The Shadow Knows

The most benign objects and places take on mysterious new meanings in shadow. I’m sure there’s something in our deep, dark pre-history that sends a shiver through the reptilian vestige in our brains. Fables, fairy tales, myths and thousands of years of storytelling give names to the fears and help us form pictures in the fluctuating gradations of darkness.

What lurks in the shadows?

We all have an answer or we did when we were kids. Mystery (horror, suspense and speculative fiction) writers must hang onto this shadow language from childhood and cultivate the uncomfortable feelings that accompany shadows. I’m a realist, most of the time, but I’d be stymied when writing if I couldn’t connect with the little girl in me. She was terrified of the dark, certain that horrors lurked in shadows and haunted by vivid nightmares.

I still dream and recall my unconscious adventures a few times a week. I even have nightmares. Anxiety rising from my real life, slipping into the cocktail shaker of scary memories and lurid fears — the result is a grown up version of the nightmares of my childhood.

What about you? Do you still scare yourself imagining what you see in shadows?




  1. I rarely get scary nightmares any more – possibly because reality is often scary enough. But I think there is also something else at play; I think you have a particular empathy for the genre that I lack. Or maybe it’s not so much empathy as affinity. 🙂

    • Candy Korman

      You may be right about my affinity for mystery. Although childhood nightmares and adult nightmares are different, the fact is I’m still having them and still wondering what’s lurking just outside my range of vision means it’s something at my core.

      Maybe there’s a similar forward looking dream for science fiction writers? Or, perhaps, dreams that look toward other worlds? My nightmares seem grounded in this world. Last night was a wicked one about deception. By the time I woke up, I had no idea whom to believe. The truth was outside my grasp and everyone seemed to have an agenda.

  2. Funny you should pose this question. Just yesterday I was mentally working through a few paragraphs of the opening of my October event (Letters from the Sanitarium … theme for stories everyday on the blog), and I managed to scare the willies out of myself. It was 4 am, I was in the car and alone, and then my bedroom is in the basement. I made sure no body part was sticking out of the blanket when I got back in bed.

    • Candy Korman

      I can’t tell you how many times I’ve scared myself silly. I’m VERY good at it!

      It’s insane, but it seems to inform my work and I thing it hovers in the background of your fiction, too. Maybe it’s an occupational hazard?