How is Halloween like writing fiction?

To my mind, dressing up for Halloween is a little like writing fiction—we get to make up our own characters and take on a new persona, at least for one night.

I don’t have my costume for this year yet. I want something easy to move around in because I’ll be hosting the drop-in Drop-Dead Eulogy Writing Workshop at the E.A. Poe Memorial Benefit and Wake for San Diego Writers, Ink on October 21.

Working on the committee for the Poe event brought back memories of the years in the mid-nineties when we staged the benefit at The Writing Center.

In 1995, I went as The Queen of Everything. And a haughty bitch I was, too. The next year, I clothed myself completely in black, including hands, face, hair, and wore a sign that said, “A Shadow of My Former Self.”

One Halloween I went to a party as a flower, wearing a green turtleneck and green tights with plastic vines wrapped around my legs and a huge painted cardboard cutout of a daisy around my face. I kept bumping into people with my “petals” and the thing blocked virtually all sound when I was face-to-face with anyone. I had to read lips. And never mind trying to dance in that get-up.


(Note: this isn’t me; it wasn’t that long ago.)

Oh, and the year I went as the Statue of Liberty. I had to keep that one arm raised all night, hoisting my “torch,” which was actually a cheap cut-glass bud vase that looked vaguely torch-like. Meanwhile  the other arm was clasping some book to my breast. I don’t remember the book I chose, but it was sweat-drenched by the end of the night and I had a bitch of a shoulder cramp the next day.

Carmen Miranda was fun—plastic fruit from the Salvation Army balanced on my head and speaking with a goofy accent all night. And those big hoop earrings. My bananas kept sliding off and catching in them. But something about adopting that persona let me dance like I’d never danced before.

carmen-miranda-stampThe Biker Nun in leathers with “Born to Raise Heck” fake-tattooed on my arm was about as scary as I ever got, if you can call a biker nun scary and I suppose some people would. I’m not one for blood and knives and vampire teeth or mummy anything and zombies scare the hell out of me. Still, there is something about a satin-lined velvet cape that a Dracula might wear that I find deliciously seductive.

What was your favorite Halloween costume? Have you designed this year’s yet or are you keeping it a secret?

PS: The E.A. Poe Memorial Benefit and Wake will take place on Friday, Oct. 21, Barracks 16, Liberty Station, 7-10 pm. I can’t wait for the Scary-oke performances or WRITE OUT LOUD’s reading of some Poe stories! Hope you can join us.


When Memory Doesn’t Speak

Several months ago I began writing a piece based on memories from a long ago journey I took. I decided I wanted to write strictly from memory, and not consult the journals I kept during my travels. It’s challenging, it’s interesting, and it’s fun even though I don’t know if most of what I’m writing is what really happened or something I made up, or something I’m making up even as I write.

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Writer’s Challenge #32: Describing the Effects of Emotion on a Character’s Face

We all know it: eyes can’t fill, can’t tear up, can’t water or leak; tears can’t roll down cheeks, or flood, or track. Lips can’t quiver, tongues can’t get tied, color can’t drain from faces. We can’t freeze and especially we can’t freeze like “a deer caught in the headlights.” Our mouths daren’t drop open, nor our jaws. We can raise our eyebrows, but we best not furrow our brows.

Oh! all the cliches we can’t write, and most especially we can’t write them when our characters are experiencing those Big Emotions. You know, the ones our writing group tells us we must “show” our characters experiencing, rather than just telling about it.

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