Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere

Happy Halloween/Samhain/Harvest

11 Comments

Or whatever floats your boat. Happy October 31st!

I wasn’t going to post until my usual end-of-the-week, but I miss posting this past week. I was a virtual book tour stop on the Paranormal Bar & Grille train. Stop by the Story Empire blog and enjoy some posts.

Anyway, it’s National Trick-Or-Treat-And-Eat-Too-Much-Candy Day. On a Monday. When my daughter has too much homework–wait, strike that. She has poor time-management skills (thank you (not) smart phone, EXO (Korean pop band), and SoundCloud). She and a couple of her friends are going trick-or-treating tonight despite the fact they are high school juniors and my daughter is taking 5 college-level classes with no study hall (read: HOMEWORK). I guess the allure of free candy is too much to resist.

When I was a kid, growing up in MN meant planning your Halloween costume to fit over a snowmobile suit, or at least a winter coat. Late October has equal chances of being snowy (1991 Halloween Blizzard) or somewhat comfortable temps. This year is supposed to be in the 60s (F) today. As I recall, the past few years have been temperate.

Global warming, anyone? Followed by a polar vortex migration and colder-than-normal winter. Gotta love Minnesota!

Horror fiction seems to be all the rage during the season. There are some spine-tingling flash fiction pieces out there, and even a collection of them. Check out the Macabre Sanctuary for some scary reads.

The key, I think, to scary fiction is understanding fear. Not just blatant blood-and-gore type fear, but the real visceral stuff, like that unease you get when you’re out in the woods at night during a new moon and your flashlight dies. The wind moans. Trees creak. Leaves whisper like disembodied voices. Snap! You listen hard. Something broke a stick.

Is that it? Rustling off to the side. A shadow crosses your path–or was it? It’s too dark to see. Icy fingers creep down your spine. There’s no one here but you, right?

BOO!

Point is, atmosphere is crucial to a good scare. Look at Poe’s work. He sets up the environment in such a way that it’s spooky before anything happens. We humans have primal fears that are survival mechanisms. Not everyone is scared of the dark, or of heights, or of drowning, or of being buried alive, but by realizing some fears are universal, you can tap into them. Cultivate them for your readers, like Poe did. Draw them out, feed them back to the reader until anxiety and tension are pulled tighter than a garrotte.

Description builds atmosphere. You can draw the line between a bright sunshiny day with a gentle breeze and a day of harsh light, cold winds, dull colors simply with word choices. Once you create the scary atmosphere, layer core fears, and twist the expectation at the end. Think M. Night Shyamalan (well, his better movies anyway). Or Hitchcock. Even the Twilight Zone banked on eerie, unexpected endings.

So, enjoy your All Hallows’ Eve tonight (or Samhain, or Harvest, or whatever). Take an hour or two to write a scary flash piece, just for fun. Pull out your collection of Edgar Allen Poe pieces, turn down the lights, and absorb the mechanics of a good fright.

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Author: Julie Holmes, author

Pen name: J. M. Goebel A fiction writer since elementary school (many years ago), and NaNoWriMo annual participant for a decade, I've been published in small press magazines such as "Fighting Chance" and "The Galactic Citizen". Currently I have two polished novels ready for the world and a number of others waiting their turn. I write adult mystery with extrasensory elements, mystery with a touch of romance, contemporary fantasy, and epic fantasy. In real life, I am a technical writer with a family of two teens, a wonderful hubby, one cat (what writer doesn't have cats??), two dogs, one chicken, and more chipmunks, squirrels, and rabbits than any garden should have to deal with. My garden, our "au natural" hobby farm, and Ma Nature's annual seasons are some of my muses.

11 thoughts on “Happy Halloween/Samhain/Harvest

  1. Happy Halloween. I remember trick or treating in a winter coat and boots, the poor unnoticed princess costume hidden beneath a parka. It’s definitely the time of year for some creepy crawly scenes and flash fiction 🙂 Happy Haunting!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I had to laugh about your description of your daughter – some things never change. As for the snowsuit/costume, I was born in Upstate New York and we had the same issues. Your words brought back memories…

    Currently working on my first scary novel, about a woman who much learn that good intentions are not always enough, today’s post reminded me to check the scenery as I write. Thanks! Happy harvest!

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  3. Love this post! Your descriptions of the things that elicit goosebumps was right on the money. And the mention of those old tales, movies and TV shows had me remembering how I used to huddle in front of the TV each week for Night Gallery. I still vividly recall a few of those episodes.

    Thanks for the Macabre Sanctuary and Paranormal Bar & Grille shout-outs. All fun stuff for Halloween.

    Your daughter sounds like she has her evening planned. That’s a heck of a course load she’s carrying, but I bet after a fun night with her friends she’ll be back at the books. A girl that’s taking 5-college level courses as a high school junior is someone motivated to succeed! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’d like to think she’s motivated… The funny thing is, her brother took 4 college-level courses and had a study hall. He told her she should take a study hall, but she didn’t. About a month ago she said her brother was right, she should’ve taken a study hall. Too bad he wasn’t around to hear her 😀 Happy Halloween, Mae!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. And when all else fails, call Batman? 😉 I suppose with teenagers it’s not so much about the free candy (but maybe it is) as the fun of getting dressed up and roaming around with your friends. The candy is just a perk. And if they share, a bonus for you. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hope you had a good Halloween and your daughter enjoyed her trick and treating! I love the idea of trying to put on a costume over all the winter clothes – a Michelin man might have worked! Interesting study about what makes real terrifying scary books and as with films the blatant gore, blood and just darkness does not cut it, instead that becomes trite and even ridiculous. Your hints here even had me uneasy, on edge…it really takes so little to get into people’s mind. In Sweden out in the forests it is pitch black, but whilst that makes me a bit nervous it is the unexpected sounds that spook me. Silly me jumped as the floorboards squeaked in the lit room…my imagination was galloping away to only realise it was my own steps making the noise!

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