Authors are people just like us, with likes and dislikes... and fears
. Sometimes a creator draws upon their personal Nightmare Fuel
in an attempt to make their villains more fearsome and intimidating. For instance, if the author as a child was bitten by a venomous spider and nearly died, as J. R. R. Tolkien
was, they might make the Big Bad
of their story a hideous Giant Spider
Contrast Author Appeal
Anime and Manga
- Yukito Kishiro is afraid of a certain kind of butterfly, and so is his character, Gally. This is only mentioned once.
- Frieza from Dragon Ball Z was based on nightmares that Akira Toriyama had as a child. He is by far the most nightmarish of that manga's villains as a direct result.
- Creator Edgar P. Jacobs of Blake and Mortimer fell down a seven metres deep old well when he was two or three years old. It took half an hour before he was able to be brought back up.The experience resulted in a lot of scenes in his comic strip where characters fall into pits or are walking through underground locations.
- Author Hergé of the 'Tintin series was forced to listen to his aunt singing opera arias when he was a child. It led to a strong dislike of opera music, exemplified in the character Bianca Castafiore, whose singing usually scares away everybody or makes glass break.
- Peter Jackson used his own arachnophobia to measure the effectiveness of Shelob's design and animations for the Lord of the Rings films.
- James Cameron wrote The Terminator based on a nightmare he had of a robotic skeleton emerging from a fiery explosion and coming after him. It's even referenced on the main Nightmare Fuel page quote. "From the director's nightmares to yours." However, Cameron was sued because the idea bore a resemblance to two Harlan Ellison-written The Outer Limits episodes, "Soldier" and "Demon with a Glass Hand". As part of the settlement, the credits of the movie now include the phrase "Acknowledgement to the works of Harlan Ellison."
- H. R. Giger is known to have incorporated his nightmares into his creations. Apparently, he often worked through his sleeplessness.
- Alfred Hitchcock had a fear of the police, thanks to an incident in his childhood where his father ordered a policeman to lock him up for ten minutes for being disobedient. As a result, Police Are Useless and Wrongly Accused were two of his favorite tropes.
- A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984): Wes Craven named Freddy Krueger after a bully who harassed him and based his appearance on a disfigured hobo who scared him as a child.
- Stanley Kubrick felt very paranoid about institutions, ranging from the government, the army, companies and secret organizations, a fear that runs through his entire work.
Live Action Televion
- J. R. R. Tolkien was bitten by a venomous spider in his youth in South Africa and narrowly escaped death. He claimed to have no memory of the actual events, but many of his works feature giant, malevolent arachnids, including the spiders of Mirkwood, Shelob, and Ungoliant.
- Similar to Tolkien, C. S. Lewis was afraid of insects (stemming from a pop-up book that scared him as a child), a phobia that he would attribute to Lucy Pevensie in The Chronicles of Narnia. This phobia can also be inferred to be the reason why insects are rarely mentioned in Narnia, if at all.
- Deconstructed in the Space Trilogy. The protagonist is pursued through caves by a diabolical enemy, accompanied by a giant centipede. But when the enemy is dispatched, the protagonist finds nothing horrible or even dangerous about the big bug. Or any other bug ever again. "All that he had felt from childhood about insects and reptiles died that moment: died utterly, as hideous music dies when you switch off the wireless. Apparently it had all, even from the beginning, been a dark enchantment of the enemy's."
- Much of what H.P. Lovecraft wrote was motivated by his own nightmares and personal phobias. Among the ones less likely to evoke similar feelings in readers nowadays were his fears of non-white Anglo-Saxon people and miscegenation. And fish. He also had a lifelong fear of cold temperatures, encouraged by his frail constitution. This is partly why the oppressive atmosphere of At the Mountains of Madness is so effective.
- He also was deeply afraid of the mental issues that plagued his family, leading to the themes of the horror of mental instability and one's family history coming back to haunt you.
- Stephen King is known for writing about things that scare him personally.
- In particular, Pet Sematary is full of Adult Fear and based on a real incident where King stopped his son from almost getting run over by a truck. He couldn't shake thoughts of what would have happened if he failed, and wrote a novel around it.
- Winston's fear of rats and its use against him in the Room 101 scene in 1984 was inspired by George Orwell's personal fear of rats.
- Terry Pratchett and horses. Several of his Discworld characters have had similar internal monologs about considering horses four-legged masses of barely-restrained insanity.
- J. K. Rowling transferred her arachnophobia to Ron Weasley and features some truly frightening Giant Spiders as recurring minor villains.
- Stephen Colbert in The Colbert Report warns his viewers about how bears are godless killing machines. Inspired by a phobia he had as a child of bears attacking him in his room.
- Babylon 5: Londo's dream about standing on his homeworld and watching the sky fill with black, spider-shaped spaceships was based on a nightmare of J.M.S., the series creator.
- Doctor Who:
- The Third Doctor story "Planet of the Spiders" was an attempt to create a monster combining two of the author's phobias - spiders, and injections. They are Giant Spiders that latch onto people's backs and kill them by injecting them and draining out the fluids, and they are horrible.
- The Fourth Doctor story "The Deadly Assassin", which the Fourth Doctor spends mostly being tortured, beaten to a pulp and drowned in a jungle has an added frisson when you remember that the writer Robert Holmes had fought in Burma while still a teenager.
- The Eleventh Doctor story "A Christmas Carol" involves flying sharks and fish. As a child, Steven Moffat had nightmares about fish that could swim through the air. It should be noted that the fish in the story are actually rather friendly and the Doctor even rides the shark at one point.
- Black Sabbath's titular song was written about a nightmare one of the band members had. Sabbath Bloody Sabbath was in turn inspired when they rented out a castle and spent time recording in the dungeons, which freaked them out.
- Frank Zappa hated country music. Though he embraced most other musical genres "cowboy music" (as he would call it) was one of the few genres he generally despised. He spoofed it once with his song "Lonesome Cowboy Burt".
- Thomas Dolby wrote "Flying North" about his fear of flying.