Friday, May 22, 2009

A Case of Mistaken Identity

In life, not everything is as it seems but some people prefer to ignore reality so much that they create a bogus world. I often wonder how many times I've witnessed a scene where people behave as society expects, creating the illusion of normalcy. Yet, if I take for granted what I see, I'd never know there was anything askew.

The same could be said about writing horror. When creating a scene, it's best not only
to analyze the action but rather infuse malice to ordinary events. The objective should be to turn an innocent situation into someone's worst nightmare. By placing characters into plausible scenarios that are common to everyday life, a connection can be made with the reader, igniting the mechanism all horror writers hope to invoke--fear.

Here's an example:

Little Tommy Dunn scoops sand and gingerly places it on top of more grain. Droplets of sweat cascade off his long, curly hair landing on what he considers, his masterpiece. He packs in the sand with great care, biting his tongue, wrinkling his nose. A salty breeze mixes with a familiar lavender scent. He knows his mother is near.

"Tommy, you missed a spot."

The little first grader looks down and sees his classmate's big toe sticking out of the temporary makeshift grave.

"I told you to leave it alone. I drowned the little bully in the water so it'll look like an accident. They're supposed to find him anyway."

Little Tommy nods and smiles knowing that tomorrow school will be a more peaceful place.

While it's fun to make the ordinary horrific, it is even better when you apply the technique to a character. In my flash piece, "Mistaken Identity," I take a reader on a fantastic journey when the main character chases a familiar foe through an everyday urban setting.

Here's an excerpt:

The first time I saw the stranger, a bomb exploded at Times Square. I watched amazed as police officers rushed by unaware of the monster in our midst, but I knew what he was. He looked like them. You know the type. They hide their heads and their faces remain unshaven. I figured if I caught this fool, the FBI would have to let me back in.

I followed him back into the subway. His movements deliberate, his eyes cold and calculating. For a man of average height and portly build, he moved with uncanny stealth. I had to utilize my skills as a hunter not to lose him again because he had a knack for disappearing in a blink of an eye.

So the next time writer's block occurs, go outside, experience life and look at the ordinary with malice. You just may witness a wonderfully terrible case of mistaken identity.


  1. Psychosis is a biochemical disorder, not a result of childhood trauma, even when severe. Childhood trauma will lead to psychopathic killers who are not psychotic but have severe personality disorders. Serial killers are almost never not guilty by reason of insanity (NGRI) and hence are food for the death penalty.

    A small number, and I mean really small, of paranoid schilzophrenics who are psychotic and suffering from hallucinations or delusions may kill, but no consistent link to childhood trauma has been established

    Books and novels have been terribly misleading about the relationship between psychosis and violence.


  2. Thanks for your informed comment. Authors of slasher movies or novels like to link childhood trauma to horrific events because it makes for an easy explanation, however unlikely it may actually be. Let's face it, if everyone who has been wronged as a child would go out and become murderers, then this world would be vastly underpopulated.