On nightmares and writing Floorboards

**Warning: Floorboards doesn’t really have any huge twists but I will talk about what happens in the story below. Spoiler alert if you haven’t read it.**

LGOH cover

Most of my work has an element of horror, but my story for the Ladies and Gentlemen of Horror anthology was the first time I attempted to write pure horror, rather than fantasy or scifi with a twist of horror.

I spent a long while trying to decide what I wanted to contribute because I wanted to do horror right. In the end, the question that came to mind was ‘ ‘Well, what scares me?’

I have had nightmares since I was a child. For those lucky enough not to get them, nightmares are lot more than just bad dreams. They are vivid, horrible and as real as if they had actually happened. My body reacts in a very real way, except because it’s a dream I don’t have the luxury of being able to try manage my thoughts and reaction.

Nightmares are a very pure and physical experience. Pure terror. Pure grief. Pure panic.
When I wake up, I tell myself it was just a dream, but it takes some time for my body to get the message. I can still hear the screaming in my ears. My heart is still racing. Adrenaline is still pumping. I have to get out of bed and distract my mind with something else – TV or a book — until my body gets the idea and stops panicking. It usually takes me a good few hours to calm down and go back to sleep.

Most of my nightmares involve the death of a loved one, usually in a gruesome manner. When I was younger, it was my sisters or my parents. Now that I’m parent myself, it’s my son.

So, when I thought about what truly scared me, it was my nightmares that came to mind. I didn’t want to write about people I love dying. I shove those memories away in the back of my head and I never want to revisit them.

Instead, Floorboards is based on one of the few recurring nightmares I have and one of the few that doesn’t involve a loved one.

****Spoilers from here on*****

The nightmare is very simple. There is a corpse buried somewhere in my house or garden. I know that I hid the body, and I know that whatever happened to them is my fault.
The nightmare is a combination of guilt because someone is dead because of me, and terror that I’m going to be found out. I never know who the corpse is or what I did, but I know it is a woman. That’s it.

If I were to try and psychoanalyse myself, I’d guess it’s something about insecurity and ‘being found’ out as a horrible person, or something. Who the hell knows?

The characters in Floorboards aren’t in the least bit real or based on anyone I know. I don’t know a Vicky. I had a happy childhood. I thought if I put some logic and reason to the nightmare and made it someone else’s experience, writing the nightmare might be a cathartic experience and make it a little less scary. It wasn’t. It was just a horrible thing to write and I’m glad it’s done. I’m not going to read it again.

I’m not sure what it is that makes my work take such a dark turn, but after Floorboards I’m going to try to write some happier stuff.

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