HALLOWEEN TRICKS AND TREATS: HOW TO WRITE SPOOKY FICTION

We had so much fun on our: Halloween Tricks and Treats – How To Write Spooky Fiction Day! Whether you are writing spooky tales for children infused with magic and witchcraft or you’re working on a psychological horror story, we had everything covered.

We discovered how to perfect a submission package, what an agent or commissioning editor seeks when taking on a horror novel, how to weave folklore and traditional witchcraft into a story for young readers, create dark yet believable villains, build a world with real-life issues cleverly woven in, and even how to develop a magic system.

 

SESSION 1

DAMARIS YOUNG – VILLAINS, TENSION AND EXTRAORDINARY CREATURES

AUTHOR / WRITING TUTOR

Author Damaris Young opened our Halloween Tricks and Treats with a session to get right under your skin. Drawing upon her love of spooky stories, and later her creative writing MA in Bath, Damaris Young’s haunting upper middle grade novel The Switching Hour was critically acclaimed for its tension, magical realism and beautiful writing. Adept at running workshops for writers who want to get published, she showed how to use your senses to create a villain that reaches your reader, set a powerful scene, weave real issues into your novel, and make your fiction as dark as it can be for its audience. Her second novel The Creature Keeper was out 5 November 2020.
WHAT DAMARIS COVERED:
  • Creating villains that crawl under your skin
  • How animals, creatures and monsters play their part in gothic fiction
  • Weaving grief into children’s literature – “Sorrow Sickness”
  • How weather drives tension in storytelling (and makes environmental issues accessible to children)
  • Using senses to enrich your writing

SESSION 2

DEAD FUNNY – MAGICAL REALISM WITH CLAIRE BARKER

AUTHOR

From the wild and windy south-west coast of Devon, Claire Barker swooped in to demystify the mystery of scary children’s stories. As author of the popular Knitbone Pepper series for young readers, Claire is well versed in writing about ghosts, and dogs, and ghost dogs, and she used her extensive research into Hedge Magic as the foundation for her hilarious Picklewitch and Jack series. We explored how to fuse rationalism with magic and inject humour into spooky tales to create stories that will stay with children for many years to come.

WHAT CLAIRE COVERED:
  • Mining the magical seams of ordinary life
  • Exploding spooky cliches
  • Demystifying scary notions
  • Tackling difficult issues through humour
  • Bringing your presentations to life for a young audience

SESSION 3

MICHELLE HARRISON – FROM FACT TO FICTION THAT FIZZLES

AUTHOR

Bestselling children’s author Michelle Harrison is well-known for her magical worlds and affinity with the number thirteen, black cats, wishes, curses and secrets. Her love of spooky stories continues to inspire her work including the Thirteen Treasures series, One Wish, and her recent series about the Widdershins sisters, A Pinch of Magic, which enchants children (and grown-ups) the world over. We found out how she turns her research from real-life locations and folklore into fiction that captivates.

WHAT MICHELLE COVERED:-
  • Researching traditional folklore and mythology – where to begin?
  • Infusing witchcraft into your own story
  • Building suspense with mystery – how to thread clues and adventure into your plot
  • Creating magical worlds
  • Writing courageous protagonists

SESSION 4

FRANCINE TOON – ATMOSPHERE, SUSPENSE AND WHAT EDITORS LOOK FOR

COMMISSIONING EDITOR / AUTHOR

Award-winning author and Commissioning Editor at Sceptre Books Francine Toon was on hand to explain what publishers seek in a haunting novel that won’t be a nightmare to sell! Following the publication of her own stunning gothic thriller, the Sunday Times bestseller Pine, Francine was crowned WINNER of the 2020 McIlvanney Prize and shortlisted for Bloody Scotland’s Scottish Crime Debut of the Year. She was therefore the perfect person to ask questions about shaping your plot, adding atmosphere and writing an adult novel that will stay with the reader long after the last page has been turned.
WHAT FRANCINE COVERED:
  • The influence poetry writing had over her debut, Pine
  • Techniques to create atmosphere, tension and suspense
  • Plotting and pacing your novel
  • Why editors turn writers down
  • Taking the fear out of rejection with tips to stay motivated

SESSION 5

JAMES NICOL – CREATING MAGIC SYSTEMS

AUTHOR

Author James Nicol created such a magical character in Arianwyn, The Apprentice Witch, that rights to the trilogy were snapped up by a TV production company. While we await development of this fabulous magical world with its joyful (and sometimes challenging) characters, James is busy leading workshops and talks for as yet unpublished writers. In this session he talked through the importance of understanding your magic system, using glowing examples of magical worlds, and invites you to create a system of your own that will have your reader fall under its spell.

WHAT JAMES COVERED:

  • The importance of understanding your magic system
  • Weaving the magic into your story
  • Ways to make your magic system “unique”
  • Looking at examples of magic systems done well
  • Approaches to creating your system

SESSION 6

JOHN BAKER – PITCHING HORROR TO A LITERARY AGENT

LITERARY AGENT

What does a literary agent look for when they receive a submission in the horror genre? Fresh from a sold out batch of one-to-ones from our Agent121 service, John Baker from Bell Lomax Moreton answered your questions on what makes a submission stand out, how a covering letter ought to read, and which books with a horror edge would stand out for him. Add to this how you can create tension and psychological fear in your novel and you had a session designed not to give a literary agent nightmares for all the wrong reasons.

WHAT JOHN COVERED:

• How to avoid submitting a ‘horrifying’ cover letter – and advice to put yours right!
• Tips to help your synopsis have a strong impact
• Ways to keep your horror plot loaded with tension
• Building psychological fear that remains believable
• Which character traits leave the reader’s blood running cold