Take it away, Cherie!
A Legend Awakens... Crafting an Urban Legend
by Cherie Reich
When I wrote the first draft of Once upon a December Nightmare, I didn’t have the background of the monster in my head, but through edits, the mythology formed, giving the monster a frightening tale told down throughout the years. An urban legend, of sorts… or perhaps a more rural one, considering the stories take place in and around the made-up small town of
But how does one create an urban legend?
The past will tell you a lot about the future. I thought back to the events surrounding the area, or made-up place, and asked myself questions. Did a grisly unexplained murder happen fifty years ago? A Native American burial ground rumored to be around? Or a series of unexplained abductions? Do ghostly soldiers haunt the area?
My ponderings led me to the Civil War.
Southwest Virginia is ripe with battlegrounds and
events that occurred during that time. The West Virginia-Virginia borders are
only an hour or so away from where I set Once
upon a Nightmare: A Collection. What if Confederate soldiers planned to
travel through West Virginia to
assassinate Lincoln? What could
stop their secret nightly roundabout travel toward ? Washington,
My monster was the answer. But no story is complete without at least one survivor. You know, the friend of a friend that heard that so-and-so’s brother’s relative met the monster and lived. Someone must live to tell the tale. Thus, my lone soldier was born, a sole survivor against a bloodthirsty monster. People love a survivor story. It adds to the mystery, the horror, and the hope that the monster can be defeated.
A legend can add a touch of credence to the story and let the reader know the monster has killed before, but to also add hope that people can get away and survive.
Do you have a favorite urban legend?
A monster hunts us. After hibernating for a decade, it’s ravenous. We long to stop this nightmare, but the end of the road is far. There is no waking up once a legend sets its sights on you.
Disappearances every ten or so years make little impact on the small town of
Virginia. Hikers get lost. Hunters lose the trail. Even when a body is
discovered, the inhabitants’ memories last about as long as the newspaper
No one connects the cases. No one notices the disappearances go back beyond Civil War times. No one believes a legendary monster roams the forests in
I don’t either until the truck breaks down on an old mountain trail. Cell phones won’t work in this neck of the woods. It’s amazing how much a person can see by starlight alone. So what if we can’t feel our fingers or toes as we hike toward the main road. How many more miles left to go?
Hear that noise?
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