Tapping into Fears

I grew up in Hawaii. It really is paradise, guys. White, sandy beaches, swaying palms, et cetera. BUT it also has more than its share of “creepy crawlies.” Roaches, spiders, geckos, and my nemisis: the centipede. YES, they really are that big! And YES, they bite! And YES, they are PERVASIVE. Imagine those suckers crawling around in your house. Actually, don’t imagine it, because it’s just too disgusting/creepy.

Personal story time: I was ten years old. Sleeping peacefully in my bed. I felt a weird pain on my foot, and began to dream that someone was pounding a nail into my toes. But that didn’t wake me up. What woke me was the prickly, tickly feeling of sharp, little legs creeping up my arm.

I shot up in bed, swiping the feeling away. Weird, I thought. That felt like a bug crawling on me. Then I thought: Huh, why does my foot hurt so bad?

As the waves of sleep receded, I put two and two together.

As you can imagine, this event rather traumatized me. I still am. Even though it’s been over a decade since I left Hawaii, I still shake my blankets out every night before going to sleep. Just to make sure a centipede isn’t curled up somewhere in there.

So, how am I going to relate this to writing? Well, guess what kind of creatures show up in Searcher? Yep, centipedes. (BIG centipedes.) I’m not saying those are my best scenes in the book or anything, but they certainly were fun to write. It’s one of the joys of what we do. We take these poor characters and force them to face our fears for us. They may defeat them (Jetta cuts a centipede’s head off) or fall to them, it doesn’t matter. You can always tell when those obstacles come right from the author’s past.

How about you? Which of your fears have showed up in your stories?



  1. Candice on June 7, 2011 at 4:43 am

    ughhhhh *shivers* *shivers again*

    I think my psychological fears show up in my book. Like fear of being confined and fear of losing freedom.

    *shivers yet again*

  2. Harkness87 on June 7, 2011 at 4:49 am

    Wow! Those are gross, yet strangely intriguing!

    I’m not sure if any of my fears have shown up in my writing. Maybe some of my own personality traits. Anxiety/social anxiety, etc. etc.

    Now I feel like I have bugs crawling on me!!

  3. Ruth Josse on June 7, 2011 at 6:07 am

    My brother just went and said something about the giant centipedes and I said, no way jose. I never saw anything like them when I was there. Boy, was I wrong! Freaky! I guess I’ll eat my words.

    I love that I can live vicariously through my characters as they face stuff I would never even think about facing.

  4. KLM on June 7, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    RENEE!! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO ME?!! I’ll never sleep again, thank you very much.

    I, too, once had a centipede crawl on my leg while sleeping. It didn’t bite me — just slithered along to wherever it was going but I think I popped up out of bed like I’d been blasted out with dynamite and I beat that thing to death with a shoe until it was pulp and I STILL couldn’t get back to sleep afterward. I kept thinking it had a friend or a wife or something. Another centipede that had now sworn a blood oath of vengeance because I’d killed its best friend or mate.

    So thanks for bringing all that back. I’ll be sitting in the corner of the room for the rest of the day, muttering and twitching.

    Oh, and good post and all. I think you made your point.

  5. Chantele Sedgwick on June 7, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    Uh…. That is disgusting. I hate bugs. Especially ones with a million legs and long and slimy. πŸ˜›

    One of my characters is afraid of sharks, even though she doesn’t live anywhere near the ocean. Just like me. πŸ˜‰

    I keep getting the shivers now! That centipede is going to haunt me for the rest of the day!!

  6. Jessie Oliveros on June 7, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    There are centipedes in Texas and ever since my husband told me about them, I’ve been in the look out. I thought they were poisonous, so it is good to know your survived. And Hawaii!! Lucky. My sister is there right now writing her thesis. Poor her. After a cockroach experience I stared a dystopian chapter book in which cockroaches were a delicacy. Does that count? Actually, car accidents are one of my greatest fears, and I couldn’t even write about one. (I’ve considered it.) Because I couldn’t handle it.

  7. Renee Collins on June 7, 2011 at 3:35 pm

    Candice-Ooo, yes, psychological fears are a good one to put in. They’re the deepest fears, and therefore the juiciest. πŸ™‚

    Harkness-Yes, I definitely give my characters some of my personality quirks too, and it has the same great effect. (Also, sorry about the creepy-crawly feeling!)

    Ruth-Oh yes, they are really as big as people say! I’d say the average adult is at least three inches long, but it was not at all uncommon to see them much bigger. GROSS.

    Kristen! I’m sorry! I’ve triggered your post-centipedal trauma! And I know the feeling of worrying about revenge oaths. After my bite incident, Diana and I went through a brief phase where we caught centipedes with the intent to slaughter them in various ways.

    Some, we put in the garbage disposal. Some, we snipped with pruning shears. Others we just crushed with big rocks.

    We agreed to stop fairly quickly, because aside from feeling like budding, young psycopaths, we also feared that somehow the word would get out in the centipede community, and we’d be in for it.

    Chantele-Hawaii has sharks too. Human-attacking tiger sharks. I put those in a different book of mine. πŸ™‚

  8. Renee Collins on June 7, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    Jessie-I’m intrigued with this cockroach dystopia. Tell me more. πŸ™‚

    Also, I hear you about the car crash thing. Too creepy. I do have two smaller crashes in one of my books, but nothing dramatic, where people die or anything. Too scary.

  9. Jessie Oliveros on June 7, 2011 at 6:27 pm

    Oh, see my last comment. I can spell. Really.

    My dystopian chapter book didn’t get very far. After discussing fallout beans and toxic waste duty, it sort of lost its momentum.

  10. Miriam Forster on June 7, 2011 at 9:18 pm


    *runs screaming*

  11. Patti on June 8, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    That would be awful. I guess there are good things about living in Canadian – no huge bugs.

    I guess my fear that has shown up in my writing is heights. I hate them.

  12. Kasie West on June 8, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    Yuck. Those are so gross. I thought they were poisonous. Are they not? I will now have nightmares.

  13. Michelle Davidson Argyle on June 8, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    ACK! I love bugs, but that is CREEPY! Monarch has LOTS of bugs in it. I hope it doesn’t creep too many people out. πŸ™‚

  14. M.D. Christie on June 8, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    I can totally relate! We lived in Hawaii for 4 years from 2001 to 2005 and those suckers are everywhere! :-/ They are worse scorpions in Arizona! Did you ever have the cane spiders??!! UGH just thinking about them

  15. Renee Collins on June 8, 2011 at 5:19 pm

    Miriam-My reaction exactly. πŸ™‚

    Patti-Yes! Living in Colorado now, the biggest bugs we have in our house here are crickets. And I don’t mind those. (Unless they chirp in my closet and wake me up in the middle of the night. . .)

    Kasie-I think they are poisonous, but not deadly. The bite just hurts like CRAZY.

    Michelle-The funny thing is, I love bugs too! I had an awesome insect collection in high school. But I have my limits. And big, biting bugs cross that limit. πŸ™‚

    M.D. Christie-THE CANE SPIDERS! I forgot about those! Probably blocked them from my memory because they were too creepy. πŸ™‚ *shudders* I have to say, Hawaii has huge upsides, but the bugs definitely sour the milk. πŸ™‚

  16. Ellen on June 9, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    OMG I have the heebie-jeebies just from LOOKING at those pics!!! *shudder*
    dunno if I could handle those around the house. I think our little bitty ones are bad….

  17. M.D. Christie on June 13, 2011 at 9:40 pm

    LOL!! Yes Paradise comes with a price called scorpions, Cane Spiders ( I swear JK Rowling based Aragog on them), Centipedes, b52 bomber roaches, jelly fish, lion fish, and sharks!!! After all that though, I still do miss it! There is something magical about that place!

  18. Bane of Anubis on June 14, 2011 at 6:46 pm

    I’ve got a trip to Kaui in September. Now I’m not quite so excited πŸ™‚

  19. hapi on June 16, 2011 at 9:25 am

  20. Anita on June 19, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    Awesome post! Eeek. That’s a creepy story. My fears from childhood are much less realistic. I was afraid of dolls. The porcelain kind with the opening and closing eyes? Watched an episode of Twilight Zone that had a violent talking one, and it rattled me for life. Heh. And yes, porcelain blinky eyed dolls make an appearance in my YA, as do spiders (which creep me out) in a less than conventionary manner, so I’m with you on facing those fears on the page. Nice to meet you on twitter, BTW! (@aghowardwrites)

  21. Anita on June 19, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    LOL. That was supposed to say conventional, not conventionary! I need my morning cup of joe. πŸ˜‰

  22. nbpettibone on July 1, 2011 at 2:20 am

    Wow, those centipedes are really disgusting! I never realized this until I re-read our novel, but my twin sister and I wrote some of our greatest fears into it. It’s strange, but as we write about our fears, I guess we somehow face them. Indirectly, of course πŸ™‚

  23. Andrea on July 4, 2011 at 5:37 pm

    We had centipedes like that in Toronto!!! SOOO DISGUSTING!!

  24. RENT BUENOS AIRES on July 27, 2011 at 11:52 pm

    Uhahhhh asco!!

  25. Online Shopping on August 16, 2011 at 5:44 am

    Oh My God its very Dangerous !

  26. Health Insurance on August 16, 2011 at 5:50 am

    Great Posting