Kacie or Casey?

By now, some of you have read my short story “Kacie” – and if you haven’t go ahead and sign up to my newsletter to grab your free copy. I really enjoyed writing this, even though I did give myself a bad case of the heebie-jeebies when I wrote about the maggots. I could feel them in my hair for days. But since I chose not to include an introduction or an afterward, I wanted to take some time to share what went in to putting the story together. Don’t worry, there is no more mention of maggots beyond this point

It all started with AutoCrit. As you may already know, I took the AutoCrit Nightmare Fuel Course in the spring and loved it. Since then, I have been engaging with the unpaid side of the community. (As much as I would love to pay for the full membership, that’s something that’s going to have to wait until later.) One of the spring events that was open to all members of the community – paid and unpaid – was the 2021 Community Writing Challenge. There were prizes handed out by way of random draw, and the top 10 stories were published in a trophy anthology (i.e. no published for public consumption), but the prizes were not the main goal of the challenge. This was simply a community activity to encourage people to write, and the daily check-ins were there to hold us all accountable. With special live stream every day, this really felt like more of a group project than a contest. Many participants didn’t even submit to be considered for the trophy anthology.

The only constraints we had to work with were the word limit of 5,000 words and the 2 week deadline. The way the live streams were set up, we were encouraged to spend the first week writing and the second week editing. In terms of subject and genre, we were given free rein. There was a PDF of 120 story prompts supplied to us if we wanted to use it for inspiration, but it wasn’t mandatory. I ended up using this list because I like the way writing prompts challenge me to try new things and think in different ways. I know the kinds of ideas I can come up with on my own, but some of what I think is my best work has come from writing prompts that pushed me to think outside the box.

The prompts I ended up using were:

  • The bed should have been empty. It wasn’t.
  • It looked like someone had been searching the house.
  • She claimed to be his daughter, but something felt off.
  • The feeling of utter disbelief.
  • He stood there and watched the door close behind her.

Once I narrowed down the prompts I was going to use from my original notes (I highlighted over 10 different prompts at first), the world of “Kacie” popped into my head. Dave’s apartment was so vivid in my mind that I even sketched it out.

And coming up with the overall themes and motifs were easy. I am a product of generational trauma from both sides of my family. Because of that, I often write about what I like to call “complicated family relationships” as well as family trauma. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I’m drawn to horror. But the fact that one of my chosen prompts mentioned a father daughter relationship meant that writing about yet another complicated family was a no-brainer. Okay, so maybe the prompts didn’t get me thinking too far out of the box after all.

Just one important detail remained: the name. Dave’s name wasn’t all that important, but the name of his daughter was. Especially since I planned on naming the story after her. So, how did I settle on Kacie? It’s a name that I’ve had in the back of my brain for a long time.

I went to elementary school and middle school with a girl named Kacie. From Kindergarten through grade 8, she was the only Kacie I ever knew. The only other time I heard the name was Casey Jones in TMNT. Since his name was spelled differently, I always figured that this was a case of a name with a male spelling and a female spelling. So many years later, when I worked for Starbucks, I wrote down the name “Kacie” for a female customer when she told me her name. This went on for weeks, and she never said anything so I had no reason to suspect that anything was wrong.

Then one day, my least favourite supervisor grabbed the empty cup from the bar and walked over to me with a smug look on her face.

“You know you keep spelling this wrong? That’s not how Casey is spelled.”

“Oh, really? I went to school with a Kacie and that’s how she spelled it. And the customer hasn’t corrected me, so I thought she used the same spelling as well.”

“Well you’re wrong. I’m going to get a new cup and change it.”

Luckily that supervisor didn’t last much longer at that location.

Since that incident, the name Kacie has been burned into the back of my brain, just waiting for a chance to appear in one of my stories. It just felt right for this one.

And just like that, Kacie came to life. I mean, afterlife

Happy Reading

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