Wednesday, October 24, 2012

AbsoluteWrite Blog Chain - Otherworldly

Once again it's time for the blog chain from the fun folks at Absolute Write. Be sure to check out the other great blogs listed at the end of this post. This month's theme: Otherworldly. Being that it's October, and Halloween has become our favorite holiday, otherworldly goes with scary.

So what is it about ghouls and ghosts, monsters and mayhem, that are so popular in stories? Why do we like scary? In particular, why do we like scares from 'the other world'? Here's my thoughts.

We like to be scared because it's a powerful sensation. Fear triggers adrenaline. It gets your heart pumping (literally) and heightens your sensations. There's a physical response that's invigorating. People are simple that way - we like things that stimulate us. In any way.

Why do we like supernatural horrors so much? Because they frighten us, but they don't worry us. We like to be afraid only if we can put that fear behind us and move on. We don't want to live in a state of perpetual fear. That's over-stimulation. Otherworldly scares are temporary because we know that they can't actually happen to us. We don't have to live in constant fear that a ghost is going to grab us, or a vampire will suck out our blood.

There are lots of things in this world that are real and really scary. Cancer. Earthquakes. Gas prices. But you won't find as many stories about them - they exist, but they don't have the lasting popularity and comforting nature of supernatural horrors. There's a lesson to be learned there for writers.

If you are writing about something scary, you need to give your readers an out. While there is some power in the idea that bad things happen to everyday people, most readers want to believe that they are safe. You can make the location somewhere specific - most people don't live there. You can make the victims specific - the trashy girl is always the first to get killed, but that's okay because we're not trashy. You can stack the percentages in our favor - how many people can Hannibal Lector eat before he's full? Anything that allows us to feel frightened in the moment but safe when we return to our everyday lives will do the trick.

Or you can stick to the otherworldly. It offers many ways to scare us, and it's fun to dream up new variations (mutated zombie sharks that sparkle in moonlight?). But there's a built in exit strategy - we can just walk away. (unless, of course, you believe in land sharks)

Participants and posts:
Ralph Pines: (post link here)
randi.lee: (post link here)
Aranenvo: (post link here)
pyrosama: (post link here)
hilaryjacques: (post link here)
meowzbark: (post link here)
slcboston: (post link here)
areteus: (post link here)
dolores haze: (post link here)
SuzanneSeese: (post link here)
Orion mk3: (post link here)
Linda Adams: (post link here)
Alynza: (post link here)
BBBurke: (you're already here)
SRHowen: (post link here)
Damina Rucci: (post link here)
CJMichaels: (post link here)
wonderactivist: (post link here)
Lady Cat: (post link here)
xcomplex: (post link here)
debranneelliot: (post link here)

bearilou: (post link here)
bmadsen: (post link here) 


  1. IDk I think gas prices are a supernatural horror, then again land sharking, seriously? Like i'm going to bite a stranger on the ass . . . then again might depend on the stranger!

  2. I love the adrenaline that comes along with being scared. Makes me feel alive!!

  3. If you've ever been lost in the woods when it got dark, I don't think you'd appreciate the adrenaline! lol

    1. But that's exactly what adrenaline is for: priming you for flight or fight. Without it we'd be slow and easy prey for whatever is out there.

  4. Huh...earthquakes. I don't get scared throughout the duration but I do get that adrenaline rush. And I love the feeling afterwards. In regards to being scared. I'm not a fan but you're right. We want that sensation running through out body and, as a bonus, perhaps supernatural and out-of-this-world stuff makes us think.

    1. Depends on the size of the earthquake. I've been in a big one (6.7) and it was plenty scary. Threw me out of bed - I awoke while falling to the floor. Dishes were flying everywhere as I rushed to get outside to safety. The aftershocks lasted for days and kept causing more damage. It's definitely an interesting sensation but not one I'm looking to repeat.

  5. An engaging read, like what you did with the prompt--relating it with why we are scared, and what our response is to the fear--nice job!

    Ever been on a long deserted dark road late at night, and your gas needle sounds its alarm--uh, oh! I say every time, wondering who will come to my aid if I don't make it to the gas station.

  6. Thought-provoking post. For some, being scared could possibly be viewed as an addiction because of that adrenaline rush--hence the word "adrenaline junkie." People watch movies, knowing they'll be scared, or they do certain things to induce that fear. When it comes to the supernatural, I think it's also a fascination with the unknown. Sure, we don't really think it can happen to us, but what if?

    See? Though-provoking indeed! Great post.

  7. Very well done. There's nothing like that rush of adrenaline when we get scared, although I like like most things, too much of it would take the fun out of it.

  8. Great comparison between the supernatural and fear.

    Of course, zombies don't count. They're real and out there waiting for us - in the Walmart parking lot pushing carts. (Gotta love Shawn of the Dead.)

  9. You make some excellent points. I like a little adrenaline rush sometimes.

  10. As long as I space them out, I'm all for a good adrenaline rush. My problem is that all too often people misinterpret "fear" as meaning "gallons of gore and volumes of viscera." This is why "The Shining" remains a spooky favorite and the "Saw" series is shunned in my house.