It is Halloween here in New Zealand. Tonight children of all ages will be dressing up in guises of hope and fear. Teenagers will be buying eggs and toilet paper, and telling their parents they'll be at each other's houses until late (which technically isn't lying if by "at their houses" they mean in the back yard vandalizing them).
But it has been a long time since I've dressed up or egged someone, at least on the outside. My monsters have had time to mature, to become more complex and ingrown. When I dress up as the serial killer, the witch, or the apparition, I do it internally, in the inner, dark robes of my imagination. I am a writer, and so I do not dress up as my demons; I write them.
You might think that this is strange, or that somehow I am unique, but I think there are many writers who feel as I do. Bad things happen, scary things, monstrous things. They happen to us, and around us, or maybe we only hear about them or read about them in the news, but they stick, somewhere deep in our psyches. They lurk under our beds, they hide in our closets, or make scratching noises in the basement of our minds until we can't help but go down there.
Stephen King spends a lot of time visiting the basement of his mind. That seems obvious. But I don't think writing demons is unique to the horror writer. Monsters come in all shapes and sizes. King's demons come dressed as the things that scare him, but those aren't necessarily the same demons I wrestle. Nor do we engage them with the same plots, literary devices or words. The things in the basement can be as easily clothed in fantasy as horror. One can shroud them in science turning them to aliens, other worlds, or spaceships. As far as that goes, the wrangling of demons isn't even limited to fiction. Behold the monsters cower and bow when they are written up as sonnets or limericks or articles for women's magazines.
I write my demons, but please don't confuse that with any desire to destroy them. Demons, I believe, always serve a purpose of self-realization. They lead us somewhere we might never have gone without them. They take us into the dark, the marginalized, inner places that most people never visit. They make us who we are, the storytellers; the warriors who dare to face the dark and come back to the world of light and words with a better ending, a satisfying denouement, a hero's tale, rather than a victim's.
That is the power of writing for me, that I can battle my monsters with swords, or flames of magic, or I can dress them all in tutus and have them dance the Nutcracker. My words empower me. My stories redefine what I fear, what you fear, what we all fear.
And so this Halloween I challenge you- what demon has been scratching at the door, and when are you going to write it?