Friday, October 9, 2015

Macabre Writing Prompts From My Backyard

This week Ellen Kazimer, MFAC alum of 2014, shares a few creepy stories and free write exercises based on true events.  Read on, if you dare...

When the call came out for Halloween inspired postings, I didn’t wander past the woods behind my house to dig up a few writing prompts. This time of year, globe spiders spin webs across my windows, bats perform aerial acrobatics at dusk, and toads cover my front walk. 

Halloween decorating? I’ve got that covered. So for your writing amusement, I present three “true life” vignettes from my woods, each with two writing prompts. Hope they inspire your monster muse.

Vignette I 
There are ten unmarked graves behind my house and possibly more. A dismembered arm indicates there is still another body to be found. Three dead baby dolls and seven dead Barbie’s is a case for the Behavior Analysis Unit on Criminal Minds. I suspect that in yards across America, you will find a buried doll or two, but ten? What twisted mind would do that? (I tried reviving the dolls, but they were too far gone. Tiny insects had crawled into their heads through their hair follicles.) 

A. Write a picture book, middle grade, or young adult scary story where your protagonist either buries or unearths dolls in their backyard.  Would you choose gothic, noir, supernatural, or psychological? Picture book noir, anyone? 

B. The last Barbie I found had hair so full of leaves and mud, that her hair was stuck in place as if it were styled that way on purpose. Perhaps I had a woodland fairy instead of a zombie. Are the dolls changelings? Write a story using the buried dolls as fantasy elements. 

Vignette II 

Last winter, in the middle of a snowstorm, I spotted a piebald deer. I'd never seen one before, and we are replete with deer. A few days later, a neighbor found a tree stand in the woods and deer entrails strewn into the creek. (Deer hunting is illegal in our woods.) The kill was fresh. Turkey vultures had not found the entrails yet. That piebald deer never appeared again. Who killed and gutted the poor piebald deer and why? 

A. Write a story where your protagonist discovers the entrails using one of the three types of terror defined by Stephen King, the Gross Out, the Horror, or the Terror. 

B. Write a story where this unusual deer is a magical beast loose in the suburbs. Perhaps go back to the ancient legends of the mythical white stag. 

Vignette III

I have a trail camera takes six rapid photos when it detects motion. Most of the time it catches deer, foxes, squirrels, or me walking the dog. One night the camera went off, and there was nothing in the pictures except an “orb.” If you are a fan of shows like Ghost Hunters, then you know this could be a spirit orb. (Or it could be an insect or pollen, but let's stick with a spirit orb.) 

A: Write a story where a spirit orb or ghostly apparition haunts your protagonist by appearing their trail camera. 

B: Write a story where the orb is a “will ‘o the wisp” leading your protagonist to another world. Hope you found some spooky inspiration for your stories of mayhem, horror, and the supernatural. I’m off for a walk in the woods.

Thanks for answering the Halloween call, Ellen!  Hopefully these spooky true-life events will give you some great starting points for you own seasonal scares.

*Ellen Kazimer is a 2014 graduate of Hamline MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. When she’s not sweeping spider webs off her windows, she writes picture books, nonfiction, and middle grades novels. Her bio can be found on her website and blog where she shares “Odd Bits of Research that Washed Ashore.”  Learn more about her work on her author website or visit her blog.

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