My 1st In-Depth Tutorial

Welcome to the first in my in-depth tutorial series of blogs.  In this blog I want to address something I touched on in a previous blog and then extemporise on this theme.  This is why I am calling these future blogs in-depth tutorials as I am endeavouring to take the reader further into the writer’s study and provide an insight into what makes up the writing of a horror novel.  Although in this case it is very much the rudimentary stage of writing when ideas first come to the author before he fully knows how he is going to use them.  In future blogs I plan to delve deeper into how a writer makes the most of the ideas which come to him.

I mentioned before in one of my blogs that dreams can play a big part in a writer’s life.  How much truer is this of the horror novelist as many people have bad dreams which can turn into nightmares.  These are like gold to a horror author as he turns these fitful night slumbers into workable ideas in his fiction.  I recently had two dreams which startled me when I awoke from them.  I will relay them to you now.

In one dream I was in a room which seemed to be a bedroom and there was an open hatch in the far side of the room away from my bed.  Through this hatch came a crocodile which chased me and I ran for dear life.  That was the extent of the dream.  I’m not sure whether this was the first or second dream but I have the feeling it was the first and my subconscious wanted me to quickly move on to something else for fear of what might happen to me!

Photo by Pixabay on

The other dream involved me driving along a road.  I was in the passenger seat of the car.  Nothing very unusual in this you might think if it weren’t for the fact that nobody was behind the driving wheel! In fact, I was the only person in the car.  I think my dream self had the car running on a sort of auto pilot so everything seemed fine until that is it went off the auto pilot without me realising! I quickly moved over to get behind the driving wheel but by then I had arrived in a built-up area.  There were shops and restaurants all around.  I ended up driving right at a café full of people and before I could brake I had smashed right into the café’s window display causing goodness knows what damage.  That was the end of the dream.  Just as well for me as I don’t like to think of the abuse I would have received from the café owner!

Two dreams, then, completely unconnected but each in their own way frightening.  Now comes the task of trying to make some sort of sense out of these dreams and turn them into workable ideas for stories.  Each has something going for them and, in fact, the one about the car resonates with me as I have had two experiences of something similar happening in real life.  In neither case was I personally involved but they were both startling occurrences.  I will tell you why shortly.  But first let’s return to the first dream, the one with the crocodile.  While it is an interesting starting point, the location of the prospective story will be crucial to its success. 

There are only so many areas throughout the world which have crocodiles.  This is a key point as I could not place the story in England for instance.  The result if I did would be ludicrous.  No, I would have to transplant my story to somewhere like Australia or South America perhaps especially somewhere like the Amazon.  Then the writer has to decide where this crocodile will come from.  It is unlikely he will be found making its way down the high street! No, he must have come from a river or a lagoon, somewhere in the jungle or in the case of Australia in the outback.

Photo by Matthew Montrone on

The crocodile idea has a lot going for it, especially if the person involved is in some sort of log cabin in the areas of the world I have just mentioned.  The thought of being attacked by a crocodile, especially in a confined space with seemingly nowhere to run to one’s escape, is a scary one and well worth pursuing by any discernible horror writer.

Photo by Spencer Gurley Films on

Let’s return to the dream about the car and the personal references to it I alluded to a short time ago.  One of these occurred when I was working at Fedex in England.  I worked in a warehouse and operated a forklift truck.  I was always well aware of the dangers involved in driving a forklift.  When driving around the warehouse one always had to be aware of drivers and fellow warehouse workers who would be walking around the warehouse at times paying scant attention to the forklift driver.  I lost count of the amount of times when drivers would meander from one part of the warehouse to the other with a cup of coffee in hand and I had to toot my horn to warn them I was coming.  Yes, very dangerous.

Photo by Mathias Reding on

One day it was driven home to me even more forcefully why a forklift driver always had to have his wits about him.  We were having a team meeting one day in our depot when our manager said he had some tragic news to impart to us.  There was a depot in another part of England where a driver had left his forklift for a moment to help load something onto a lorry in front of him and he ended up being crushed to death.  I can’t recall the ins and outs of the case, but it might have been that he left his handbrake off and was pinned to the lorry by his own forklift. 

As can be imagined I was pretty shaken up by hearing of this tragedy.  My heart went out to this poor guy who lost his life doing the same job I was doing.  What made it worse was that he was married with children and our manager was trying to raise some money from our staff to send on to the depot where the forklift driver died to give to the widow.

The other experience which came my way relating to my car dream was when I did jury service.  This again happened when I was at Fedex.  I had two cases to deliberate over but the one which touched me most concerned a farmer who had died on his land.  He was been found crushed to death by a tractor.  We had to decide whether it had happened because he had left the handbrake off while checking over something on his land and then he was run over by the tractor or whether there was some other explanation for the tragedy.  What made this event particularly tough was that there were family members of the deceased in the audience.  I kept looking at the daughter and thinking how dreadful it must be for her to be sitting through this ordeal as the evidence was meticulously gone over.  I think the farmer was supposed to have met up with a relative, possibly a brother, late in the afternoon as they were off to some engagement and this was when it was discovered he had gone missing.  This was when his body was discovered.

Photo by Jannis Knorr on

Pretty grisly stuff but even more so when it is something which really happened.  It was pretty disturbing being told about these two tragic deaths which pointed to how important it is when working with potentially dangerous machinery to always follow proper safety procedures.  This shows what the ramifications can be if one takes his eyes of the ball for a moment.

As dreadful as these experiences were for me, even at second-hand, I would be a fool if I did not store them up for possible future use in a story.  Of course, being a horror writer I would not have these incidents occurring as a result of simple accidents.  No something more dramatic must have been at play in my creative mind.  Maybe something supernatural was going on or, in the case of the second incident, a rival farmer might have been jealous of the deceased and hopped on the tractor when he wasn’t looking with the keys still in the ignition, started it up and run the poor fellow over and then left the handbrake off to made it look like an accident when really it was anything but.

In the case of the forklift driver, maybe a colleague was holding a grudge against him and decided it was time for payback.  So he tampered with the forklift being mechanical minded and even though the forklift driver had put the handbrake on it didn’t work and that is how he came to be crushed.

Two ways, then, of taking two perfectly innocent and very tragic accidents and then turning them into events which are infinitely more sinister.  This is another example of how a horror writer can go about welding ideas to suit his needs, taking an experience from his life, even one he hasn’t personally experienced, and turning them into something which are at once unsettling and foreboding.  

Categories:My In-Depth Tutorials

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