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Monday, October 1, 2012

Who-Knows-What (Holly Schindler)



I’ve long insisted that Halloween is my all-time favorite holiday.  “The wax lips!” I always say.  “The candy corn!  The plastic hatchets!”
           
But my Halloween love is actually about far more than that.  Just as my love of ghost / scary stories is about far more than the fake blood.  (While we’re at it, when I say I love horror stories, I’m actually more of a fan of a psychological thriller than a complete slash-and-dash bloodbath…)

It’s recently occurred to me, though, that the real reason I love Halloween is a pretty writerly one: it gives me chance to make stuff up.

Catherine Ryan Hyde smartly commented on a post at my MG blog, Smack Dab in the Middle, that one of the biggest misconceptions about novelists is that they consistently write thinly-veiled autobiographies.  Like our own Catherine, I also write completely fictitious, invented works—none of the situations or characters featured in my books are ripped from my own life.  I get a serious kick out of making stuff up.  Creating a whole world completely of my own invention.

Yep—grape-flavored bloodshot eyeballs will always have an incredible amount of charm.  But even when I was little, the costumes were what I loved most about Halloween.  I loved figuring out—usually by mid-summer—how I was going to dress up.  And I don’t really mean that I looked forward to being someone other than me.  I mean I loved figuring out how to create a mummy or hobo or bobby-soxer.  (Only one year in all of the—ahem—fourteen that I trick-or-treated did I have a store-bought costume.  Looking back, it was by far my least favorite.)  I loved the getting-to-make-it-up.

But that’s what we get to do every day as writers.  On the page, we get to dress up and become a fictional “I.”  We get to look at the world through someone else’s eyes.  We get to invent. 

Ditto for the horror flicks.  I’m a complete sucker for the tension-filled scenes you know so well: the protagonist is standing on one side of the door; a strange noise has just erupted on the other.  The protagonist begins to breathe hard, slowly reaching for the doorknob.  At this point, my mind always goes into overdrive as I imagine what is on the opposite side of that door. 

Again, as is the case with Halloween, I get to make it all up.  Until the opposite-side-of-the-door is revealed, of course.  But I love those who-know-what’ll-happen-next moments.

…I haven’t quite decided what I’m going to be yet this year, what I’m going to wear to greet the trick-or-treaters who will ring my bell.  Right now, I’m having too much fun imagining the possibilities, making up a hundred different scenarios, imagining this year’s who-knows-what.

7 comments:

  1. I think it's interesting that what we imagine is on the other side of the door is almost always scarier than the thing that's revealed. That's probably why writers hold out so long to "open the door." Much better to build tension by leaving it to the reader's imagination. Good post, Holly!

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  2. Speak for yourself. I do write thinly-veiled autobiographies.

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    1. You bring up a good point: some authors DO use their personal lives...which may very well be the reason why readers naturally assume all writers do! I've always just LOVED the making-it-all-up.

      I recently found out you were in Springfield! Next time you're here, let me know...we'll grab some cashew chicken...

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  3. I wish I could make it all up. Maybe that says something about my life. LOL

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  4. I love the making it up, but also weaving real life experiences into fiction. Pieces of this and that, a patchwork of lies and semi-truths.

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  5. My early never-to-be-published manuscripts were thinly-veiled autobiographical stuff. Now I make up my stories, but don't leave myself out entirely. Wouldn't want to, either. The "me" parts make each writer's work unique.

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