Monday, October 17, 2011

11th Day of Twisted: Guest Post by Suzanne Tyrpak

It's the 11th Day of Twisted and for your reading enjoyment I have Suzanne Tyrpak, author of Ghost Plane and Other Disturbing Tales.  Happy Monday!

Every Day Horror

Three months ago I had an accident at work resulting in three emergency operations and amputation of a toe. Since then I’ve been thinking a lot about horror. I’ve been thinking about how horror can occur at any time, not just at night when the lights are out, but when we least expect it: walking down a street, at the gym, the supermarket.

Take an every day situation, twist it, and it can become horrifying. Stephen King said the difference between him and other people is: most people board an airplane, open the overhead compartment and wonder if there’s room for their luggage, but he opens the same overhead compartment imagining it’s filled with rats.

In books and movies, I find every day horror more frightening than supernatural monsters. For me, the most horrifying situation imaginable is to discover that I’m the monster. The monsters in my psyche, and in other people’s psyches, really scare me. I’m interested in exploring the twisted recesses of our minds. While an event can certainly be frightening and horrible by its nature: a plane crash, violence, lack of freedom, being held against our will, torture—what makes that event truly horrifying is the response of our mind. And our minds can twist any situation into something awful.

I’m interested in every day occurrences that become monstrous. For example, the day I had my accident began as a normal workday. I’m a customer service representation for an airline. I check people in and work the gate. These days I don’t work much out on the ramp, where the job can be physically demanding and dangerous. We had finished boarding the aircraft, and we were pulling away the heavy stairs we use for loading passengers. As we pulled the stairs away from the plane one of the wheels ran over my foot. Over a thousand pounds crushed my toes. I fell onto the tarmac, writhing and screaming.

I find the situation horrifying, not only because of the pain and bodily damage suffered, but because of the unexpectedness. One moment everything was fine, I was looking forward to having breakfast, and the next moment my life changed. I had to face the unknown with no preparation. (By the way, the result of the accident is that, after three emergency operations, I lost a toe, had two broken and dislocated toes, and I’m still recovering from the crush injury and nerve damage. There’s a happy ending, because the accident gave me time to finish my next novel, and I’ve recovered enough to walk and drive again.)

Horror is intensified when it’s unexpected. In that way, it’s different from suspense. Suspense builds tension. Suspense can lead to horror, but I believe truly horrifying situations contain an element of surprise. It’s not just the monster, it’s the monster that jumps out at us when we least expect it. It’s not just the murderer it’s the person we trust suddenly revealed as a murderer.

Every day horror takes a normal situation and sets it on its head. Sure, it can be horrifying to enter an abandoned building late at night, but setting horror in an everyday situation can be even more disturbing. The contrast builds more tension, because we’re not expecting something awful to occur. That’s why the shower scene in Psycho is so frightening—it’s any everyday situation gone wrong.

I invite you to play with this idea. Next time you get into your car, you’re waiting at a bus stop, sitting in church, working out at the gym—imagine how the situation could be turned on its head. That’s what I explore in my short story collection Ghost Plane and Other Disturbing Tales. It doesn’t have to be a dark and rainy night for something horrific to occur. Horror can occur on a sunny Sunday morning.  

Ghost Plane and Other Disturbing Tales available FREE at: 

1 comment:

  1. So sorry about your toe. I've actually seen your book around and have been meaning to buy it. This is a good reminder.