Sunday, March 23, 2014

Real-life writing inspirations: Horror!

Looking for something to help jump-start some ideas? Check out these five actually-existing horrors* that you could use in your writing.

*I am not 100% sure that "horror" counts for this blog, but it's a subset of speculative fiction, isn't it? So I'm counting it.

Goya called this "Saturn Devouring His Son".
I call it "Why I Can't Sleep Anymore."
1. The Black Paintings: Francisco Goya, at the end of his long life and after battling illnesses, bought himself a villa and spent four years decorating it with giant and terrifying murals, painted directly onto the walls of the house.  There were fifteen in all.  Goya didn't tell people he was doing the paintings; they were discovered after his death, most likely in a scene that went something like this:

Visitor: *knocking* Hey, Goya, you home? Oh, the door is open DEAR GOD NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! *throws self over nearby cliff*

That may seem like an overreaction, but look again at Saturn, to the left here.

The paintings, which Goya actually never named, were discovered after his death and eventually transferred to canvas via a process that had to be so tedious it makes my head numb just imagining it.  Which is preferable to sitting here imagining an old man night after night at his kitchen table staring at paintings like

The Witches' Sabbath.

But I'm only getting started.  How about

2. La Isla De Las Munecas.  Who doesn't love the tropics? Bright sunshine, white-sand beaches, clear blue warm water, hundreds of rotten disembodied dolls said to be haunted by spirits of dead children...

*throws self off nearest cliff, again*

THAT is an actual photo from La Isla de las Munecas, which in English means either "Island of the Dolls" or "Thanks a lot now that's burnt into my retina".  Located on a man-made island near Mexico City, the island is said to have come about after a gardener found a drowned little girl on its shore, and began to believe the girl's spirit was haunting the place, so he began hanging dolls around to protect himself from the ghost, which, considering how creepy every single doll is, is a bit like having a vampire problem and solving it by hiring zombies as security.

I have this great idea for a "28 Days Later/Cabbage Patch Kids crossover."
The caretaker died of a heart attack in 2001, not surprising when you consider that he used to say stuff like "At night they come alive. They will move their heads and whisper to each other."

The locals buried him on the island itself, which can only be interpreted as a hearty "thank you" for what this island did to their property values/sanity.

What's creepier than a bunch of fake little kids slowly mummifying? Probably nothing. Let's move on to

3. Catacombe dei Cappucino real little kids slowly mummifying!

That's a picture of Rosalia Lombardo, who, as the note says, died in 1920.  The picture was taken in 1995, probably by a tourist, because when you get tired of posing in front of arches and going to "Hard Rock Cafe: Rome" what's left but to take some macabre photos of dead girls from another century?

The Catacombe are in Palermo, which I previously only knew as the sort-of Italian name for cheap frozen pizzas, and were started when some monks ran out of cemetary space in the 16th century.  So they began digging crypts below their monastery, and put the bodies there to dry out.  Even though originally only friars were supposed to be allowed the honor (?) of having their dessicated bodies stared at by people wearing fannypacks a millenia later, it ultimately became a status symbol to get your body into the crypt, proving that rich people have always been willing to throw their money away on stupid stuff if you say it's a 'status symbol'. (Modern zoning laws being what they are, we now have to content ourselves with just selling the rich cat-poop coffee.)

There are 8000 mummies in the catacombe, divided into groups like Monks, Professionals, and Virgins.  A while back, iron grids had to be installed to stop people from posing. With the corpses.  They were posing with the corpses.


Briane Pagel is going to go watch some cartoons or something to clear his brain out.  He is the author of Temporary Anne, in which a woman proves too evil to go to Hell, and the short story collection The Scariest Things, You CAN'T Imagine, which, not coincidentally, features a story in which there are catacombs.  He also is a contributing writer at lit, a place for stories and Inky.

Click here to check out his books on Amazon.


  1. The catacombs were what really got me, too. See you in AtoZ!

  2. People are crazy. Enough said. Okay, I also have to say that those dolls really creeped me out. Actually, this whole post creeped me out.

  3. I think zombies, if you could get them to agree to not eat you, would make great guards to keep vampires away. I mean, zombies have no blood, right, so the vampire sees the house with all the zombies hanging out in the front yard and looks at it look you look at that container of strawberries with the white fuzz at the back of your refrigerator. Or the yogurt with the green stuff coming out from under the lid.

  4. Sorry, Robin. And after all your posts are so uplifting!

    Andrew: Gross.

  5. We already had plenty of inspiration for our horror novels, but you know what always gets the creative juices flowing? Dead children. So thanks for that. And I assure you, those are the only juices that get flowing. We're sick, but not THAT sick...

    (Joke: What's the difference between a Lamborghini and a pile of dead children?
    Answer: I don't have a Lamborghini in my garage)

    See? Told you.

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