Halloween is in a week, a holiday that, for college students, has become more synonymous with parties and revealing outfits than scares, frights, and the supernatural. Haunted houses still hold their appeal for many of us and the frequency with which horror movies are pumped out speaks for their popularity. We still know the feeling of being afraid of the dark, sitting on edge, and fearing the unknown.
This brings me to my favorite class that I’ve taken whilst at Tech: Mystery Writing taught by Scott Sanders. Suspenseful may have been a better word to describe it – in our class comprised of enthusiastic students and an eager teacher – an unwritten escalation occurred that saw each week’s stories being a little more grotesque, violent, or sinister. And the great part was: it was a pleasure to read each one. In most workshop classes there’s no pre-defined theme that you’re trying to write for so the stories are often broad in terms of content. While this isn’t bad in and of itself, it does leave open the door to genres and general stories that you’re not interested in – just from a standpoint of what’s being written about. But with Mystery Writing? Everyone had this bizarre desire to one-up their classmates which fostered intrigue into every manuscript that you were handed. Each piece was read with more than a little suspicion and distrust towards the characters and events taking place. After all, it was just a matter of time until the ordinary turned bizarre.
It was within this cultivated environment that I most grew as a writer – as everyone pushed one another to out-whatever the rest – inspirations of originality and spawned. It was no longer separated. Each manuscript had in it something that you’d take away and be impressed and envious of. Moreover, you’d get the chance to incorporate what the others were doing and add into your next story. Everything felt connected and had a sense of purpose that was clearly visible in our work.
Now returning to Halloween. In a week’s time people will go to great lengths to get a jump out of their neighbors, but why? Why do we do this to ourselves and to others? It’s so that we can live in this suspense, at least temporarily. Every moment is a new manuscript where nothing can be trusted and our hair is on-end. But it only lasts one night which is why those who treasure those moments prepare for so long to make it perfect. Bigger, better, scarier – these are the prevailing thoughts that go into each year’s decorations. In much the same way, those of us who were privileged enough to take Mystery Writing had a similar notion. We had to outdo ourselves each time because we found that we loved the satisfaction of making the rest of the class uneasy, disturbed, or downright grossed-out from our writing.
Therefore, while these Halloweens at college especially will be less-scare oriented and more other-oriented, try to remember the spirit of the holiday and the thrill of the hunt and the fear of being hunted.
And to fellow writers out there: remember the excitement it draws when crafting a story.