I was talking to a friend a while ago - a guy who should write, but doesn't.

He asked me what I found so fascinating about it.

The answer was very long, but part of it had to do with exploring The Land of Scary.

It seems to me that the stuff we all produce when we first start writing fiction - ghosts, kittens, aliens, twist-in-the-tale, whatever - can form a long, fluffy corridor that leads (if you're not careful) to the Land of Scary.

The Land of Scary is a place where you leave the fluffy fiction behind and start trying to write about *real* stuff, stuff that comes from the murk within, stuff that matters.

Literary stuff, in the best sense of the word.

It's a place where you rip great bleeding lumps out of yourself and hold them up to the light, turn 'em around, see how you can fit them into a story that actually *speaks* about something.

It's a place where you sometimes learn things about yourself that you don't really want to acknowledge.

It's a place that has big black trees growing in it, and if you eat what they produce more than once or twice - you discover the fruits are addictive.

It's not a comfortable country. It's scary.

But I think it's where the real power of fiction lies.

There's an exercise Sol Stein uses called Secret Snapshots that's worth trying.

'Imagine the two of us are talking. No one else is around. It's quiet. I want you to show me something - a secret snapshot that you wouldn't want your neighbour to see.

Perhaps the snapshot you'll be using comes from an album you didn't know you had. You wouldn't carry it in your wallet because if you were in an accident, you wouldn't want a paramedic to find it. You wouldn't want your closest friend to see it. Certainly not your neighbours. You wouldn't want your spouse or your children to see it. That's the picture we want.'


Write down what's in that picture. Keep it short. One or two sentences will do.

Think about those sentences - then weave a story from them.

Give it a go.

See what comes out.

But I warn you - if you do it properly, it's scary.