On Dolls, the Dark and Inspiration

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I have been honored this summer to have three short stories accepted for publication. And after a long string of rejections it was exciting to read after the “Thank you for submitting…” to see “we would like to accept your story”! There isn’t a feeling like that, to know that all the hard work, the hours of agonizing over grammar, sentence structure, characters and plot was worth it. It didn’t immediately dawn on me until some time later that the three stories all shared an element. They all featured dolls in one way or another.

So what is it about dolls that fascinates me on some subconscious level? That is something I have asked myself several times. It may be due to the innocence in appearance. Always the faces are joyful and cherubic, and what secrets could lie behind such a visage? What have those glass eyes witnessed and have held buried in their porcelain shells? Dolls can be unsettling, especially some of the antique dolls I have seen, with their frozen expressions and lifeless eyes. So, perhaps that came into play when I was writing. If, for a moment, you could envision yourself in a dark, dank house with shadows moving along the walls cast from the dancing boughs of a tree near the window and find yourself suddenly not alone, wouldn’t that be a bit disconcerting? For an instant, that doll may have looked like a child to your eyes. A person’s imagination can play all sorts of tricks on them if the atmosphere holds all the right elements.

I decided to submit to Cellar Door: Words of Beauty, Tales of Terror for two reasons, one pretty much led to the other. A very good friend of mine noticed that there was an open submission for an anthology she thought I might enjoy writing for and let me know about the opportunity. She had me at the words “cellar door”. So, I investigated and immediately ideas started to stir. It was the premise of what could be lurking behind a cellar door that really inspired me. Because for as long as I can remember that chamber beneath a house has always struck me as a place of fear.

The first home I lived in did not have a basement. I do remember going into my grandmother’s basement, though, and feeling a secret sort of darkness among the jars of preserves laced with cobwebs. It was an earthen floored room, redolent with the aroma of wet soil. I was both enchanted and frightened that such a place existed, a room that was often forgotten about unless there was the threat of a tornado approaching. When my family moved to a larger house, we discovered that we had a basement. It was large with several smaller rooms, one without electricity. The other  room was the only room with a door. Spying that old, white door, my imagination, which is responsible for proving me with all sorts of terrors, conjured a dark spectrum of scenarios and possibilities. What exactly lay beyond that door? What treasures did it contain? Was it a one time prison, holding a victim captive while life above went about as normal? With a combination of relief and disappointment, I found that it was a room for putting up canned goods. Somehow, the nether regions of a house still manages to incite goose bumps, no matter how mundane it appears. It’s always a game of “what if”.

The last atmospheric element fell naturally into place. What was a basement without a house? I love old houses and I have a seen my fair share of abandoned houses. Living in a rural county, there are bound to be those skeletons nestled in among rambling wild grapevines and slender saplings. They are sad creatures, once loved and cared for and now only shells that echo with the ghosts of happy memories, or maybe not so happy memories. And what would be left for others to find if the former occupant was to disappear or die and their relatives did not remove any belongings? What would those things say about them if found by strangers? On the surface, the story may appear simple. The books collected, the art admired, and the sentimental souvenirs that grace shelves all speak of personal preferences. But the reasons behind what is considered cherished is lost, having gone with the person who had collected them and deemed them important.

When it came time to write, the first story that came to mind fell apart. It happens and I had a brief moment of frustration before once more Lila (my female character from “Night Flowing Down”) was whispering eagerly in my ear. And soon, her boyfriend, Jordan, was there too. Their conversation at the story’s start played out in my head before anything else, well maybe not anything else. The end was there first, nebulous and shrouded in darkness. From there, a thought came to me. What if a woman had wanted a daughter above all else and could not have one? Wouldn’t it be natural, then, to collect dolls? Her own brood of beautiful daughters, forever young.

Through the journey of writing “Night Flowing Down” I found my answer to what lurks behind (or underneath in the case of my story) the cellar door. If you’re interested, Cellar Door: Words of Beauty, Tales of Terror can be found for sale on Amazon here http://www.amazon.com/Cellar-Door-Words-Beauty-Terror/dp/0615874975/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid+1379127249&sr=1-1#

 

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6 responses »

  1. Since I’ve purchased a copy of “Cellar Door” and have read your fantastic story “Night Flowing Down,” I can attest to the fact that you have certainly captured the creepiness of cellars in your writing! (The dolls were chilling as well!) I think you make an interesting point in your post, about the cellar generally being a forgotten place in the house. I wonder if that makes them more eerie in our minds. They are not familiar to us like a living room or kitchen is. I also love how you describe old abandoned houses. It’s interesting to read about what inspired you to write such a wonderfully creepy story!

    • Thank you, Miranda! I’m thrilled that you enjoyed reading “Night Flowing Down”! 😀 That might be the reason. Since basements and cellars are sometimes used only to store canned good, house hot water heaters and furnaces or shelter, they aren’t as familiar as rooms that are used regularly. I’m glad that you enjoyed reading this post. Thanks again.

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