I believe that our culture conditions us to have certain expectations when it comes to stories. Movies, books, spoken word, it doesn’t matter. That’s why people get in an uproar when, say, a YA author kills off the main character in the last book of a trilogy (keeping them nameless to avoid spoilers). People weren’t expecting the author to do that. They were expecting the story to end the way they wanted it to, the way so many other books have.
Sometimes when I write, I reach a certain point in a story, and I feel like what I’m about to write, the next part, is too obvious. It’s almost like autopilot writing propelled by my cultural conditioning. So, when I hit that point, I stop.
I take a step back and wonder what else could happen. I actually brainstorm a little bit, and I jot down several possibilities.
Let’s say we’re writing a horror. I love love love horror, but a lot of horrors (movies, books, whatever) sometimes have a tendency to follow a formula.
Let’s say, Jimmy is about to open a door. The audience is all like, “No, Jimmy! Don’t open that door!” Why? Because something bad is going to happen to Jimmy. Duh. It’s happened in a thousand stories before this.
So, we have Jimmy standing in front of the door. Since this is an especially cliché situation, we’re going to use 15 possibilities.
Rapid fire. I don’t think; I just write. And I start with the obvious ones so I get them out of the way.
- Ghost grabs Jimmy and pulls him into the room.
- Nothing is there. Empty room.
- See something terrifying but doesn’t affect him, like he witnesses a murder that happened a long time ago.
- Sees a mirror image of the room behind him, as well as a reflection of himself.
- Brick wall like in cartoons. 🙂
- Portal to another dimension.
- Ghost inviting him to dinner.
- Jimmy doesn’t open the door and walks away. Creepy thing reaches for him.
- Door opens to outside of the building. Long way down. More cartoons!
- Swirling fog monster.
- Opens to his bedroom in his childhood home (or so it would appear)
- Dead friend is there, trying to lure him inside.
- Soul eating machine.
- Opens to a hospital room where he sees himself in a coma and something tries to convince him the haunted house is a dream.
- Doesn’t open the door at all, but when he turns, he’s surrounded by a ring of duplicate doors, so he has no choice but to open one.
Okay, some of these are still kind of cliché, but you get the idea.
And now, because I don’t know how to conclude this post in an eloquent manner and because every blog post needs a picture, here are some terrifying bunnies I saw in an antique store.