One of the best ways to frame a scary story is to set it in a completely “normal” environment. Everyone expects a ghost in the attic of an old house, but it’s weird when one shows up in the garage adjacent to a suburban ranch or in a Starbucks. It’s the contrast between the NORM and the EXTRAORDINARY that makes the weirdness click. But what happens when you live where strange is normal? You have to get creative.
What do I mean by strange?
Well how would you describe a man casting his fly fishing rod on 12th Street between 5th & 6th Avenues on a sunny Sunday morning, right in the middle of the street? How about the man outside the 14th Street entrance to the Union Square subway station holding a sign that read: “Free Massage from Creepy Man.” (Yes, he did look a little creepy. And no, I did not stop for a back rub.) And then there was the lovely singing voice, rising from the garbage cans outside the wine store on 13th Street. He was looking for bottles and cans to redeem the ¢5 deposits on each. He was singing the theme song to the old “Brady Bunch” TV show — a cruel, possibly evil, choice that lingered in my head for hours.
If you were keeping track, I’m sure you’ve noticed the geography of my examples. All three of these incidents happened within a few city blocks of each other and within a few days, too! Do I live in weird central? Possibly, but it all seems normal to me, so when I set a story close to home — as I’ve done in my second Candy’s Monster (Bram Stoker’s Summer Sublet) I invite the reader to take a walk with me.
For a storyteller, the challenge is to create normalcy by inviting the reader to help with the work. You’re in collusion with me and strange is the new normal.
Bram Stoker’s Summer Sublet will be available later this week. I hope you’ll enjoy the strange/normal world of the story.