Monday Sparks — Writing prompts

halloween girlsI have two favorite memories of Halloween.

The first is trick-or-treating my grandparents. They lived out in the country so they never had neighborhood children come to their door. My family lived in a nearby town. Once we were done with our local trick-or-treat, my three sisters and I would pile into the car with my mom and head into the dark countryside.

The only lights on the rural road were from the houses. My grandparents were so glad to see us. Besides the treats they bought for the holiday, my grandparents always had a candy dish filled with chocolate candy because my grandpa liked chocolate. I have that candy dish.

My other favorite memory is trick-or-treating in the tiny town where my kids go to school with a group of friends from our church. We all live in the country and come in to town to let the kids trick-or-treat. Everyone in town seems to be involved in the holiday.

The fire department offers hotdogs and other food and let everyone examine their equipment, a child’s dream come true. Several homeowners create their own haunted houses in their yards and porches, free of charge.

I love walking the dark streets with friends, watching the kids race from house to house, the feeling of community present on the face of each person I meet.

Share if inspired!

Writing Tip — Favorite Stories

jack-o-lantern wordsI love a good laugh, especially if it’s satire or a spoof. So I enjoy riffs on scary stories. Fun Phantoms is a short story collection of funny ghost stories. They aren’t scary, but they do turn a lot of the conventions of the horror story on their heads.

My favorites are:

“The Night the Ghost Got In” by James Thurber. The ghost is only the beginning of the family’s problems that night.

“The Water Ghost” by John Kendrick Bangs. The heir of Harrowby Hall decides to end his family’s Christmas Eve curse.

“The Open Window” by Saki. Like many of Saki’s stories, this has a hysterical twist at the end. I have been thinking up ways to rewrite this story in a contemporary setting.

“To Starch a Spook” by Andrew Benedict. Teen ghostbusters go into action to help the girl’s father, who is supposed to work on a house crawling with ghosts.

And for kids

The Best Halloween Ever by Barbara Robinson. I don’t think this book is nearly as good as her first, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. But my kids enjoyed it when we read it out loud. And while the plot has huge gaps, the narration by Beth is entertaining as usual.



Writing Tip — Favorite Stories

Halloween storiesLike I said on Tuesday, I don’t like the horror associated with Halloween. But I do enjoy a supernatural story that is spooky or creepy, where the unearthly happenings are suggested rather than thrown in your face. If the main character tackles the supernatural like a detective, even better. And the ending must have some hope.

Here are several short stories I enjoy revisiting every October. I discovered these in the children’s section of the first library I worked in. I’m not sure why these stories were in the children’s section. Most of the authors were writers well-known for writing fantasy and science fiction for adults.

“The House Surgeon” by Rudyard Kipling in Haunts, Haunts, Haunts selected by Helen Hoke.

  • A new friend of the M’Leod family attempts to discover why their home plagues everyone with depression. And why everyone feels “someone” is desperate to tell them something.
  • Think “Downton Abbey” with an amateur detective. I like this story because the haunting is so unusual.

“The Monster of Poot Holler” by Ida Chittum in Spirits, Spooks, and Other Sinister Creatures selected by Helen Hoke

  • In the Ozarks, two cousins dare to enter Poot Holler to find out what lives there.
  • I love the voice of this story, told in dialect. The build-up to the revelation of the monster is terrific.

“The Whistling Room” by William Hope Hodgson in Haunts, Haunts, Haunts 

  • Carnacki, the Ghost Finder, investigates a room in an Irish castle, haunted by a monstrous whistling.
  • Think Sherlock Holmes taking on X-Files cases. The supernatural detective is intriguing as well as the peculiar haunting.

“The Cloak” by Robert Bloch in Haunts, Haunts, Haunts

  • Henderson gets a lot more than he bargains for when he buys a cloak for a Halloween costume party from a mysterious shop clerk who claims it’s “authentic”.
  • This has the best description of the modern perception of Halloween I’ve ever read, starting with the opening lines:

“The sun was dying, and its blood splattered the sky as it crept into a sepulcher behind the hills. The keening wind sent dry , fallen leaves scurrying towards the west, as though hastening them to the funeral of the sun … Either that, or tonight was just another rotten cold fall day.”

  • The is the one story with a downer ending. But it doesn’t bother me because it doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the story. If you don’t like downer endings, just reading the first half. The beginning and Henderson’s visit to the costume shop set the perfect Halloween mood.



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