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?
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.