A Lesson in Anticipation

In a few days Basil, the evil overlord/cat, will be leaving us and returning to live with my parents after three and a half years, which means that today I had to venture into our shed to collect his things.

Our shed. Draped in cobwebs, as though someone decorated for Halloween a decade ago and just added to them every year, rather than taking them down. Our shed, humming with the last requests of brown bodied flies, dusty moths and bright winged butterflies. Our shed, crawling with eight legged creatures.

And so I clamber up the ladder. The shelf where we’ve bundled Basil’s stuff is just above my eye line. We didn’t bother to pack anything into plastic boxes, instead blankets, beds and balding cat toys are draped in dusty threads of silk. My neck prickles as though eight tiny feet are scuttling over it. Something brushes across my hair and my stomach twists like a balloon animal.

I reach my hand over the edge of the shelf and…

Well actually nothing very spectacular happens. No spiders leap out at me, this isn’t Arachnophobia after all. But I did get a good lesson in the power of anticipation. The fear that, at any second, I would wrap my hand around a big fat spider was much worse than the reality would have been.

Which applies to fiction as well, doesn’t it? Will the heroine escape the psycho murderer? Will the prince fall for the beautiful but outspoken peasant? Will the rocket full of model/scientists disappear into the sun without a trace? We don’t know, but we want to know and that’s what keeps us turning the pages or watching the movie.

Hopefully I’ll remember to apply this lesson to my own writing. Maybe I can revisit a few horror movies for a refresher in anticipation. But NOT Arachnophobia. I’ve had enough of spiders for a while.

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