Today, on Mr Ripley's Enchanted Grizzly Books is a post for Halloween. This has been specifically written by John Clewarth, the author of two brilliant books, both of which will definitely get you in the spirit for this spooky time. So, grab a torch, get underneath the bed covers and give it a read - IF YOU DARE!
BOO! Don’t you just love to be scared? I know I do – feeling that thrill and rush of the scarycoaster, particularly in the pages of a good book, is a great antidote to the pressures of real life. Halloween is lurking just around the corner, like the shadow of a vampire bat, and what better way to celebrate All Hallows' Eve than with a book that'll have you gripping each and every page with anticipation?
It’s very difficult to choose top titles because there are so many great ones out there. For example, for the younger ones there are classics such as, The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Scared of Anything, by Linda Williams (about a little old lady, walking home in the dark, and despite the best efforts of numerous spooky objects, she is completely unscareable!), and if they’re into witches, there’s the fabulous Room on the Broom – not scary but totally charming.
Middle grade offers up such tempting morsels as, The Ghost Prison by Joseph Delaney (author of the Spook’s Apprentice series) – Billy, the new prison guard starts his job in a far from ordinary prison; or perhaps, Doll Bones by Holly Black which tells the story of a group of friends on an epic journey, who encounter a bone china doll that is more powerful than anyone banked on!
Tender Morsels, by Margo Lanagan, is a gross-out Young Adult retelling of tales from the Brothers Grimm: delicious! And of course, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is delightfully dark and ideal for this time of year.
These are just a few – and the list could go on and on forever (Google will point you in the right direction!) But, as a writer of spooky books for children and Young Adult myself, I thought it would be fun to share some techniques that I use when I’m writing the kind of material that could turn into a Halloween story. Maybe you could try some of these and see if they work for you too! Let’s say, you want to write a Halloween ghost story – they always go down well…
A good story is a good story; the same rules apply to ghost stories as to any other genre.
Create a likeable character who will be meeting the ghost. This could be the person that the reader identifies with. If we see the story through this person’s eyes and we feel they’re like us, we’ll be scared when they’re scared.
Don't wait too long to start rattling the chains. In other words, hook the reader quickly with a scary event or at least the foreshadowing of one.
Create an unusual ghost; try to think of a different angle. The ghost could be anybody or anything - it could be the ghost of a dog, or an extinct animal, or any kind of person, with all their personality flaws.
Give the ghost motivation for what it’s doing. If it wants to frighten everybody, why? If it needs help, what unfinished business does it have on earth? See of you can come up with something unusual. It could be funny - maybe the person died in the middle of baking a cake and won’t able to rest until he or she sees how the finished product tastes. Perhaps the TV freaks out every time the Great British Bake Off is on!
Create a fun hero or heroine for your story – why would they want to do battle with or help out the ghost? What will happen if they don’t? And put a deadline on it; perhaps the ghost must be banished before dawn, or something terrible might happen.
See if you can come up with a twist to the ending. Instead of ending on the ghost’s problem being solved, maybe your character persuades the ghost to get even with a bully (of course you’d have to include the bully earlier in the story!)
The story has to have atmosphere - the weather and setting help. Never underestimate the power of thunder and lightning and an abandoned old house in a scary story!
Try not to be too graphic as you try to scare your reader – remember it is what you don’t see that scares you more than what you actually do see: what is that flickering shadow in the corner of your eye, that tapping on the window, that scratching beneath your bed?…
And remember, when writing for children or Young Adults - the secret of scaring them is remembering what it was like to be that age yourself. You need to try to remember what it was you were scared of as a young person, and how much you enjoyed being scared too. I used to love being allowed to stay up late on Friday nights to watch a show called ‘Appointment with Fear’. Even the opening titles were scary! And I always used to try to switch my bedroom light off so quickly that I could get in bed before it went dark (never made it!), just in case that thing in the wardrobe grabbed me before I hid under the duvet.
And it’s exactly that ‘scary-but-safe’ thrill that I try to create in my own books, for children and Young Adults. Why not give them a try? Firestorm Rising, for Middle-Grade readers, reached the final of The People’s Book Prize (alongside a Neil Gaiman book – wowee!). It’s the story of three friends, who unearth something very strange in a graveyard – on Halloween, of course! Demons in the Dark, for the teen/Young Adult market, is a story of awakening truths that have long lain hidden, and the value of true friendship in the face of ultimate horrors. Either one of these titles would make an ideal Halloween read – but make sure you wrap up warm and leave the lights on!
About the Author
John Clewarth is a writer for children and Young Adults. His first novel, ‘Firestorm Rising’, is a chilling tale, inspired by a visit to a gothic graveyard one dark, rainy day. His second novel, ‘Demons in the Dark’, is a horror story, broadly aimed written for the young adult market. John believes that horror should be scary but fun, and loves to lace his stories with humour. For further details and sneaky previews of these, along with John’s future projects, please
visit his website: http://www.johnclewarth.com
Twitter - @johnclewarth
Facebook – John Clewarth - Author