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Five Simple Tips for Writing a Scary Story for Halloween Night

by Douglas Clegg

It's early for Halloween to be mentioned, but I want the idea of this to get around -- so I'm giving it a lot of lead time. Hope it helps you.

1. Find out what scares you -- whether it's something simple or complex, if it's not frightening to you then it will be difficult to communicate a sense of fear and dread to the reader. And don't forget, sometimes quiet is scarier than loud, and unease and fear are more powerful than an all-out assault.

2. Know where you're going before you begin. Whether in your head or on the page, structure your story so that its conclusion will seem inevitable. Then, go back and cover your tracks in the telling of the tale.

3. Involve the reader. Use emotion and insight and interesting twists and turns to make sure the reader is deep within the story and committed to its outcome.

4. Don't be too easy on your characters. If you like all the characters really well, it'll be hard to kill any of them off, drive them insane, or make them suffer. In horror, there's a bit of pain. Go with it. Unleash, if you wish. Better to go too far than to go nowhere.On the other hand, if you find that you're a complete nihilist and want to destroy every character (hey, Shakespeare did it in Hamlet), make sure we care enough about them before they go.

5. Entertain. Think. Be smart. Avoid cliches. Take the reader to the place in your imagination that will make them want to come back to you again. And again. Make it so they'll want to check out your other stories, and remember your name. A story meant for Halloween is for them, not for you. Give them an October gift.

* * * * * *
And now, I'd like to make a challenge. If you're a writer of any genre, let's make Halloween 2009 a very cool one. Yes, I'm thinking that far ahead (writing this in March, 2009).

If you're a writer, whether published or not, I want to challenge you to write a short story on your blog/journal to have up by Halloween night. Wouldn't it be cool if we got a thousand or more stories up that night to show the love of the holiday?

Feel free to reprint this in its entirety on your blog or site (including my sig below.)


Douglas Clegg


p.s. Don't miss out on the free horror thriller serial, The Locust, in my free email newsletter at DouglasClegg.com

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