Welcome Wednesday guests for July: Edith Maxwell 7/2, Kendel Lynn 7/9, Leslie Budewitz 7/16, Krista Davis 7/23, Janet Simpson 7/30.

Gloria Alden's latest publication is nonfiction. Boys Will Be Boys: The Joys and Terrors of Raising Boys. Edited by Cher'ley Grogg was recently released and available on Amazon. Gloria wrote three essays and two poems in her chapter included in the book.


Congratulations to four of WWK’s bloggers whose books were released in the last two months. Look for Jim Jackson’s second Seamus McCree novel, Cabin Fever; Linda Rodriguez's new Skeet Bannion mystery, Every Hidden Fear; KM Rockwood's new Jesse Damon novel, Brothers in Crime; and Gloria Alden's third Catherine Jewell Mystery, Ladies of the Garden Club. All of the novels are available at bookstores in print and ebook.

Paula Gail Benson's short story "Confidence in the Family" is featured in the Mystery Times Ten 2013 anthology, which can be bought at Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/Mystery-Times-2013-Linda-Browning/dp/0984203583/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1387240857&sr=8-2

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Tales for Halloween

The season changed quite suddenly. One minute, I enjoyed the summer sun, falling asleep on a warm beach to the sound of the ocean. The next minute the cold rains came, plunging the season into Autumn. My mental confusion at the abrupt change only catalyzed the shivering my body felt. Autumn pounced upon me like a black cat crossing my path—shocking—so many things to do.

But instead of working, the drop in temperatures and the calendar flip to October brought to mind frost on the pumpkin. The change in light illuminated spider webs in the corners of my porch. A black snake sunned itself on the sidewalk by my mailbox, giving me a fright and causing my skin to crawl. All of these events brought to mind Halloween, and my fancy turned to ghosts and goblins and all the spookiness in which we revel during October.

I did what every other boiled-wool-socks-in-trench-boots writer would do, I turned to the classics, reading The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle, both by Washington Irving, one of the earliest American writers to make international fame. The English especially liked his stories, but then his predecessors were famous English essayists. They championed Irving, perceiving him as their own. He lived from 1783 to 1859, a pivotal time when there were few benchmarks to meet and few competitors on the American literary landscape.

His stories must have been pervasive in American society because in my grandfather’s house, built around the turn of the 20th century, the tiles surrounding his hearth depicted the story of Rip Van Winkle. For me the story blends with my grandfather, who enjoyed an ale or two. I can easily envision him sitting by the fire, roasting chestnuts and telling stories. The tile artisans may have had that scene in mind.

Irving still lived in a time when story telling was a physical event, like a play, when a storyteller enthralled his audience with verse. And part of that pleasure was in building a story—slowly. He deviated from his plot and meandered, giving side notes and history of characters. The storyteller’s opinions snuck into the tale hinting at what might come. That slow build served a purpose, one we fail to value today. Storytelling has become a visual reading experience often enjoyed only by the solitary reader. There is no audience, no shared experience for the teller and the listener(s). Those of us who write short stories are instructed to—get to the point. Make the kill on the first page, don’t provide boring backstory and keep building suspense.

In moderation, some backstory adds to our plot. If we know little about the characters’ history, how are we to provide the reader with authenticity? How can readers enjoy that pivotal moment, when all that comes before are pivotal moments? Irving’s meandering serves a purpose I wish we appreciated. We must remember the physical aspects of storytelling; the pauses, the inflections, the raised eyebrows and hunched shoulders and when a finger to the lips and a whisper invoked a squeal from those listening.

When I think of stories read to others, the classics come to mind, like those who read “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” every year. But I think that there is a reason that we turn to the classics when we read aloud. Unlike today’s stories, they were written for that purpose. We must remember that there is no set of rules in creative writing. It just has to be a great story, and getting there can be an enjoyable meander.

Do you read stories to your children and grandchildren? What are your favorite Halloween stories and why are they your favorites?

7 comments:

Pauline Alldred said...

I agree about needing to know a little about characters in a story before something terrible happens to them. Otherwise, it's a report of a remote event.

At holiday family gatherings, family members tell stories about themselves. We all have the drunk uncle or aunt who tells the same story every year. I think grandkids like to hear about what the adults were like as a kids. Family memories are often chunks of creative fiction.

circuitmouse said...

Nothing will match my mother's reading "The Boogie Man'll Getcha If You Don't Watch Out" when we were kids. She could've worked in radio (or theatre) the way she read a story and make it come alive. I've thought back to that at many an author's dull, monotone reading, where they seemed unaware of the pace of their own book.

E. B. Davis said...

Only when I was reading to my own children could I say I read stories well. I'm too self-conscious in judgmental company--but I think all shorts should be read aloud. Some functions of short stories-oral history and entertainment. Thanks for sharing your story circuitmouse! It must have been fun.

Pauline-at least your drunk uncle told stories. A friend of mine's uncle sang Dean Martin songs-at every family gathering. (Yes they're of Italian heritage.)

Warren Bull said...

It's not a Halloween story but for young children Mo Williems's Knuffle Bunny books are great.

E. B. Davis said...

Warren-I'm not acquainted with those books. They sound cute. Who is the author, or are they like Golden Books?

Warren Bull said...

EB,

The author is Mo Williem. You can also look them up by title. I know the spelling of the author's name seems odd.

E. B. Davis said...

Oh! Sorry Warren, didn't pick up on that! Thanks