Kick your fiction fears to the curb

I recently met Lara Schiffbauer online and we instantly clicked. We exchanged many emails and quickly decided to exchange guest blogs. She is the voice behind the Motivation for Creation blog. Lara is a positive and generous voice in the blogosphere (she shared my Dear Loved One last week). She keeps a positive attitude even when life gets a little “dark and hairy.” Lara writes about goals and internet relationships, passion and time management, and her Funny Friday Photos are a hoot!

Please welcome Lara Schiffbauer and her “Fiction Fears.”

Fiction Fears, by Lara Schiffbauer

The human imagination is amazing.  Nigel Thomas, PhD, philosopher, cognitive scientist, and historian of science and psychology wrote a fabulous definition of imagination.  It’s a tad medical, but I particularly like the last line.

“Imagination is what makes our sensory experience meaningful…  It also produces mental imagery, visual and otherwise, which is what makes it possible for us to think outside the confines of our present perceptual reality, to consider memories of the past and possibilities for the future, and to weigh alternatives against one another. Thus, imagination makes possible all our thinking about what is, what has been, and, perhaps most important, what might be.”

It is our imagination which gives meaning to our experience.  We need our imagination to re-experience our past, and to decide our personal future.  Not only that, but our imagination works the same way when we write.  It allows us to call upon our past experiences and weave them into alternate realities also known as stories.

I have a great story idea involving aliens.  I don’t really have a specific type of alien in mind, but since the aliens are the bad guys, they probably resemble the “Greys” from Whitley Strieber’s Communion.

I think it’s safe to say I have a phobia of those little guys.  I don’t know why, other than when I was six-ish years old, I watched alien shows on the television, and they definitely scared me.  For a really long time, I wasn’t able to watch Close Encounters of the Third Kind without having an anxiety attack, especially at the scene when the aliens take the little boy.  When I was a teenager, an uncle hinted that I may have been abducted some time in my past.  I think he was trying to scare me. He succeeded, and I think made my phobia worse.

When I started writing several years ago, I hadn’t seen a whole bunch of stories about aliens in the contemporary world, so I thought I’d give writing an alien short story a try.  I figured that since I can now watch Close Encounters of the Third Kind without needing a paper bag to breath into, and even like the aliens at the end of the movie, I’d be fine.


I tried twice to write two different short stories.  I started with one where the aliens come for a visit, and ended up freaking myself out enough that when my husband went out of town, I pushed a chair against the door so that if anyone (thing!) came in, I could at least hear it coming.  I also let the dog sleep in the bedroom with me.

Feeling extremely foolish, I thought that maybe my absurd reaction was because I wrote about the actual aliens.  Determined to not give in to fear, I decided to attempt another story about a man who had been abducted, but wouldn’t necessarily write about the aliens.  I ended up with nightmares where I was being abducted.  Thus ended my attempts at writing about aliens.

The nice thing is that I know I’m not alone.  Just last night on twitter, I read a tweet from a woman who was writing on her work in progress that has a demon in it, and when she heard a noise in the dark, got scared and had to check it out.

Most writers have super-active imaginations, which is what makes us great story tellers.  It is an amazing gift, but also a potential curse when we delve into those darker emotions and memories.  In order to be the best story teller I can be, I will take the bad with the good.  And in the interest of my personal mental health, I’ll stay away from writing stories about aliens.

How about you?  Have you ever scared yourself with your writing, or drudged up emotions you preferred to leave locked away?

Lara Schiffbauer

Lara Schiffbauer is a writer, licensed clinical social worker, mother of two, wife of one, and a stubborn optimist.  She loves Star Wars, Lego people, science, everyday magic and to laugh.  You can contact her at laschiff(at)ymail(dot)com, direct message her on Twitter at @LASbauer, at  Linked In or on her blog, Lara Schiffbauer’s Motivation For Creation.


Don’t miss Lara’s Goals Are Great and Relationships of Writing, Part 1 and Part 2.


Filed under Guest Writers & Bloggers

18 responses to “Kick your fiction fears to the curb

  1. I enjoyed your article here, Lara. Yes, our imaginations, and the emotions behind them are what make writers of fiction come alive. When the characters we write about fill our minds, for better or worse, the fears and triumphs can clearly be seen on the pages. Thanks to you and Karen for sharing!

    • Thanks, Randy. The imagination is fascinating to me. The quote I mention in the post really brought home to me that the same part of our brain that creates also helps us to make sense of reality. How amazing! Thanks so much for commenting!

  2. ontheplumtree

    Hi Lara! I also enjoyed your post. I made a study of the Imaginal Mind for my Doctorate. I believe the imagination to be much more than just the functioning of cells. I believe it to be the connection to our ancient past through which we may glimpse the future. Through the imagination, the collective unconscious breaks through into people’s personal lives and stories. Imagination allows soul into life.

    • I was thinking of the collective unconscious right before I read it in your comment. I think you could teach me quite a bit about imagination. I haven’t read too much about it, but it is so fascinating. The science surrounding consciousness, awareness, imagination, etc… is something I want to read more about, once I have a little time. Maybe once summer break arrives! Do you have any suggestions?

  3. People often tell me I should write dark horror or other dark fiction, but what I keep telling them is I don’t want to open the door to that dark dank dusty web-encrusted, creepy cellar! My poetry tends to be very very dark and that’s a peek into a corner of my mind that I don’t want to unleash! lawd!

    This last novel I wrote was hard for me because of some of the events that happened to a couple of characters – I became rather down about it – sad, and discombobulated — it’s easy to seep yourself deep into these people – did I just call my characters people? Lawd! Anyway –

    love this post!

    • Thanks, Kat! I wrote a story that I was appalled I could even conceive! I felt much like you, and deleted it. I don’t delete anything I’ve written, but that one had to go. It was very uncomfortable to write it, and once done, I didn’t want to go there again.

      I understand about getting attached to characters, too. Maybe writers do that because many of the characters we create are grounded in bits and pieces of people and experiences we know. I have a real problem with the death of a character in my current manuscript. I cry sometimes, even though I know it’s just on paper. (And yes, I feel like an idiot. I never thought I’d cry over someone I wrote into a story!) However, when I read the scene, or edit the scenes leading up to the death scene, I feel a little of the loss of every person that has either gone before me, or who has left me. It’s like a little memorial for those people.

      Okay, lawd, myself! Thanks for stopping by and reading!

  4. How interesting! I tend to agree with your uncle. Maybe a hypnotic-regression would bring up something of “interest” for you?? 😉

    p/s I dreamt the other night that I was about to be abducted by aliens. Hmmm …

    • I try not to think about that kind of stuff! Plus, hypnotic regression is not very reliable. 🙂 I’m pretty sure my brain would think all the nightmares I’ve had (I started having alien nightmares when I was 6) were real. I have decided that, even if I was abducted, I really, truly don’t want to know!

      I saw that you’d dreamed you were abducted the other night. I’m so sorry… 😀

  5. Stacy S. Jensen

    Sorry to be late to the party. Writing memoir it’s easy to find ways to avoid topics. During the A to Z challenge, I planned to write one story, but decided I couldn’t do it. It’s something I’ve written about for myself, but didn’t feel like sharing it that day so I reorganized and wrote a lighter story. When I lived in Texas, I wrote a feature story about members of a MUFON group. They investigated UFO sightings. They had lots to investigate as there was an Air Force base in town. Thanks Lara and Karen.

    • Having lived in NM, we got “UFO” all over the place! And I have been to the Very Large Array – very cool. But the two UFOs I saw were in Delaware. 🙂

      • I want to see the Very Large Array! I also want to see the crater in Arizona (can’t remember the name right now.) Were your UFO sighting at the same time, or with time between them?

    • I think memoir would be terribly hard to write. There’s no way to hide from yourself. I suppose that might make it very cathartic, too. Hmmm… The good with the bad, nothing is every black and white, huh? I’d love to hear about your experiences with MUFON!

  6. The VLA is truly awesome. It was cool just to sit and look at them. I couldn’t get into the control room, though, darn it. I’ve seen the Crator in AZ too. You can’t imagine how huge it is until you are standing there. I saw one UFO with my mom over my old neighborhood, and the other one (with my son) over I-95 in Wilmington, DE.
    Writing memoir – it is extremely difficult, no you can’t hide. And of course you don’t want to expose your soft underbelly, but sometimes you must. I find it helpful, though, to expose some of the horrors I’ve survived. It helps to share sometimes.

  7. Aloha Karen,

    Thanks for having Lara over (again it seems:)

    Lara, I never knew you and the little green monsters had a “thing” going on…. 🙂 I’ll make sure to keep the Leprechauns away, too, then 🙂

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  9. Not sure what you mean, Kandi. Can you expound?

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