This past week, the Internet has been full of blog posts on how to make cute costumes, decorate your yard to look like you’re under attack by zombies, and give children nightmares that can only be offset by a Halloween candy sugar rush. But these posts are tame for writers. When you spend your free time plotting how, exactly, Dr. Evil wants to take over the world for the fifteenth time, or what, precisely, would make Greg the Good be willing to sacrifice himself and everything he has worked for, you approach ghost stories in a very different way than the rest of the world does. “No, no, no,” you find yourself saying. “That werewolf’s motivations aren’t internally consistent with his history and expressed desires!” and, “Ooh, I know! Let’s split the party now! That’s a great way of increasing tension and ratcheting up suspense! Let me guess – the team that is super confident that nothing’s going to happen is the first one that gets killed, thus giving the audience a sense of poetic justice and irony, while also raising the stakes for our more likeable and intelligent protagonist who will figure out what’s happening just in the nick of time!”
So instead, if you’re friends with a writer and want to scare them this Halloween, try springing these five literary horrors on them. In this case, the greater their literary knowledge, skill, and writing experience, the scarier they’ll be…*
- Dress up as the villain from their latest novel, then knock on the door and say that you don’t like the ending he or she gave you and that you have made your way to the Land of Authors to seek revenge!
- Dress up all in blue, and when anyone asks you what you are, say, “The blue screen of death! You have encountered an unexpected error. Your computer is restarting. All unsaved work will be lost.” End with an evil laugh.
- When you find yourself talking with the author, tell them about how the situation he or she is currently in reminds you of a story you recently read where everybody died. For bonus points, say, “Not that I’m a believer in foreshadowing or anything, but it is a little strange.”
- Take even more advantage of the power of literary foreshadowing! Get three separate friends to each tell the author a story about a dream they had, where they were interacting with something black [a black cat, a blackbird, eating blackberries…] and suffered a funny-but-horrible tragedy. Then show up to the author’s house wearing all black and ask if the author wants to go do something fun. Mention that you had a “feeling” that you ought to wear black today.
- Above all, when you’re talking with the author and he or she makes a suggestion, be sure to answer, “Sure! What’s the worst that could happen?”
Go ahead – have fun! What’s the worst that could happen? (Muahahahaaa…)
*Scariness not guaranteed. Potential authorial reactions include but are not limited to yelling in Elvish, activating zombie defense systems, or playing along and railroading the joke until you’re terrified that something is actually out to get YOU. Be warned.