Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Invasion of the Marshmallow Shadows

by Stephanie Black

My three-year-old daughter has discovered monsters. She’s sometimes leery of going into rooms by herself. She wants me to sit outside her room in the hall while she’s going to sleep. She gets upset if she wakes in the middle of the night and sees that someone has closed her door. Sometimes she wants the light on during her nap. It’s daylight, but that’s not good enough.

For a while she was terrified of “marshmallow shadows”. She watched a PBS kids’ show where the characters were roasting marshmallows around a campfire and a monster showed up, or something like that—I didn’t see the show, but my older kids reported on it. I don’t think it was supposed to be particularly terrifying—it’s a preschooler’s show, after all—but for days after that she was scared of marshmallow shadows. Then there’s that popular monster hangout—bad dreams. Thankfully, she hasn’t seemed to have many bad dreams, but she did have one with a green and black monster.

Poor kid. I keep trying to tell her monsters aren’t real, but she probably thinks I’m a kook. What do you mean they aren’t real? I saw one on TV. And it probably doesn’t help that it’s Halloween time, with spooky monster decorations all over the place. She doesn’t like her brothers’ Halloween costumes, both of which represent spooky, black-robed skeletal creatures.

Imagination is a marvelous thing, but it can be overwhelming when you haven’t yet figured out what’s real and what’s not. I hope that soon—before she drives her sister/roommate bonkers—my preschooler will outgrow her monster fears. But I also hope her imagination will remain active enough to allow her to enjoy a good story.

Without imagination there wouldn’t be any fiction. We novelists are doing our best to engage the emotions of reader in stories that never happened to people no more real than marshmallow shadows. How many of you out there avoid reading horror novels because they creep you out too much? Why do they creep you out? Whatever paranormal menace is menacing the populace doesn’t exist outside the writer’s imagination. You’re a logical person. You know that. But if the story is well done, you get the creeps because it feels real. And you can blame Jeff Savage for your nightmares.

Imagination keeps people glued to a book. I’m always thrilled when I hear someone was up until three o’clock in the morning reading my book. Why was the reader willing to lose sleep to find out what happens to people who don’t exist who are threatened by villains who come from the same Never-Never Land as the monsters lurking in my daughter’s bedroom? Imagination.



At 10/24/2007 3:45 PM, Blogger Evil HR Lady said...

All I know is I hate the dream where it's the end of the semester and I forgot I had a particular class and now I'm going to flunk. Aaaagh!

At 10/24/2007 6:08 PM, Blogger Jon said...

"Was it a dream where you see yourself standing in sun god robes on a pyramid with a thousand naked women screaming and throwing little pickles at you?

Why am I the only person who has that dream?"


It's amazing to find out how people have that dream that EHRL mentioned. (Freaky.)

Words have power - written words, spoken ones. Unspoken ones.

Stephanie's right, though - it's the reader's mind that conjures the monster from the (ahem) skeleton that the author builds.

At 10/24/2007 6:18 PM, Anonymous meanaunt said...

EHRL--I have given up on that dream and now dream that my brakes aren't working while I am trying to frantically stop before rear-ending someone.

At 10/24/2007 8:10 PM, Anonymous marlene said...

I've had both of those except I can't remember where the room for the final is, and a friend told me the non-working brakes means you're feeling out of control. Made sense in my case. Has anyone had the dream where your house keeps gaining new rooms, and they are always nice but sometimes very lovely? Once a room even had two organs and lovely pianos--but I went to discover more and couldn't find my way back.

At 10/24/2007 8:21 PM, Blogger Evil HR Lady said...

I have that non-working brakes dream all.the.time

I've been feeling a bit overwhelmed lately, so maybe that explains it.

At 10/24/2007 8:21 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

I've heard of that house, Marlene! It's a real place that Steven King made famous. (Or at least famous-er.) I think it's called Rose Red. If I dreamed about it, it would be a nightmare for sure. Probably I'd dream up all bathrooms and they'd all need scrubbing.

One of my recurring nightmares is about ascending or descending a cliff with very narrow switchbacks. I dream it two or three times a year. Hmm. Come to think of it, it's probably just leftover terror from a geology field trip to the Grand Canyon years and years ago. I'm terrified of step stools. Imagine how I feel on the South Rim.

Fun, fun blog, Stephanie! Best of luck with the Marshmallow Shadow Monsters! (Those things sound scary.)

At 10/24/2007 9:26 PM, Anonymous Jennie said...

Mine is a lost locker key. Our lockers back in junior high had keys that we all wore on chains around our necks. After more years than I care to mention I'm still losing that darn key in my dreams.

At 10/25/2007 12:11 AM, Blogger Tamra Norton said...

So no one else has the dream where they suddenly realize they're walking around (or more recently, riding a bike) naked...or almost as mortifying, in their underwear?! Agh! I hate that nightmare!

At 10/25/2007 10:08 AM, Blogger RobisonWells said...

The one dream I get a lot is that the church calls and they've discovered there was an accounting error with my mission--I need to go back for another three or six months!

And so back I go, leaving the wife, kids, and job at home. I get this dream a lot.

At 10/27/2007 10:02 AM, Blogger Janet Jensen said...

I heard of a desperate parent who invented anti-monster spray. He took a plain old spray bottle, made some kind of anti-monster label for it, filled it with water and a bit of pleasant perfume, and "misted" the room (especially closets and under the bed) to "protect" his child from the monsters she feared. And it worked!

At 10/27/2007 10:43 AM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...

There is a woman in Utah that did the same "Monster Spray" thing and has actually started a company selling it.

Rob, I had that dream a lot for the first ten years or so after my mission. Eventually it goes away. Wierd huh?


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