There are classic scary places—a spooky old house, a dark basement during a power outage, a deserted parking lot, and my favorite—Dracula’s castle. But less obvious places scare individuals all the time. One person’s comfy antique-filled study is another person’s creepy attic lair.
We approach places from our unique perspectives, so the place that scares one character in a story might be HOME to another. This is an inherent conflict that can be the backdrop or the point of a story.
This came to mind when I was perusing the summer travel posts of friends on Facebook. In theory, I’m fine with all the hiking, biking, camping, lost in the wilderness stories. But in reality—I’d rather get lost in a museum in Madrid, wander “off the map” in Rome, or get off at the wrong subway stop in Berlin and walk, walk, walk… until I locate myself. In other words, given the choice between the great outdoors and an urban adventure—I’ll take the city.
The woods at night sound romantic—even magical—but the wilderness is not my comfort zone. I worry about snakes, bug bites, spraining an ankle, and getting hopelessly lost. I like indoor plumbing, good coffee in the morning, and a shady spot where I can hide from the midday sun.
You are probably laughing right now. Maybe I’ve read too many mystery stories set in lonely houses on the edge of a forest or overlooking a treacherous shore? Maybe it’s all those TV movies with solo hikers encountering serial killers? Maybe I just prefer an urban jungle because my imagination fills in a series of terrors at the thought of getting lost in the desert or the woods, while I manage to enjoy getting lost in strange cities?
The characters I create are not like me. They are often braver, smarter and have mad skills that make them exciting protagonists, villains, red herrings, and members of the supporting cast. They don’t necessarily share my fears—in fact, I prefer it if they don’t.
What do place do you fear?
Could it be the narrowing tunnel in a cave; an abandoned house with the aroma of decay; a ladder leading up to an attic; a lonely subway platform at three in the morning; a house where a murder took place; a Victorian cemetery; a taxidermist workshop; a wax museum; a broken elevator; a…I’m sure you have a few scary suggestions to share!