Writing Prompt #9: Halloweenies

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

November 2, 2008 -- 4:38 p.m.

I don't blog on weekends, so I missed the chance to wish my readers a Happy Halloween.

I must admit, I spent my Halloween in suburbia so it was disappointingly dull. Better than a Halloween two years ago I spent on assignment for the first day in a new town and a kid wearing oversized overalls, oversized flannel and a hat about to droop into his eyes came to the counter for candy. I asked, "Are you a Redneck for Halloween?"

And he said: No.

Welcome to Montana. And coincidentally, foot-in-the-mouth-ville.

Anyway, I've been hiding from my novel for the past week but I'm out of excuses so I guess I have to work on it again. I'm two-thirds of the way through--missed deadline but it will definitely be done before Thanksgiving. Hopefully.

Besides going to a really lame Halloween party, I also spent my Halloween in the nerdiest place possible: a Book store! My local store offered 25 percent off on any book with orange and black on the cover--and I was surprised how popular black shadows with orange lettering is nowadays. So I went on a book-buying spree, amazing all around me by coming home with $75 worth of paperbacks I'd read were excellent in other places.

Why? Market research.

I realized after talking with fellow WoTimers at the cons I went to that some of us are hideously out-of-date. Most of my favorite fantasy serieses are from the 80s and early 90s. With exceptions based on friends' recommendations, after that I only started buying books by authors I'd already known and loved.

This means that I am some 10-20 years behind on other fantasy readers. A whole generation has grown up, and they are more familiar with Harry Potter than Dragonlance. With Twilight than a Song of Fire and Ice. With Mistborn than Robert Jordan. Well--I'm probably exaggerating a little, but the point is, I hardly recognize any of the author's names adorning the book shelves, and so I decided I needed to do a little about it.

Thus I bought almost every book by a 'new' author I'd heard or seen reviews of. I realized a couple of things.

1) Dave Wolverton/Farland was absolutely right. I need a psuedonym. Between all the McCaffery and the McKillip and who knows what else, who will see a McBride?

2) The majority of the big splash authors are male. Which I find odd because the majority of readers are female. This could indicate a hole to be filled involving female characters and female issues.

3) What's hot in the Y.A. fantasy market may be predicted by trends in what's hot in the adult fantasy market. Think of it this way--the Southern Vampire series came before Twilight. Orphaned mages were the rage long before Harry Potter. So--if there's something missing in the y.a. market that's in the adult market, can you write a Y.A. novel on its greatness and beat the trend?

In other words, if everyone in the adult market is in love with assassins, should you write an assassin Y.A. book? Granted, this might be difficult because parents might not want to buy a Y.A. book that has "assassin" right on the cover. But I don't know.

Speaking of the Y.A. Market, I finished Twilight. I suspect I'm the only person who liked the series better at the end, because there was less emotional threat and more physical threat. Bottom line: I'm not a romance person and I'm not a big fan of reliving my years of adolescent angst.

Still, I found the Twilight Saga strangely compelling. I'm not sure why. I was also somewhat--disappointed when it was over, though also relieved, because reading another passage about Bella's own self-doubts would have made me want to go choke myself on razor blades. Bottom line: I didn't hate it. Even if I read it as an excuse not to be writing myself, I finished the darn thing.

I suppose what I enjoyed most was how the vampires' gifts combined to solve problems. I enjoyed how Alice's gift worked and the weaknesses. I'd probably enjoy a vampire spin-off about Alice and Jasper more than the original books themsevles.

Though it really annoyed me how inconsistent Bella's fear of blood seemed to be. It seemed to vanish sometimes and then come back in later books.

But enough about that. John Scalzi has a blog post about how sci-fi nerds need to get over their whine about how sci-fi is mainstream now, which has a picture of Barack Obama wielding a lightsaber. Even if I've been disappointed about how ineffective he's been in office, the picture is cool.

And Scalzi is right. No one should be saying "woe is me!" except middle school students. And that's less about the nerd thing, and more because you're a socially inept middle school student.

Don't worry, you're grow into a socially inept adult someday, and then you'll rule all the jocks with your leet skillz. And you'll have a large community of people around you who also love sci-fi, in part because of the mainstreaming.


TITLE: Halloweenies
GENRE: Paranormal
TYPE: Character

Halloween is a time for scary demons and other denizens of the Nether realm. I want you to think of what scares you the most. Horns? Chains? For me, its images connecting to pain. The sound of skin crackling as it burns. Needles sticking out of fingertips. Blood. Long heights.

Now, create a demon that has all these characteristics--except one thing: he's scared of you, too.

That's right, the most terrifying demon in the world is terrified of you too. Or frogs. Or something.

The point is, he's a total wuss. So what are the most frightening physical attributes he can have and combine them with the least frightening personality traits that you can think of. Maybe he's a klutz. Maybe he faints at the sight of blood. Whatever.

Just write about a non-scary, scary demon and what could possibly motivate him to overcome his fears and come to the human world.


  1. Lee Ann Setzer said...

    Do report on which orange-and-black novels are worth reading. Having been burned many times by books I pulled randomly off the shelf, I'm always looking for a new recommendation. Who'd you buy?

  2. Mercer said...

    Far from alone in the "I haven't read much modern fantasy" field. Trying to broaden recently...found Guy Gavriel Cay to be a good read.

    Concerning readership and guy/girl ratio...I imagine it's skewed quite a bit more to the male side when it comes to fantasy/science fiction. In fact, I think it would be depressing to see actual stats.

    (Nice write-up on Dragonmount, by the way, led me here)

  3. Unrepentant Escapist said...

    Mercer: Yep, the ratio is certainly off, but that surprises me since the majority of EDITORS at places like Tor are female, and the majority of fantasy readers are female. Yet not one of the new school major fantasy writers are.

    Most of the books, I drew from rumors and there's a list online called top 25 fantasy. I'll highlight the better ones as I read them.

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