All Hallows’ Eve

On the last October day,
When the sun has gone away,
The monsters all come out to play
And take over the night.

Vampire bats and witches fly
Through the moonlit autumn sky.
Hear them laugh while passing by
To fill the air with fright.

Zombies rise up from the ground.
Ghosts float by without a sound.
What fun it is to look around
And see costumes galore.

Children wanting something sweet
Get all the candy they could eat
Just for shouting “Trick or Treat!”
Outside a stranger’s door.

Light a pumpkin with a face
To decorate the haunted place
Where monsters gather to embrace
The year’s most frightening scene.

So step into our scary dreams
Where nothing is quite what it seems,
And all around, you hear the screams
Of “Happy Halloween!”

What If? Writing Prompts: Fantasy/Science Fiction II

My apologies in advance; due to my particularly busy grad school schedule this month, I haven’t had as much time to write as I’d like. Therefore, the next few weeks’ Creative Writing posts will consist mostly of “What If?” Writing Prompts. To start off, here’s another set of fantasy and science fiction prompts for you to enjoy. Have fun!

What If - Parchment and QuillWhat if… your pet(s) turned human for a day?

What if… in the future, humans were no longer the most advanced species on Earth?

What if… the creatures of ancient mythology existed today?

What if… your home/region/country were suddenly frozen in time while the rest of the world remained normal?

What if… the whole time people have been debating whether computers could become sentient… they already were?

If you have any “What If?” writing prompt suggestions (for any theme), please feel free to share them in the comments below. Ideas I like may be featured in future “What If?” posts, with full credit and a link to your blog (if you have one)! Also, if you’ve written a piece based on an idea you’ve found here, be sure to link back to the respective “What If?” post. I would love to see what you’ve done with the prompt! Thank you!

Word of the Week: Diffuse

Word: diffuse

Pronunciation: di-FYOOZ (v.) / di-FYOOS (adj.)

Part of Speech: verb; adjective

Definition:

  1. (v.) spread or cause to spread over a wide area or among a large number of people
  2. (adj.) spread out over a large area; not concentrated

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


No, today’s post is not about disarming explosives. This is another word pulled from the vocabulary flashcard stack, and I found it particularly interesting for the fact that it’s both an adjective and a verb. With such a similar spelling and pronunciation, you can’t really blame me for confusing it at first with its more common homophone.

To “diffuse” something is to spread it out over a large area. Similarly, something regarded as “diffuse” is spread out over a wide area. The verb stems from the Latin verb diffundere, meaning “to pour out”. The adjective can be traced back to the Latin adjective diffusus, meaning “extensive”.

As previously noted, the verb “diffuse” is easy to confuse with “defuse”, since both words have the same pronunciation. Remember that “diffuse” means “to disperse”, while “defuse” means “to reduce the danger or tension in”. “Diffuse” also happens to multiple sub-definitions that apply to various subjects, such as physics (“cause to become intermingled with a substance by movement”) and abstract ideas (“lacking clarity or conciseness”). With its wide variety of meanings, you’re certainly likely to find one that fits your writing. Just be careful not to make your stories too “diffuse”!

What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?

The Monster in My Room

(What If? Exercise: Read the description here.)

It was the only thing I ever feared growing up.

It started with the missing socks from my drawer.

Then the snacks in my backpack started disappearing.

The food trails went under the bed.

I thought I was done for.

One night, I saw it.

It bared its teeth.

I knew then.

“Carrot sticks!”

Vegetarian.


This piece is based on What If? Exercise 93: “Ten to One”. The exercise is to write a 55-word story in which the first sentence has ten words, the second has nine, etc., until the last sentence has only one word. The objective is to show that precision and thrift in writing can produce surprisingly powerful results. I hope you enjoy what I’ve written. Thanks for reading!

Back to the story

Scary Stories and Creepy Characters (Writers Reveal)

Time for this year’s October round of Writers Reveal! This month’s prompt was sent to us by Ashley Howland, who suggested we write about something “scary”.

It’s almost Halloween. Do you like scary stories? What characters scare you the most? How do you create a villain?

Based on that idea, here’s my take on writing scary stories and characters. Thanks for the topic, Ashley!

Dare to Scare

The Nightmare Before Christmas Poster

Poster for Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

To be perfectly honest, I have minimal experience with scary stories. Horror is definitely not my favorite genre; in fact, I’d go as far as to say it’s one of the themes I like the least. Maybe it’s because I was kind of a fraidy cat growing up, so I made a point of avoiding anything that I thought might scare the pants off me, including horror stories.

In order to discuss what makes a story scary, I guess I’d have to think about the reasons I avoid them. What is it about horror and certain thrillers that repels me but likely attracts others?

  • They bring out that innate fear instinct I don’t usually experience.
  • They touch on certain emotions that I’m not used to feeling.
  • They make me more aware of the terrifying things in the world.
  • They sometimes give me nightmares.

Plenty of people seek out horror because they like to get back in touch with those primal emotions that humankind has been gradually leaving behind since the days of prehistory. I suppose it’s the same reason people ride roller coasters or go skydiving: they enjoy the thrill of fear contained within safe conditions. Many people like to be scared. But I’m not one of them.

I admit it: I don’t care very much for scary stories in general. But what about their characters?

What Makes a Good Villain?

Though most of the thought I put into character development is for protagonists and secondary figures, antagonists are just as important. After all, what’s a hero without a villain to balance them out? My protagonists drive my stories forward; my antagonists give them something to drive toward.

So what does it take to create a good villain? I guess it mostly depends on the story, but the way I see it, there are a few criteria by which every antagonist can be measured. Good villains fulfill their role as the “bad guy” in their stories, great villains evoke the strongest negative emotions in us, and the best villains are those infamous evildoers who are simply impossible to hate.

Vader-Loki-Voldemort-Joker

Some of cinema’s most beloved villains. From left to right: Darth Vader (Star Wars), Loki (Marvel Cinematic Universe), Voldemort (Harry Potter), The Joker (The Dark Knight)

My favorite villains are the ones I remember long after the story is over, which ironically is also what makes them the scariest characters in my eyes. They’re evil and creepy with just the right amount of lovable madness to make them really stand out, sometimes even more than their respective heroes. I hear the words Star Wars and immediately think of Darth Vader before I think of Luke Skywalker. I watch The Dark Knight and silently cheer every time the Joker appears on screen. I play Portal and the passive-aggressive psychopathic A.I. GLaDOS captivates me with her witty sarcasm before I can even remember Chell’s name. Even Inglourious Basterds makes me question my standards of evil, thanks to Christoph Waltz’s brilliant performance as the charismatic yet ruthless Nazi Colonel Hans Landa.

Antagonists are a common necessity in good fiction, but they don’t have to take a back seat to the protagonists. The creepiest characters are the ones who leave their mark, who are believable enough to make us feel the most powerful emotions and who fascinate us into wondering what they’ll do next. Keep that in mind, and you can create some truly scary stories with awesome characters that leave your readers wanting more! Good luck!

Do you enjoy scary stories? What sorts or stories or characters scare you the most? How do you create your villains?


This has been a special topic post for Writers Reveal, a monthly blog swap among several talented writers. Be sure to check out the other blogs participating in the event. Thanks for reading!

writers-reveal-logo

Other bloggers in Writers Reveal
Melissa Khalinsky: Melissa Writes
Becky Fyfe: Imagine! Create! Write!
Ashley Howland: Ghostnapped
Emily Hawker: You Learn Something New Every Day
Lee-Anne Walker: Is it just me?

We’re looking for more bloggers to join our circle! If you’re interested in participating in this monthly roundup, be sure to contact Emily Hawker so she can include you in our email list. Thank you!

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