On the Border of Madness

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Dennis Stamey. Author  ‘The Devil’s Horror Story.’

One day when I am popular as a writer (don’t laugh) someone, whether a fan, a fellow author or an interviewer will invariably ask “Where do you get your ideas?” I’ll probably shrug “Uh, I’m not sure.” If I’m in a bad mood I might even say “Do you have any other provocative questions like ‘What did you         have for dinner last Thursday?’”

Where do I find my story ideas? Last year I wrote a full-blown novel, “The Devil’s Horror Show,” mostly while sitting in the parking lot outside the store where I work in the wee hours during my break (which begin around 1:30 a.m.). Although I was drowsy as hell, ideas flowed fast and hard. I also noticed that whenever I took a steamy shower, new scenes and characters often came into focus and writer’s block seemed to melt away in the relaxing, soporific heat.

I’m currently working on a novella. Last week I went on a road trip from Houston to San Antonio, anticipating that staring at miles of straight blacktop would stimulate my imagination and give me fresh ideas. As I drove along, chewing on a wad of gum, listening to cheesy Tejano music to stay alert, nothing came into my head, nothing.  After three hours of driving and four hours of wandering around Sea World with my family I checked into a Comfort Inn. As I lay on the bed, watching “Lord of The Rings” on TNT and labouring to stay awake, some bits of dialogue danced through my brain.

The question is, is it me or do I detect a theme? Do I get inspiration only when I’m groggy? A couple of nights ago I was laying on the sofa around 9 p.m., watching one of my kids play the video game “Destiny,”  I was about to nod off, when I had this weird but workable story idea about a murderer who is constantly followed by an invisible being called “The Soul Reaper.” This entity devours the essences of all those people that the guy kills. Maybe I’ll put this killer in the present, in a Mad Max post-apocalyptic future, or even on another world, I’m not sure. I can’t wait to put it on paper (or laptop screen).

Many of my stories are spawned in this half-waking state, which psychologists call hypnagogia, and consequently they possess a psychotic edge.  Hypnagogia, A drowsy state where geometric shapes can float in the air, load bangs and noise such as people talking drift through the semi conscious state;  This serves me as an ideas well and consequently my writings possess a psychotic edge. Even my most sensitive piece, “Storm Warnings,” is tinged with strangeness akin to delirium. Maybe I’m most productive when my mind is on the verge of insanity. Edgar Allan Poe felt the same way when he described the “fancies” that came to him on “the brink of sleep.” Maybe this transitional state inspired Rod Serling to concoct “The Twilight Zone,” that notorious territory situated between reality and fantasy.

Of course if someone ever asks me where I get my ideas, I’ll simply say “I don’t know.” Or I’ll say “I just pull them out of thin air.” Nobody would want to listen to some guff about getting inspiration while on the edges of sleep. I wouldn’t. I’ll just keep it a secret.

©  Dennis Stamey 2015

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