The NoSleep Diaries: Entry 1- “The Thing in the Yard"
Please welcome guest contributor Lindsay Moore. Lindsay has written for us before, sharing her experience putting together an all women horror anthology. In this series, she'll share her experience writing horror stories that were adapted for the NoSleep Podcast.
I discovered the NoSleep Podcast in 2015, midway through its fifth season. At the time, my day job was less than fulfilling; it was downright boring. But, on the plus side, I was able to listen to podcasts and music all day.
I sat in my cubicle, alone, listening to horror fiction podcasts while I worked. I discovered the NoSleep Podcast through the subreddit, which is infamous for its creepypasta-style horror fiction. I couldn’t sit and read the stories, but I could listen to the best of the best, those carefully selected for audio adaptation.
I started at the beginning and found myself listening to two to three episodes per day. As the show progressed, the episodes got longer and the production values increased dramatically, including music, sound effects, and multiple voice actors. I also noticed an improvement in the writing, as the stories featured in later seasons became longer, more complex, and scarier.
The best thing about binging NoSleep, though, was noticing the tropes and imagery that kept popping up in the stories. I actually made a NoSleep Bingo Board, and when work was especially dull, I’d put thumbtacks down on the squares while I listened. A rictus grin? Check. A mouth opening too wide? Check. Impenetrable darkness? Check. A tall, gangly figure? Check. Unblinking eyes? BINGO!
As much as I liked playing NoSleep Bingo at my desk, it got me wondering if I could write for the podcast. How hard can it be? I wondered. I had been a creative writing major in college; after graduating, I had practically abandoned prose in exchange for comic writing, but surely it wouldn’t be that hard to get back on the horse.
Much like riding a bike, you never really forget how to write a short story. I decided to take a well-worn, very familiar horror trope and see what I could do to make it different and unexpected.
I won’t spoil “The Thing in the Yard” for you. You can purchase the episode to hear NoSleep’s performance, or you can read it for free on Reddit. The trope that I decided to play with for my first foray into NoSleep was one that every horror fan knows and loves: the babysitter in distress.
There’s something inherently creepy about babysitting. You’re watching over someone else’s children in an unfamiliar house. There is so much that can go wrong and the responsibility is enormous -- and it’s almost always foisted on a teenage girl. Babysitting is an inevitable rite of passage for most teenage girls; for me, it felt like the second I turned thirteen, every parent in my neighborhood was asking me to look after their children while they were out.
While I did have more than a few negative babysitting experiences (mostly involving children throwing tantrums or refusing to go to bed), I never had a truly terrifying one. As an avid horror fan with a macabre mind, though, I didn’t have any trouble concocting a frightening scenario for the babysitter in “The Thing in the Yard.”
The other constant on both the NoSleep subreddit and the podcast is that the stories all have a twist ending.
Twist endings are a staple of the horror genre, but they can become tired and cliche very quickly. Remember when The Sixth Sense came out? People went nuts over that twist ending. But when subsequent films used that twist, audiences rolled their eyes and said, “we’ve already seen this.” For my story, I needed to come up with a twist ending that was both memorable and original.
As I said earlier, I won’t spoil “The Thing in the Yard.” I highly recommend listening to it, as the NoSleep squad did a phenomenal job with it. Corinne Sanders narrates, and Jessica McEvoy and Erika Sanderson have bit parts. They do a wonderful job with the story. Corinne is perfect as the lead, a high school girl sent on a strange babysitting gig. Corinne’s voice has a certain vulnerable quality to it that makes her perfect for these kind of roles; you’re immediately invested in whatever character she’s playing and you find yourself rooting for her survival.
“The Thing in the Yard” was produced by Phil Michalski. Phil has produced several of my stories for NoSleep, and I love what he does with them. He has a knack for blending voice acting, sound effects, and music together to create an audio experience that is truly immersive. One of my favorite aspects of his work on “The Thing in the Yard” is the background sound effects. While Corinne describes a nature documentary on TV, we can faintly hear a male narrator (most likely the show’s founder, David Cummings) describing the activity of meerkats. Later on, as Corinne narrates the story’s denouement, we can hear Erika Sanderson angrily yelling at someone in the background, beefing up her role and adding another layer of depth to the overall audio experience.
Brandon Boone’s music has been a part of the NoSleep podcast since 2013. I love the pieces he composed and produced for “The Thing in the Yard”; his music gives the story a sense of urgency, making the action feel compelling and real in a way that words alone can’t.
Actually hearing my story on the NoSleep Podcast was like becoming hooked on a new creative outlet. There was no way I was ever going back. I needed to hear my words being brought to life again. NoSleep did more than just adapt my story -- it validated my writing. It told me that I was good enough to keep doing this. I didn’t need to feel doubtful about my prose anymore because someone liked it enough to put time and energy into adapting it and distributing it to an audience.
I wanted to feel that sense of validation again. I craved it. I longed for it. I needed it. So, I kept writing. To date, the NoSleep Podcast has produced nine of my short stories. In my next blog entry, I’ll discuss my second NoSleep story, “The Woman Made of Glass.”
If you’re curious about the NoSleep Podcast, please check out their website: https://www.thenosleeppodcast.com/.
Classic Corinne Sanders episodes:
- “It’s Locked” (Season 1, episode 17)
- “The Girl in the Log” (Season 3, episode 25)
- “The Disappearance of Ashley Morgan” (Season 4, episode 6)
- “We Were Wrong About the Zombie Apocalypse” (Season 6, episode 9)
- “The Oregon Shriek” (Season 6, episode 18)
- “Jenny Martin” (Season 7, episode 20)
- “Tap” (Season 11, episode 4)
- “Everyone’s Invited” (Season 11, episode 22)
Classic Phil Michalski episodes:
- “The 1%” (Season 7, episodes 4-7)
- “Double Bass Kick” (Season 8, episode 21)
- “The Trees Are Not What They Seem” (Season 11, episode 9)
- “The Dirt Road Man” (Season 11, episode 24)
- “The Public Domain” (Season 11, episode 25)
- “The Stray Bones Trap” (Season 12, episode 4)
Classic Brandon Boone episodes:
- “The Advent Calendar” (Season 4, episode 21)
- “My Grandma Lived Under the House” (Season 7, episode 20)
- “Stranded on Lake Michigan” (Season 7 bonus episode)
- “We Call Them Flesh Clowns” (Season 8, episode 5)
- “Trying to Remember a Pop Song” (Season 9, episode 10)
- “500 Yards” (Season 10, episode 18)
- “Reel to Real” (Season 11, episode 8)