Killer Thursdays

Do Horror Writers Give Themselves Nightmares?

horror: hor-ror (noun)

  1.  An intense feeling of fear, shock, or disgust.
  2. A thing causing such a feeling.

spooky screaming faceDo you ever have nightmares after watching a horror flick or reading a horror novel? Maybe just a case of the heebie-jeebies? Do you find yourself making double sure all the doors are locked when you’re home alone at night? Do you check the closets and under the bed? For a split second before you turn on the light in a dark room, do you hesitate, afraid to reveal the monster that might be lurking?

Oh sure, some of you are saying “Suck it up, you big baby. Horror never gives me nightmares.”

To you I say, “You haven’t been working out your imagination enough.”

Okay, okay. So not all horror gives me the willies. Most of the time, I brush it off. Good horror, the kind that does scare the tacos out of us, is hard to come by.

Vast quantities of blood and screaming do not a scary movie make. Nor do creative deaths.

Not by themselves anyway.

When a story is good, it gets me. Often, I’m taken by surprise. I’m prepared to brush off yet another bit of horror fiction but it’s planted its seeds in my mind and my fertile imagination will give it room to grow…andScary Skull with No Eyes grow…and grow.

That’s when I send up a big cheer.

And sleep with all the lights on.

I have to wonder, if a good horror story works on the reader, does it work on the writer? After all, we readers just visit the world. The writer lives there for as long as it takes to create the finished product. They have to live with the monsters in their head and imagine all the dark scenarios that will wind up in that finished product and many more that do not.

Does it get to them?

Working on my current novel-in-progress, I’m finding myself dreaming about zombies I’m trying to bring to life (*snort*) on the page as well as the less undead monsters. Some nights, I’m slipping into my characters skin (there’s a mental image for you) and running for my life. In short, I am starting to give myself the creeps (I can only hope it translates to my finished product) even though my horror is more dystopian dark fantasy than straight up horror.

What do you think? Do writers like Stephen King, Clive Barker and the American Horror Story scribes give themselves nightmares?


If you do find yourself plagued with nightmares after imbibing some horror fiction, this WikiHow can give you some tips on how to sleep soundly.

Image Attribution (In Order of Appearance):
Scream by anguila40, on Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Scary Skull with No Eyes by Craig Walkowicz, on Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

13 thoughts on “Do Horror Writers Give Themselves Nightmares?

  1. The only horror that truly gave me nightmares was Stephen King’s Pet Semetary. It was his treatment of the father’s grief and how he coped/didn’t cope with it that made it real to me. I easily get disgusted by slasher movies, and get adrenaline pumping from such stuff, but I don’t consider that ‘scary’ in the same way. It doesn’t give me lasting thoughts the way psychological horror does.

  2. My novels usually lean more toward psychological horror. Characters psychologically torturing each other *without* the use or threat of physical violence. Often, after writing a particularly torturous scene, I’ll be creeped out, and I’ll feel like I just ran around the block. Then I know the scene’s a keeper. 🙂

  3. Definitely!

    I think it’s the mind’s way of handling certain elements in your imagination.

    I haven’t been writing a fresh MS for a while (I’ve been editing) and I’ve had 2 dreams in the last few days where I’ve killed people. When I start having dreams like this, I know it’s time to “bite into” a writing project.

    When I was writing my novel ELEVEN, I had vivid nightmares that had sitting up in bed, gasping for air, and trying to figure out if it was a dream or in real life.

    Yep…freaky times.

  4. Stephen King has said that the only one of his characters that scared him was the lady in the bathtub in The Shining. He used to count the days until he had to work on that scene again. Can’t blame him there. She gives me nightmares too.

  5. I haven’t had a book cause me nightmares, but I have had movies. I watched ‘Alien Encounters the Fourth Kind’. Scared me. I went to the Cartoon change and watched something to replace that movie from my brain.

  6. I am not sure Stephen King and other horror writers give themselves nightmares, but they do give them to me!

    It’s funny, but I can read about things in a book and it won’t bother me, but if I watch it on TV, I’ll be up all night. I don’t why, but that’s how my weird mind works.


  7. After watching a scary movie or closing the book on a terrifying read, I’m afraid to turn out the lights and go to sleep. But, it is my waking mind that is feeding the terror. Once I fall asleep, the horror does not invade my dreams. Rather, my dreams are my escape.

    Until I wake to the cat’s pounce on the floor! EEK!

  8. I’d say they face their nightmares and fears through writing so they don’t have bad dreams. But imagine if their monster creations came to life and came after them?

  9. @Madison: I agree. I’m not big on the gory stuff. Stephen King definitely has a knack for honing in on the “ordinary” fears.

    @Cynthia: Aha. That’s a good way to describe it.

    @Carolyn: Wow! Good stuff. It seems like, the more you delve into something, the more it’s naturally going to appear in your dreams.

    @Sheila: Oh yeah! The bathtub lady. She was pretty creepy. Every once in awhile, I get a little creeped out when I have to go open the shower curtain. LOL

    @Mary: I haven’t seen that yet. I may have to check it out. In the morning so it’s not the last thing I see before bed. LOL

    @Alex: Thank you kindly for the reblog. 😀

    @Tricia: Yeah, the visual does seem to help the nightmares along. I think shows/movies get me more often than books…except for IT.

    @Sherry: Interesting. I’m usually the opposite. I’m good at not thinking about stuff during the day but not so good at pushing it aside at bedtime.

    @Lorijo: Oh yeah. Clive Barker’s imagination is probably not a fun place to be. LOL

    @Emma: *shudder* What a thought! That’s not a bad idea for a story either. 😀

  10. That’s a great question. It would make sense that if they did have nightmares, they would have to be intense.

    I haven’t had a dark, creepy, monstrous, “hurry and turn the light on” nightmare for too many years. Maybe that is why I started writing. I miss the adrenaline and spiked heartrate that I used to get.

    It would be amazing to see into the imagination/nightmares of all of the big horror writers. I would also like to take a peek at the inside of Poe and/or Lovecraft……

  11. I think it is very well possible. If one spends all day contemplating a subject, if it very likely he will dream about it that night because it has become ingrained into his psyche. However, horror writers can turn that to their advantage, because they can use their nightmares as bases for stories. I have just finished reading four H.P. Lovecraft stories, all of which were based on his dreams/nightmares and I believe his famous “The Call of Cthulu” was as well. Edward Lucas White based “Lukundoo” on one of his nightmares and I know many others have as well.

What's on your mind?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s