WIHM 2022: I’m a Nice Little Old Lady – am I allowed to write horror?

I’m a Nice Little Old Lady – am I allowed to write horror?

By: Alex Grehy

This is a question I’m often asked, being as I am actually a Nice Little Old Lady (NLOL) who writes horror. Honestly, if I had a dollar for every time I’d been asked, well, I’d be able to buy a Big Mac, though possibly not with fries, because most NLOL’s are simply too nice to even ask the question.


This essay is for NLOLs everywhere who are contemplating moving to the dark side of fiction.

If you want to be pedantic about it, I’m not so old, more late middle-aged and I’m only little in height, but not in girth. But I’m definitely nice, most of the time, especially if you include the time I spend asleep. Which brings me to my first good reason for writing horror – pedantic people. They make the most deserving victims; I think you’ll agree. But what if you’re a pedantic NLOL? Don’t worry, you can be the hero in your own fiction, as pedantic people can also be the most meticulous villains.


“What’s a nice little lady like you want with a big car like that?” a salesman asked recently while smirking knowingly at my husband over my little shoulder. That’s the second reason for writing horror – that man deserves to be a victim, but I’m far too nice to be nasty for real.


The third reason is pretty obvious – any NLOL who has cared for dogs, kids and other animals has an intimate familiarity with body fluids. No demonic doll or possessed fiend projectile vomits like a toddler with norovirus. The blood spatter from a hound racing round the house with “happy tail” (a tiny cut caused by too vigorous wagging) would provide special effects for an infinite number of slasher sequels. You name the body fluid; I’ve cleaned it off the walls. I can provide graphic narratives on color, texture, shape and smell, though I will draw the line at flavor. 


It’s easy to forget that NLOLs were once Nice Little Young Ladies (NLYLs), who spoke when spoken too, who patiently smiled and nodded when told to “understand” why others were promoted over them in their careers. We’ve been the victims of twisted corporate logic and weasel words. That’s the fourth reason, because no-one understands unrequited revenge like an NLOL. 


As an NLOL, I do like to exercise compassion in relationships, but don’t ever mistake that for trust. That’s the fifth reason, NLOLs have a depth of vision. Little Red Riding Hood’s grandma always had the wolf inside her soul, and don’t get me started on how those juvenile delinquents, Hansel and Gretel, treated the old lady in the woods. 


Of course I’m good at baking. Come round my house and I’ll whip up a batch of cookies at a moment’s notice. I know all the ingredients – the ones you can safely use, and the ones you really shouldn’t. That’s the sixth reason why NLOL’s should write horror – you don’t need to be big enough to beat the world if you know the difference between a blackberry and a black berry, say, from a deadly nightshade.


“What would my mother think?” is often cited as a barrier to writing horror. Well, if you’re a NLOL who is fortunate enough to still have a living mother, she’ll fall into one of two categories: 


  1. The wildly proud mom who would still love you and brag to her neighbors if you actually committed acts of horror rather than just wrote about them.
  2. The wildly disappointed mom who already can’t believe how you turned out and your becoming a horror writer would just confirm what she already believes – that she was impregnated by aliens and anything you become is none of her doing. 


Either way, the seventh reason for getting into horror is that you can’t lose, or win, either way on this one, so you may as well write.


The eighth reason follows on – there is nothing quite as satisfying as having your enemies – sorry, NLOLs don’t have enemies, we’re far too nice, let’s call them in-laws instead – reading your horror stories and never, ever calling at your house again.


I am a NLOL – who knows how long I have left to live? The ninth reason is that it would be dreadful to be buried with horror stories untold. Imagine how long it would take your unquiet spirit to write a novel via ouija board. To say nothing of the energy you’d have to put into vengeful hauntings if your living seance partner claimed authorship and subsequent royalties from Netflix.


The tenth, and most noble reason, is for the good of society. NLOLs have put up with a lot of nonsense in their lives; they’ve stored it all up inside, like magma, covered over with layers of niceness, but never forgotten, or forgiven. Don’t let a NLOL erupt like Vesuvius; let her relieve the pressure of her hidden angst using the written word. Horror stories are like lava bombs – shocking and explosive but they rarely destroy whole civilisations.


There you have it, ten good reasons why Nice Little Old Ladies should write horror. You want more? Come round to mine, we’ll discuss it over a cup of herbal tea. I’ll bake some cookies, my special recipe, with the berries – the oven’s nice and hot.


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