Monday, October 10, 2011

It's Spooky Time!

This is hands down my favorite time of the year and if I had a way that I could bottle the Halloween feeling and drink it in everyday I would. I mean what is better than being able to make the outside of your house look like a creepy cemetery and the inside like something a witch would feel comfortable living in? And don't forget to top it all off you get at least one day when you can play dress up out in normal society and no one thinks you're too weird (sorry, but there will always be at least one person who thinks you're weird.)

As soon as October first rolled around I pulled out the skeleton flamingos and put them up in the yard. They were a little dusty but very eager to get out to work adding to the spooky ambiance with the tombstones. Inside my sons helped me put up wall decals and distribute the cobwebs. All in all a very good job, it's just sad it will all come down so soon. I stopped in at the local Every Think store and they are already crowding out the Halloween decorations with Christmas stuff. I really wish we could just get through one holiday at a time.
Anyway, all this great spookiness has been getting me thinking of writing some spooky stories. Certainly my new novel, Loves Deception, has some great thrills, but none of that spooky Halloween element that I see as the supernatural.

This last weekend I went to Salt Lake City for a wedding and while there took the family to see this great little shopping village where all the shopkeepers had decorated with these fantastic witches made from pumpkins and gourds. Just walking around and taking it all in gave me such a great Halloween feeling. Of course maybe if it was Halloween all the time it wouldn't have that same effect. It would be a lot like stores selling eggnog all year, sure it would taste great and...well maybe that isn't the best example, but I'm sure it would lose some of it's magic. Maybe in the same way I could write a nice supernatural spooky book on occasion. So although the next three books I've got planned out are all squarely in the Crime/Thriller genre I would still like to explore the fun possibilities of the spooky supernatural with all its' great monsters and settings.
Actually I've had a couple of really good ideas for a book with a good Halloween feel to them but the paranoid writer in me doesn't want to share them just yet because I just know you'll steal them (because they're that good). Suffice it to say when they do come out you'll look back at this moment and say "Yeah, I would have stolen those ideas."

But that does leave a pretty open question: What makes a great spooky story? I think most of us have sat around the campfire, or flashlight, and told or heard a spooky story. Those types of stories sometimes even invade our everyday life. In Iraq the unit I was with was moved to a new base and it was really large with a lot of foreign nationals. Immediately we were instructed that we had to travel in groups of two or more and under no circumstances should we ever go visit with a foreign national. When asked why the extra care was needed we were told the following story:

Not too long ago on this very base a US soldier, just like you, made friends with a foreign national. They were good enough friends and the US soldier felt safe with the foreign national. One day the US soldier wanted to go and visit his new friend but no one wanted to go with him so he decided that he would go alone. So he crept out of his CHU and do you know what happened?

He was never heard from again!

Now I have no idea if that story was even close to being true (and certainly I have taken some liberties in the retelling). I do think this type of story certainly demonstrates several of the parts that really help to make a good spooky story.
  1. Familiar Location.
  2. Similarity of character.
  3. Hanging ending.
So first, just like in realty, location plays such an important element. Having a familiar location that your reader can identify with will make it seem more real and therefore more believable. A lot of those old ghost stories I've heard might be the same but their locations are easily transplanted from one state to another.

Second, like with the location, you need characters that your reader can relate to in a close way. This of course is true in any genre of writing but in a story that will have the reader abandoning some reality to buy in to your supernatural spooky story I believe that you must add even more similarity to your main character to increase the believability factor.

Lastly the use of leaving the ending open for debate on what really happened will leave people talking about the story much more than if it was all wrapped up like a Scooby Doo mystery. And with this type of ending it leaves a nice opening for a sequel no matter how many of your characters you may have killed off.

Well that's about it for now. I hope you have some great Halloween plans and lots of haunting to do.



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