Reader Beware: How to Write a Good Scare

The three different types of Halloween haters

The four different types of people you encounter on Halloween. This caption sounds like an old Cracked article.

As you are celebrating Halloween—or not, because of your legitimate religious or cultural beliefs, or “We live in Australia not the USA hurr durr” bogan (i.e. the ‘Strayan equivalent of white trash) beliefs—there’s a lot to learn about those around you.

Whether there are trick or treaters knocking aplenty on your door, or you’re just watching or reading about the lives of those around you online, it’s an interesting time for a writer to be alive. Well, any time is an interesting time for a writer, unless you’re all about nostalgia, and for you, the past will always, always be better than the present. For example, around Halloween, you’ll read (or see) people complaining that lollies/candy are full of sugar and the reason why the obesity epidemic is why it is; how it’s originally a pagan creation; how it’s been erased of its original meaning and is all about Capitalism with a capital C; why we should hide kids away from the world or why the PC brigade is out to ruin everything; etc, etc. Sure, all of these happen at other times of the year, namely Christmas, New Year’s, birthdays and whatever your nation’s key holidays are.

Usually, come October 31st, most blogger/writers tend to talk about the genre popularised by Stephen King, H.P Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe—horror. Brrr! No, I’m kidding! We usually write a scary story for you, the reader, to enjoy. I probably have a few horror short stories lurking around somewhere. Ah, yes, there’s one about zombies or something hidden deep in the dustbowl of my C drive, in that  clutter-driven cave known as My Documents. However, in this week’s blog post, I’m not going to talk about the horror genre or show you a quick story about one of the many ghouls, zombies, vampires, or walkers we’re so obsessed with at the moment.

No, I’m going to talk about the truly spooky thing—human nature.

Don’t worry, we’re not truly that scary, and I’m not that nihilistic. Actually, I’m not nihilistic at all. As I touched on before, it’s times like Halloween that bring out the most interesting parts of human behaviour—not negative, but interesting.

Whether a little kid decides to dress up as Elsa from Frozen or a mutant fifteen-legged arachnid,
Whether someone critiques the innately capitalist, evil, pagan, American-minded, evil, corporate, evil nature of Halloween,
Whether you buy seven buckets of chocolate and lollies either for your children or your neighbour’s children,
Whether you hide indoors with your black cat Sundance and try to ignore the rest of the world,
or Whether you’re just trawling through pages and pages of the interwebs trying to find something totes unique to say about the occasion,

It says a little something about all of us. It may say nothing at all. It tells us about how  human nature is hardwired. It inspires writers.


So. Much. Inspiration. Jeez. I’m. Writing. Like. A. Buzzfeed. Article.

Whenever my nanny or mother see something interesting, a conversation they’ve overheard or taken part in, they usually tell me about it, and how it would be interesting if I wrote characters in my novels like that. Usually, they tell me: listen to conversations on the train, the bus, while at work, etc, and make note of it for my writing. It’s not just the conversations: it’s the way people move, their mouths, the wringing of their hands, the location in which the conversation is taking place, minute details about the event like the sign on the wall talking about a missing woman while the people converse about their drug binge the previous night, or a brick wall with the same maroon tint as the eyeshadow on a man on the train.

While this blog post isn’t completely Halloween-centric, be aware of what I’ve written this October 31 and beyond: about how we behave on this festive (or not-so-festive) occasion. It may never make it into your writing, or whatever creative pursuit you undertake, but observing the behaviour of others no doubt proves an interesting study on human behaviour. And, if you’re feeling this blog post isn’t spoooooky enough, just imagine the man complaining on Facebook about the over-consumption over-capitalistic nature of Halloween as a bitter 1000 year old vampire. Even more spooky, if the person across from you on the train is staring back at you, observing your conversation with your friends; a writer planning to put a character loosely based off your dialogue into their latest novel. Idea for your latest thriller piece? Or not…

Too spooky?

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