The Scariest Words

Eat your soggy vegetables first. Always good advice.

Rip off the band-aid. Just practical.

Always get the bad news before the good. Goes without saying.

Write what scares you. Scary.

I have just finished another revision of a 95,000-word manuscript and sent it off to another editor. And a lot of it was scary to write. I creeped myself out. Where does that come from, all that pathological gunk? Every time I read it, I traumatized myself, not because I write creepy really well, but because I’m afraid it says something about ME.

If I understand creepy well enough to write creepy, then maybe that makes me a … creep. Even if I’m not, maybe people will think I am. Readers are judgy, especially if we’ve bought a book and spent time with it. We deserve to be.

I remember reading Robert A. Heinlein years ago and kind of concluding that he had turned from a bit of a fascist (Starship Troopers) to a bit of a dirty old man (Time Enough for Love). We are always trying to infer relationships between characters, contexts, and conflicts with the authors who wrote them.


But it ain’t so. Anyone who has to flesh out an antagonistic character has to take them somewhere believable, make them make sense to themselves. But it doesn’t mean that we are projecting ourselves into them. We’re imagining, not remembering or wishing.

This is, by the way, why I still suspect that good ol’ Heinlein was a bit of a dirty old creature because, forget the bad guys, his good guys were … creepy. And earlier, they were kinda fascists. And I do think you have to admire your protagonists, cheer for them even as you ruin their lives.

Anyway, writing what scares you takes you to those places where you have to listen to the Dark Side whispering at you. So much more fun than listening to the tough-but-fair commanders, the kids with pluck and gumption, the puerile self-righteousness of Star Trek: Discovery. No, I want to be creeped out by someone who does bad things for reasons that only they think are good.

And as for being scared, I know the two scariest words anyone can ever write on a blank piece of paper.

Chapter One.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *