by Kristine Coblitz
Fear has been a hot topic here at the Working Stiffs lately. As crime fiction writers, it's almost inevitable that fear will work its way into most of our conversations about writing and life, as it seems a big part of our job includes digging into the dark places that most normal people don't like to go.
Not that we have to look too far for material, of course. The world today is filled with scary stuff such as terrorist attacks, deadly hurricanes and storms, bridge catastrophes, and increasing violence in our cities and suburbs. Just turn on the news for an hour and you'll see what I mean. There are numerous occurrences where crimes that we once believed could only be written by the most talented crime writers are actually happening in our own neighborhoods, sometimes on our own streets or in our very homes.
Now that I'm preparing to bring a child into this world, I've begun to really think about fear and the role it plays in our society. I'm a fearful person by nature. I tend to worry about things, mostly about things that are out of my control. Perhaps that's why I have the stamina to write about the topics I write about. I don't run from my fear. I let it fester and manipulate it to my own benefit to enrich my fiction.
But when you become a parent, things change. I don't want my child to grow up chronically afraid, yet I want her to grow up with a realistic view of the world. But how much is too much? With the media bombarding us with bad news and scare tactics on a 24-hour basis, how do I shelter my child enough so she can enjoy the innocence of her childhood for as long as possible before seeing how dangerous this world can be?
It's one of the many struggles I'll face as a new parent, I suppose.
When I was growing up, scary movies and books by Stephen King used to give me nightmares. Now it's the news. Go figure. Is it because I've grown up or because there are more things to be afraid of in the real world than on the movie screen or in the pages of a book? Sometimes I feel it's because I know too much. One of the drawbacks of our profession is that we can't live in denial about the bad stuff and bad people around us, which in turn has the ability to transform us into paranoid, overprotective parents.
I'm still struggling with whether or not this is a bad or good thing. Knowledge is power, after all.
When I was young, my bedroom was on the third floor of our home. I was convinced a ghost resided in my bedroom, although no hard evidence ever proved me right or wrong. Just walking up the steps at bedtime had me shaking in my Barbie nightgown and slippers. My nightmares were usually about haunted houses. Even as an adult, as much as I love Halloween, you'll never catch me in a haunted house--even a fake one.
I invite you all to take a step back in time to your childhood. What scared you as a child? What gave you nightmares? How did your parents alleviate (or contribute to, in some cases) your worst fears?