It’s cold. Supremely cold in the U.S where this Scream Queen resides. With a blizzard and dangerously cold temperatures rolling across most of the country, a distinct cabin fever has settled over the Jude household. I have littles who were supposed to return to school this past Monday after a long winter break. Not happening. They are climbing up the walls, and so I am. This got me thinking about the horrors of winter.
This season of ice and frigid temperatures is perfect for horror. Native Americans of Canada and the Great Lakes areas had stories of the Wendigo, a spirit that would whisk people away into the inescapable winter forest. History is peppered with true tales of people driven to eating the unspeakable because of madness or desperation to survive. In modern times, we as a culture panic at the idea of unpreparedness, of not having our bread and milk to sustain us while we wait to dig out from however much snow is dumped on our doorsteps.
How can we as horror writers use these situations to our advantage? A wintry setting can lend a certain ambiance to a book. The wind is blustery and pushes its sharp fingernails through the cracks in the walls. It howls in the chimney. Is that thudding outside snow falling off the roof or something sinister crawling along the gutter to peek inside? When my doppelganger, Sarah Bromley, was writing A MURDER OF MAGPIES, the characters face a northern Wisconsin winter that is long and dark, and as the weather grows colder, the main character Vayda’s paranoia intensifies. Now, A MURDER OF MAGPIES, is more of a dark paranormal than horror novel, but there are still some applicable lessons I found when breaking down the psychology of a character who is going stir crazy.
I’m far from Stephen King, but anyone who’s read THE SHINING knows how terrifying cabin fever can be on the page. To look outside and see nothing but snow. Just miles of white and trees and know that no one is coming…
What other ways can creating snowbound characters be useful to the horror writer? What winter stories scared you? Leave a comment, and then curl up beneath a blanket. The monsters won’t find you under there.