in a Fun Way?
I think about this question a lot around this time of year, because I seem to find myself writing my characters into scary situations a lot. For me, fun scary isn’t bloody gutsy. I think slasher movies/books are too unsettling to enjoy. I guess I’m more into psychologically and environmentally scary stuff.
Give me a deep, dark wood, or a creepy old haunted house any day.
So what is it about these places that’s fun scary to me? I guess it’s the anticipation of something horrible in a setting that, under a bright sun, would seem normal and harmless. Terror slides into place under a fat moon or a storm-drenched sky. It pulses to life as the sun dies and is a living, breathing force until the sun rises again.
Fun scary is the monster in the closet or the ghoul skulking behind a tombstone. It’s a child’s nightmare…a madman’s dream. It doesn’t slash or eviscerate, but the possibility is always there for violence, like a rancid hope.
I particularly love atmospheric scary. It pulses with a thunderous heartbeat of its own, dragging you into a terrifying abyss of fear and helplessness. A stormy Cliffside at night, with the ocean pounding violently far below. A dark, chilled cave filled with the stench of death and other…much worse…things.
Sometimes horror masks itself in play, like in the following scene from my upcoming romantic suspense, Hell Hath No Honeybun, where my hero and heroine find themselves looking for a killer in the black-light-drenched rooms of a Halloween fun house!
What happens to a songbird when she sings the wrong tune? She quickly finds herself in a flight for her life!
Garrick Honeybun was only at the Halloween fundraiser as a favor to his cousins and his Uncle Brick. But that didn’t mean he couldn’t enjoy the singer, who stirred his senses like nothing he’d ever experienced, and had a voice like molten honey. In fact, he fully intended to tell her how much he enjoyed her singing.
Unfortunately, somebody got to her before he could. And when the guy who shoved her around behind stage showed up dead in the cloak room, Garrick’s beautiful songbird took a runner. Now Garrick had to find her, and when he did, he fully intended to find out why she killed the guy—and figure out how he could help her get away with it.
* * *
As they got closer, the sounds of mechanized screaming filled the night. The sound, even muffled as it was, made Ena’s stomach hurt, because she knew it was a thin veneer over the true horror waiting inside that house.
A warm hand lay against her back, a soft breath bathed her face as they started up the wide, wooden staircase. Garrick’s breathing was regular, his touch gentle. His unflustered presence took the edge off Ena’s terror.
The bulb over the front door flickered ominously. Movement on the roofline made Ena look up just as a huge, black bat dropped toward them, its eyes glowing red in the dark. She screamed and flung up a hand to swat the beast, before she heard Garrick’s chuckle and realized it was just a prop.
Ena swore softly as the bat lurched upward on a noisy cable. “I’m not going to survive this,” she muttered.
Garrick moved past her, reaching for the doorknob. He lifted a finger to his lips and pulled the door open a few inches, peering inside before slipping through in front of her. He grabbed her hand as he went through the door and pulled her in behind him.
When the door closed they stood in total darkness.
Garrick stilled, the fingers holding her hand tightening as they listened, trying to get their bearings.
Something clanked in the distance. A speaker belched a horror-movie scream and Ena jumped, wrapping her fingers around Garrick’s arm.
A stale breeze wafted past.
She thought she heard the soft exhalation of breath and spun around, icy fingers of terror slipping up her spine. A sense of movement on the floor made her jump and give a little yelp. The terrifying sound of tiny, pattering feet suddenly surrounded them. As if someone had opened a cage full of critters and dumped them into the room. Something squeaked down by her feet and she gave a little scream. “Rats! Garrick!” Ena rammed him with her body, not sure what she expected him to do about it but certain they’d be better off as a single unit, rather than two, easily separated potential victims.
He lifted a hand and light flared. Garrick pointed the phone toward the ground.
“It’s just a sound track,” he told her with a smile in his voice.
Ena shuddered. “I’m seriously not going to survive this.”
A flashing light snapped on overhead. The flashing made things in the room seem to move and lunge toward them and Ena was relieved when Garrick tugged her hand and they used the disconcerting display to move through the space. As they neared the door on the other end of the room, someone screamed, the sound filled with agony. Ena’s immediate thought was that it was Jackson.
She started to run.
A blood-covered figure pitched toward her, the chainsaw in its gore-coated hand roaring to life. Ena kicked out, her foot smacking hard against the metal frame of the simulated attacker. “Ouch!” She hopped away as the “monster” retreated noisily.
“Are you okay?” Garrick supported her arm as she hobbled around for a minute.
“Yes, I’m…” The room went black again. Something shifted behind her and hard hands grabbed her arm, yanking her backward. Ena screamed as the wall opened and the ruthless hands ripped her away from Garrick. Her scream was quickly cut off by a brutal punch to the temple and the darkness in front of her eyes found its way inside her brain.
Sam writes as Sam Cheever for mainstream romantic suspense and fantasy, all heat levels; and Declan Sands for m/m romantic suspense and fantasy. Sam’s published work includes 40+ works of romantic suspense, and fantasy/paranormal. Her books have won the Dream Realm Award for fantasy, been nominated for and/or won several CAPAs, were nominated for Best of 2010 with LRC and The Romance Reviews, and won eCataromance’s Reviewer’s Choice award.
Sam is published with Changeling Press; Ellora’s Cave, both Romantica and Blush; Musa Publishing; and Electric Prose Publications (her own imprint).
Visit her websites to find out more about her work and activities: www.SamCheever.com or www.DeclanSands.com.