make it scary

Courageous Writing

I write horror, so you might assume the title of this post has something to do with that. Nope. Not directly, at least.

Last week, I quoted Hazy quoting Francis Guenette: “No matter what you’re trying to create – if you’re not scared you’re not really doing it.” I’ve been thinking a lot about that concept, and I wanted to say some more about it.

First, seasoned writers probably already know what Guenette means, but newer writers may not immediately recognize the profound truth of that statement, and non-writers may not get it at all. Why would the writing process be scary? Why would that be true of any creative process?

Good fiction requires a kind of vulnerability on the part of the author. It’s hard to describe, but I’ll give it a go. You’re pounding away on a story and an absurd idea comes to mind. Maybe an idea that even leaves you feeling a bit awkward about yourself.

“Where did that come from?” you ask yourself.

Your mind, which suddenly feels like a deep, black abyss, doesn’t answer. Not wanting to further explore it, and more than a little concerned at what your readers will think of you if you include that crazy idea in your story, you push it to the side and press on. 10 minutes later, you don’t even remember all that nuttiness, and your story is that much weaker for it.


Because those crazy ideas are often the seeds of brilliance. Not always, mind you. Sometimes they really are just crazy ideas. But sometimes the inclusion of a little craziness is precisely what makes a story incredible. Mediocre fiction almost never embraces the insanity. Great fiction almost always includes some measure of it.

That’s what’s scary about writing, at least in part. If you’re not allowing some of your own lunacy onto the page, instead stuffily declaring that you have no idea what I’m talking about because you are not a lunatic, then your fiction will not be what it could be. (And besides, you’re a writer. Of course you’re nuts. To quote an unfortunately overused bit of pop-culture wisdom, “Come to the dark side. We have cookies.”)

Don’t run from the weird thoughts that pop into your head when you’re in writing mode. Write them into your story. If they don’t add anything to it, you can always take ’em back out later. If, on the other hand, they end up being the thoroughly human element every story needs, congratulations. You just found the secret ingredient of all great fiction.


About Ash Martin
Ash Martin writes dark fantasy and horror, has a thing for classic monster legends, Nordic mythology, coffee, and sarcasm, and is currently working on multiple books.

10 Responses to make it scary

  1. Good advice and great quote you picked. It’s wonderful when the internal writer takes over and coughs up something weird and cool. Always let it come out, (you can hit delete later, if needed).

    Liked by 1 person

    • dex says:

      Thanks, Cynthia. It’s weird, isn’t it, how we know the delete button is right there and it’s still hard to put something scary on the digital page?


  2. I totally agree. Even on my blog, I’m scared scared when I hit that ‘send’ button. Our writing exposes us and makes us vulnerable. But writers need to live with the fright, every day.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. tristdagon says:

    I love this post. It’s superb advice. What isn’t terrifying about taking a part of your self and shining a big fat spotlight on it?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. diannegray says:

    I have a lot of lunacy in my writing and I usually leave it there 😉 There have been many WTF moments for me and I love to grab them and build on them. Yes – I’m a lunatic 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Ha ha! When my daughter was 4, I bought a t-shirt for her that displayed that very quote. I had to buy it for her because they didn’t have it in my size!

    Great post, Dex. All true.

    Liked by 1 person

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