Wednesday, October 27, 2010


You may know some people who are Christmas Elves—the kind that eat, sleep, and breathe Christmas from November 1 through January 31. I’m not one of them. I’m the evil broad whose house has a homemade graveyard, hidden light-up eyeballs, ghosts dancing around my apple tree, and a shrieking doormat. Oh, and bloody words in the windows. And that’s just the outside.

So, even though The Day is still a few hours in the future, I’m starting the celebrations now. And I’d like to thank the chocolate companies for those lovely "$1.00 off 2 bags of candy" coupons that appeared in the Sunday paper all month. My waistline doesn’t thank them, but nothing’s perfect.

A trunked novel of mine has a huge Halloween party, but I don’t see one happening in a future book, yet. As a writer, I love the challenge of a crowd scene. How to keep the focus on your MC. How to bring in the right kind of characters for color and effect while making the party move the plot along. How to rein in the party-ness of the scene while making the reader hear the music, the conversation, the overall noise; smell the perfumes and the food, feel the breeze from the open windows and inhale the scent of late October: leaves, earth, that underlying chill that says the “s” word is right around the corner.

In the Northeast, “snow” is definitely a four-letter word. Especially by March. But that’s another post. Cabin fever, anyone?
Now, however, it’s my favorite holiday of the year. Bring on the monster movie marathons. The cheesier the better, although I do own some truly frightening movies for late at night.

I love fun “scares” but I also love edge-of-your-seat scares. The kind that make the reader turn on a few more lights while they finish a chapter. I once said that my writing goal was to create a character as enduring as Dracula or Sam Spade. What are the most memorable scares and characters you’ve read?

While I wait for your answers, I’ll just be outside putting a few more ghoul effects in my graveyard. There are cute little neighborhood kids to scare.


Lisa Bork said...

Alice, sorry we don't live closer or we'd stop by to see your extravaganza!

As a child, I was terrified of the Wicked Witch in the Wizard of Oz. She came immediately to mind.

Vicki Doudera said...

Love your timely post, Alice! I've never really thought about the challenge of writing party scenes; you've got me pondering.

My fellow Mainer Stephen King scared the heck out of me when I first read The Shining. I started listening to Anne Rice's vampire books once and couldn't do it -- too scared!

Lisa is right - the wicked witch (especially when she is gazing in the crystal ball) taps the primitive fears like nothing else.

Lois Winston said...

Here's another vote for the Wicked Witch. One of my earliest memories is being taken to see The Wizard of Oz in the movies. Remember the scene where Dorothy is gazing into the witch's crystal ball, sees Auntie Em, and then the witch appears? I totally lost it. I thought the witch was coming to get me. My parents had to take me out of the theater. No way was I staying in there.

However, two events changed my mind about the Wicked Witch. The first was meeting Margaret Hamilton years ago when she was making those coffee commercials. What a sweet woman! And after seeing WICKED, I now see the Wicked Witch in an entirely new light. The woman definitely got a raw deal.

Mary said...

Love the way you tied your holiday to writing making some excellent points.

Pennywise from King's IT. That clown haunted me from the moment I picked up the book. The movie just made it worse.

Beth Groundwater said...

A boo-tiful post, Alice! The scariest book I ever read was Alice in Wonderland when I was a kid. I had nightmares for months about falling down the rabbit hole or growing too big for my room and not being able to breathe.

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Terri Bischoff said...

I tried to read IT several times, but could never finish it. Scared the heck out of me. I don't like horror, cheesy or not.

I do love Halloween. I wish I could see your decorations - sounds awesome.

Darrell James said...

Stephen's Kings Desperation opens with a happy couple crossing an isolated stretch of Mojave Desert by car when they are pulled over by a psycho-cop.

Diana and I have crossed the desert many times, to include being broken down in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night. I could never get past the opening of this book. It hits too close to home. Thank you kindly, Mr. King!

Carol Grace said...

Alice, I have 3 pumpkins on the front porch. No eyeballs, graveyard or ghosts. I want to see your house! Where are you? Is there a big crowd outside just gaping at the display? Do you have any competition?

World News said...

Spirit Halloween store locator

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

I'm with Terri. I don't like horror and find nothing entertaining about having the tar scared out of me. It took me years before I could watch The Shining and even then it was during the day. Funny thing, I don't find writing about vampires scary at all.

Like others here, the Wicked Witch from Oz is my first memory of being frightened to death. I remember hiding behind the sofa as a child when she came on the TV and my folks having to coax me out. That said, I now have a plaque in my office that says: "I have flying monkeys and I'm not afraid to use them."

Julia Buckley said...

Great photos, Alice. I love Halloween, too, but not the horror movies. I'm a horror movie baby.

One of my favorite scary characters is in the PD James novel DEVICES AND DESIRES. An evil murderer is killing young women on deserted English roads; when you learn who is doing it and how, it is utterly horrifying. But you have to read the book to find out. :)

Alice Loweecey said...

I see this as a challenge to scare the pants off all of you!

Okay, not really. I like you all.

Starting when I was 5, my dad and I watched cheesy horror movies on Friday nights. One movie (someone stabs a portrait and it bleeds--NOT The Ghost and Mr. Chicken) scared me. Dad told me it was only a movie and couldn't hurt me. To this day, movies do not scare me. My dad rocks.

Books, OTOH, can freak me out a little. I adore HP Lovecraft, but there are a few of his stories, as well as I know them, that I won't read in the dark.

Love all your answers, everyone! I'm actually not the most-decorated house in the neighborhood. I am usually the creepiest. WIN.