It’s about time for some Halloween writing. As we devote our writing today to a few things spooky, let’s give some thought to “To Kill a Mockingbird,” one of my all-time favorite books.
Jem, Dill and Scout quivered at the sight of the reclusive Boo Radley’s rickety old home. Author Harper Lee brings the house to life for us in all its glorious strangeness:
“….jutted into a sharp curved beyond our house. Walking south, one faced its porch; the sidewalk turned and ran beside the lot. The house was low, was once white with a deep front porch and green shutters, but had long ago darkened to the color of the slate-gray yard around it. Rain-rotted shingles drooped over the eaves of the veranda (porch); oak trees kept the sun away. The remains of a picket (fence) drunkenly guarded the front yard – a ‘swept’ yard that was never swept – where johnson grass and rabbit-tobacco grew in abundance.”
Chances are, there is some old structure in your childhood that sent those same kind of shivers down your spine. Think back on that house. What features most frightened you? Describe the home in great detail — its chipping paint, its sideways stairs and creaking porch, its empty windows. Or are those windows really empty?
You may aspire to be a poet, a mystery novelist, a self-help writing guru or a literary author, but today, write to chill and thrill your reader. Stretch those writing muscles, call forth your innermost demons and see what kind of brilliance you can scare up.
Factor in your own fears. What sights and sounds drive your nerves to the edge? Describe the smells that would alert you to trouble. If you could touch or taste fear — how would you describe it?
Kerri S. Mabee