Tag Archives: inner demons

First World Problems When Writing Horror

Of all the short stories I need to rewrite, there’s only one I never seem to get anywhere with. You guessed it, it’s a horror story.

The reason progress has been so slow on this one is because re-reading it frightens me.

My desk faces the window, with a lovely view of thick vines, flowers, honeybees, and the occasional hummingbird. The price I pay for having that view is that I have my back to the door (which was an anxiety I sought to break myself of, since despite all my training, the likelihood of being assaulted is so slim). There’s also a fold-out couch behind me. Every single time I get to work on this story, I feel someone there… sitting on the couch with one knee over the other; or crouched in the doorway. Watching. Waiting… and I can’t stand it.

I don’t have a great deal of exposure to the genre because I get nightmares so easily. My senses prickle to things in the dark — listening for silences that could be body-shaped.

I’ve tried writing in other parts of the house, or in coffee shops, or with my partner sitting next to me; but in those places of safety I can’t summon the emotional reality that the story requires. No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. I’m not talking about revulsion, or gore, or torture porn; that’s nothing. I’m talking about the kind of horror that steals your sleep and eats your safety.

What does it take to be a good horror writer? What safeguards do they put in place? Or, are the greatest working from a place of pure catharsis, without a need to come down afterward? Perhaps the only way is to develop a relationship with fear — to actively seek the nightmares — and to fall in love with one’s own death.

Which invites a whole other set of demons to the door.

Maybe next time I take on that story, I’ll set up a lovely tea service and a kitten in a the next room. That way, I can come out, settle in, and pretend it isn’t a trap.

I learn by going where I have to go.”
— Theodore Roethke


Unfortunate Demonic Incident No. 271 (Redux)

It’s here! It’s here!

In this “Buffy” vs. “Office Space” style radio play, Kara is about to lose her job because she was born with a demon attached to her soul. Now she must choose whether to cut him down, or cut him free.

Original show: blogtalkradio.com/rithebard
Author: Setsu Uzume – katanapen.wordpress.com


Sarah Rudd……………………Kara, a hapless maiden
Charlie Floyd………………….Marron, a hapless demon who lives in Kara’s brain
Everett Robert………………..Gerard, Kara’s boyfriend, rather full of hap
Tonia Carr……………………..Kara’s Grandmother, who makes her own hap happen
Sherri Rabinowitz…………….Bendersen, Kara’s boss
Jennifer Ripley……………….Crescent, manager of Headfiend
Don Logan……………………..Bumperstyle, performer, Headfiend
Carson Beker………………….Polly, performer of Headfiend
Katie Bowerbank…………….Tiffany, Kara’s colleague
Levi Werner……………………Ted, Kara’s colleague
Carrie Sessarego……………..Tina, Kara’s colleague

UDI271: Audacity Is Way Better Than GoldWave

I recently did some voice work for a friend, which led to the purchase of a super-fancy Blue Yeti microphone. (The $25 gaming headset from Radio Shack is gone! Woo!) The Blue Snowball was also recommended, and is much cheaper; but it involved hiding in closets, under blanket forts, as a means to create a soundproof environment.

As far as software, I had previously been using a free version of GoldWave (since 2007 or so) and decided to replace it with Audacity. Audacity feels much more user-friendly to me, especially because I’m still at the novice-stage, and keep looking up what the effects terms mean and how to use them. Audacity is also open source, which is lovely. Because the voice work I did was so much fun, and I feel as though I learned a lot, I brushed the dust off my old radio play and I’m in the process of cleaning it up.

I leave unfinished projects on my desktop to remind myself that they still need work. Some of these might be better left in the trunk to moulder; but I’m tired of looking at the pieces waiting to be glued together.

Exasperation can be as useful a motivator as enthusiasm, I suppose.

Today I’ll be editing. There are tons of irrelevant, behind-the-scenes snippets I want to share, and so when I came across this file I was inspired to re-post with text.

For audio, click here.

C: “Why… does he care if he gets cut out? Can he just jump to another person, presumably not.”

Se: “All of this is a big metaphor for inner demons.”

C: “…Uh yeah, I got that.”

Se: “As far as Marron, there’s a couple things at play. He himself is also conflicted because if he’s her creativity, her artistic side, he certainly enjoys a bit of autonomy — to be free, to say all these things — even if Kara won’t actually let him do anything. So he’s afraid for his own existence, and he wants to maintain that. I don’t think he can jump bodies, but that’s not to say that another force in his position wouldn’t be able to. When some people have really strong personalities, the people around them will adopt THEIR turns of phrase, rather than vice versa… The other part is that on some level Marron does care about Kara. He’s part of her and genuinely wants what’s best for her. He just has a really strange way of going about it.

Sa:”He’s a crappy communicator.”

C: “He’s a guy!”

Se: “Ha! I think that’s the case with all of our inner demons. Even if they’re urging you to, say, suicide — they know that something hurts, and they really care about you and don’t want you to hurt anymore… They just have really terrible advice for how to deal with it because they’re not really human and don’t understand the parameters of human life. They don’t exist outside your psyche. So that’s what’s stressing Marron out in this moment.”

C: “Oh, yeah. That’s complex.  What you need is an actual actor.”

Mistakes I made as a first-time director

I thought about putting together a blooper reel of our rehearsals but they turned out too insane and esoteric to post in any kind of cohesive way.

Here we have the scene where Marron and Kara finally go head-to-head, where I discuss with Sarah and Charlie where their characters are and how to approach the scene.

Before we took this on, I did a lot of reading on how to be a good director and applied the following:

  • Build a schedule – this helps you map your rehearsals, schedule meetings with your producer, and so forth. It also helps to leave some blank spaces between rehearsals for one-on-one work. If you’re super-pro, you’ll include the post-production schedule also.
  • Take attendance.
  • Don’t let anyone stand around. If they’re present, they have to work. When they’re done, let them leave.
  • Give general motivations, not line-by-line instructions (I was really bad at this.)
  • Encourage the actors to work together when they’re not scheduled for a rehearsal with you.
  • Let people know when they’re doing well.
  • When someone consistently fucks up, remember that this is a collaboration. There is always something you can do to facilitate a solution.
  • A kind word goes a long way, but bullshit will destroy you all  – by bullshit, I mean false encouragement, allowing disruptive behavior to go unchecked, and settling for less than your best.
  • You’ll get a lot of advice and pushback. Some of the input will be useful, some of it won’t. Be open to new ideas, as long as they will benefit your project.
  • The more you do it, the better you get.

Note: 2/3rds of this recording were accomplished while both sick and drunk.

Training Your Inner Demons

I’m in the process of doing sound edits on my radio play, Unfortunate Demonic Incident No. 271. Despite all the giggling during rehearsals, it’s had me thinking about the inner voice, and what happens when it slips out.

What’s the meanest thing you’ve ever said to someone? Think back. Think hard. For me, the most brutal, arrogant, awful thing I’ve ever said to someone is, “I, like the universe, don’t care if it’s hard. It’s gotta get done.”

This precipitated a breakup, and rightly so. When he needed my care and support most, I slapped him with that. Emotional broken-jaw.

Sometimes our cruelest impulses, our cruelest characters and situations, are really telling about our nature. As writers, all of our synthetic situations come from organic material. All our thoughts and feelings, our views of good and evil, and everything we believe in permeates our stories. The things that shame our characters are things that would shame us. When our characters laugh, or pull that last spark of strength from within, it’s because we are capable of the same thing.

Our stories tell us, just as much as we tell them. If we’re not careful, one of the ballsier people in our head will learn to operate the mouth. As much as I shouldn’t have said those words, as much as I will regret their delivery for the rest of my life; I cannot deny them. They are a core truth of who I am.

A person isn’t who they are during the last conversation you had with them – they’re who they’ve been throughout your whole relationship.”
– Rainer Maria Rilke

How frail the human heart must be – a mirrored pool of thought.
– Sylvia Plath


The Language of Your Inner Demons

I’ve been revisiting “Xena: Warrior Princess” on Netflix. In an episode called Paradise Found, Xena and Gabrielle find themselves in an isolated compound where they each become more themselves.

Gabrielle — the storyteller who often serves as Xena’s moral compass — finds yoga, cleansing, and stillness.

Xena gets more jumpy and agitated, wounds appear on her body, and she keeps envisioning herself hurting or torturing Gabrielle. Once Xena loses her mind, she wanders through the gardens killing songbirds and bunnies. It’s as horrific and goofy as it sounds. If the darkness in you lives, no one is safe, not even the people you love, says their mysterious guru.

Facing one’s demons is a massive part of my books. If every writer has one theme that permeates their work, that one is mine. Every character has to go through it, whether it means reconciling a relationship or — literally — fighting a monster born from their own fear or shame. Another line from that episode of Xena goes: Goodness going to waste in peace, without evil to keep it alive and fighting.

I, and my characters, need both to be whole.

I’m convinced that our inner demons are on our side. They’re part of us, after all. We get into trouble because we speak different languages and we’re too afraid of them to try and bridge the gap. When you have dark or selfish impulses, that’s your little demon-voice telling you that you have an unfulfilled need. Hear its intention, but don’t listen to its suggestion. It doesn’t understand what consequences are — only that it loves you and you’re not happy.

The same is true if you go deeper. When your inner demon tells you to off yourself… it’s responding to your unhappiness. It knows you’re in pain and has no concept of healing. It loves you, and wants to help. It doesn’t realize it’s not helping. Your demons only understand you as much as you understand them.

What I love about Xena and others of her archetype is her willingness to learn that language and investigate what others are afraid to see. Some speak the language with compassion and understanding; while others only learn enough to hear what they want to hear.That journey, and what they do with that understanding, is how an archetype transforms into a person.

Do not look upon this world with fear and loathing. Bravely face whatever the gods offer.”
– Morihei Ueshiba, father of Aikido


I hope they cannot see
the limitless potential living inside of me
to murder everything. 
I hope they cannot see,
I am the great destroyer.
– Julius Robert Oppenheimer, father of the A-bomb