Strange is the New Normal

One of the best ways to frame a scary story is to set it in a completely “normal” environment. Everyone expects a ghost in the attic of an old house, but it’s weird when one shows up in the garage adjacent to a suburban ranch or in a Starbucks. It’s the contrast between the NORM and the EXTRAORDINARY that makes the weirdness click. But what happens when you live where strange is normal? You have to get creative.

What do I mean by strange?

Well how would you describe a man casting his fly fishing rod on 12th Street between 5th & 6th Avenues on a sunny Sunday morning, right in the middle of the street? How about the man outside the 14th Street entrance to the Union Square subway station holding a sign that read: “Free Massage from Creepy Man.” (Yes, he did look a little creepy. And no, I did not stop for a back rub.) And then there was the lovely singing voice, rising from the garbage cans outside the wine store on 13th Street. He was looking for bottles and cans to redeem the ¢5 deposits on each. He was singing the theme song to the old “Brady Bunch” TV show — a cruel, possibly evil, choice that lingered in my head for hours.

If you were keeping track, I’m sure you’ve noticed the geography of my examples. All three of these incidents happened within a few city blocks of each other and within a few days, too! Do I live in weird central? Possibly, but it all seems normal to me, so when I set a story close to home — as I’ve done in my second Candy’s Monster (Bram Stoker’s Summer Sublet) I invite the reader to take a walk with me.

For a storyteller, the challenge is to create normalcy by inviting the reader to help with the work. You’re in collusion with me and strange is the new normal.

Bram Stoker’s Summer Sublet will be available later this week. I hope you’ll enjoy the strange/normal world of the story.


    • Candy

      LOL… I think I may live in one of the weirdest corners of the city, but it’s also a fun place and I wouldn’t move to a more conventional spot if I were given the opportunity. If nothing else, it’s full of fodder for stories.

    • Candy

      New York is one of those cities with lots of little neighborhoods close together. I live just south of Union Square — lots of restaurants and businesses, some very fancy and some appealing to the university students (NYU is right there). The new MONSTER primarily takes place a few blocks east near Tompkins Square. In some ways it’s another country as it’s the East Village. I’m sure you’ll enjoy the “tour” in the book.

  1. Cool post, you sure do live in a weird area! Just kidding! 🙂

    I understand what you mean though, when I used to live in Newcastle Upon Tyne, there was (and is) a lady known as the ‘bag-lady’. She used to walk up and down the high street, singing loudly and shouting at pigeons. It seemed strange to visitors to the area, but is completely normal for everyone who lives there, and she is even even referred to with affection.

    And can’t wait for your Summer Sublet! 😀

    • Candy

      Yes, I think the pigeon caller would get to me as a tourist, but when she’s “my” pigeon caller, it’s different. I don’t like the man who walks around with his cat on his head — even on snowy days in the winter. But my dismay is on the cat’s behalf. No sane cat puts up with that for long.

      Anyway, glad you are looking forward to Bram Stoker’s Summer Sublet.

  2. What an interesting spin! I live in southern California, but have visited New York and love all the energy, variety, strangeness, and great things to do and places to eat. Did you have to get permission to use a writer’s name in the title of your books?

    • Candy

      Yes, in some ways I live in the capitol of strange. I always find empty suburban streets too eerie for me. The buzz of other people — with energy strange and not so strange — is more comforting.

      As for using Bram Stoker’s name — it’s a non-issue. If he rises from the dead, I’ll discuss it with him and I’m sure he’s be fine with it. I’ve updated his epistolary format, writing my novella in diary entries, email messages, voicemail and the other contemporary version of his 19th century novel of letters & journal entries.

  3. Metan

    It’s funny the way we get used to the unusual. I love the thought of fly-fishing man 🙂

    • Candy

      The fly fisherman was actually the weirdest to me. I’d never seen anyone do that in the city.

      Getting used to strange is NORMAL. Getting used to everything is normal. A few years ago I read a very interesting article about happiness. The things we desire and expect to make us happy, change when we achieve them. The happiness becomes normal and that dulls it down. If you lucky, or smart about it, it becomes a feeling of being content, but most people start searching again for the next thing that will make them happy.

      The study backing the article was kind of scary — that new lover, the big house, the great job, the publication of the book…. any dream come true, becomes NORMAL and loses its ability to make us deliriously happy.

      I felt kind of sad when I read it, because I know it’s true. When you covet that big apartment next door or long to be in that initial swoon of first blush love, you’ve got to realize that those feelings will morph into regular life eventually. The study said about six months for the biggies. I was sad, until I realized how useful that knowledge could be. I don’t covet that big apartment next door — just more space to clean.

  4. I like a little uncertainty in a life. Adds a little character. lol In fact I knew a person when I lived in Vermont that was from Sleepy Hollow, NY, I didn’t even know it was a real place.
    Anyway, she said there was some creepy things that went on there since the headless horseman.

    And I know of a few ghostly story’s in my home town in Idaho. Might have to do a little more digging to get more detail about them. Liked you story.

    • Candy

      Glad you enjoyed it!
      I like to set my fiction in places I know very well — or places that are entirely imaginary. I’ve never been to Idaho. A ghost story set there is an intriguing setting. Dig and do a story!

      • Funny you should say that because I’m working on a Y.A. fiction book now with history/ghosts etc. in it. So ya, it’s been fun doing some deep digging. (and still need to deep deeper.) A hint of my book with the title (might still change it) is The Ghostly Field.

  5. I totally get this! Several years ago, door-to-door tamale salesmen started showing up in our area. When they run out of residencies to solicit, they set up in local business parking lots, pop the trunk, and sell lunch… directly out of the trunk. Some of my friends say that the tamales actually do taste pretty good. Others have suggested that this is where the local stray cats disappear to. Strange may, indeed, be the new normal!

    • Candy

      You have tapped into the classic ‘Sweeney Todd’ nightmare scenario about food sourcing. Could be the basis for a good short story, but my cat might disagree. LOL