Halloween is a holiday celebrated on October 31st of each year. Adults and children wear costumes and go trick or treating. Costumes range from the most popular fairy princess of the current year to frightening creatures no one would want to meet in a dark or well-lit alley. Children ask for candy at each door with the familiar yell of “trick or treat” and then invariably eat too much candy on their trek home. It is also a holiday that writers love to add to frightening stories. Why?
Many towns now have their trick or treat celebrations at night. Darkness adds to the story’s eeriness. The idea of everyone wearing a costume including the maniac who lives down the street or a traveling serial killer sets a creepy scene with little backstory needed. The serial killer dons nondescript jeans and a dark sweatshirt. He slips on a scary rubber mask and mingles with the very people he wants to kill. He is anonymous, and others may even enjoy his costume or antics. That is until he chases them with a large butcher knife.
Using Halloween as a backdrop for a story adds a layer to the story before the first words are written. Graveyards and abandoned houses take on a special, scary air about them on Halloween. If ghosts do not walk the grounds every night, they are sure to be there on Halloween. The reader will feel the fear of the holiday before the addition of whatever the writer wants to add. If the writer starts with the idea of something evil happening on Halloween night, the reader is ready to turn on all the lights before the end of page one.
It is what a writer strives for, to hook the reader from the first sentence or paragraph. Horrific tales can and have been woven around other holidays, but it is fun to start with one that carries fear in its name.
Another approach is to start with a sweet Halloween story and then turn it into a paranormal or horror story. Going back to the serial killer who blends in so well with the neighbors. Perhaps he is dressed as a clown and entertaining the kids and adults alike. When one of the young moms disappear from the party without a trace, everyone may point a finger at the clown who has also disappeared. However, no one can describe him/her except for approximate height or weight.
The beginning of a frightening mystery is set.
Working the holiday into a story is a fun way to add that additional layer sometimes needed to grab the attention of your reader. Try it with different holidays. A clown at Halloween, Santa at a Christmas party, an Easter bunny during an Easter egg hunt, or a villain dressed as a turkey at a community Thanksgiving dinner can strike fear into the reader. Want to add a touch of paranormal? Make your costumed villain a ghost. It works every time.