#amwriting Let the Right One In – a Short Story for Halloween

Humans always let their guard down at this time of year… Dumb of them, I know, but we all get to enjoy ourselves, so I don’t complain about it.

Meet me. Cordelia. Vampire extraordinaire. Even if I do say so myself. I’ve been undead for the last six hundred years or so (you don’t keep an exact score past a certain number of decades), and my motto is fun, fun, fun.

Admittedly, sometimes my pleasure comes at other people’s expense, but let’s not go into that now. We’ll concentrate instead on All Hallows Eve, or Halloween is as it’s more commonly called these days.

Trick or treat.

I don’t approve, this Americanised version of what was traditionally called guising in Scotland. (I’m not from Scotland. Just staying here temporarily, waiting for the heat to die down on another continent.)

No, the little people in Scotland used to get dressed up in home-made costumes and make their way to neighbouring houses. They had to tell a joke, sing a song or perform a magic trick. Then, they were rewarded with sweets, monkey nuts and sometimes money.

Now, the ungrateful little brats rap on doors and demand people hand over their stash of sweeties for no reward. If they don’t, then it’s the trick. Something nasty happens.

…which is where I come in. Trick or treat? I offer both. At the same time.

I choose carefully which doors I knock on. There might be households where there are happy couples, their faces beaming at me as they open the door. “Oh! Your costume is amazing! Where did you get that make-up and those fake sharp teeth?”

“A brilliant shop not that far away!” I said. “Shall I pretend to bite you for the ‘trick’ bit?”

Mrs Fraser said ‘yes’. She enjoyed it at first, but sadly Mrs, Mr and the as yet unborn Fraser didn’t live long enough to warn their neighbours of the perils of opening the door to women who look too much like the real thing.

This year, I plan to reinvent the guising thing. I will insist that every household that invites me in (you know what they say about letting the right one in, yeah?) should at least make me work for my reward.

I’m looking forward to it!

Here we are. I’m at my first house, tagging along with a small group of little people, dressed in…Asda costumes. Oh. God. Now, where’s the effort in that? They all swing plastic bags, full to the brim with sugary shit that will rot their teeth and small bodies.

To amuse myself, I puncture small holes in all the bags. As we walk on, the goodies drain out slowly, leaving a Hansel and Gretl-like trail.

Kids, you’ll thank me for this later.

House number one. The door is answered by… ooh, Mr Hot! This does make a pleasant change. Dark hair and eyes, tall and wiry of frame—just my favourite kind of guy. And also possessed of a pulse.

He meets my eyes above the children level. “Hey! Fair play to you, dressing up too!”

“I know! Jesus wants me for a sunbeam. I’ll get my reward at some point.”

He bursts out laughing at that, the sound of it attracting his significant other/wife. She stands right next to him and stares hard at me.

Oh-oh. Jealousy.

No need, love! My internal voice says, I promise you a sexual predator is the LEAST of your worries.

I pat the head of one the little things next to me. He glares in response.

“You have to buy so much for Halloween now, don’t you?” I say, making sure I angle my head, so my eyes can look straight at the wife. “In my day, there was none of this trick or treat nonsense. You went to your neighbours’ houses and had to work for your money!”

“Aye, too flippin’ right!” the wife says. “D’ye want to come in?”

Ah, the invite to enter. Always a goodie.

I shuffle the children in front of me. They are all whining about trick or treat, and I tell them, that sadly on this occasion, they will need to actually make an effort.

Handsome guy, jealous wife and I watch as the kids perform. Truly, it is embarrassingly dreadful. Do their parents find them entertaining? The triumph of hope over experience, surely. Nevertheless, we clap enthusiastically when they finish, me especially. I’m supposed to be the guardian of this group, after all.

Jealous wife stirs herself at the end. She leaves the room and comes back minutes later armed with so much sugar you could dissolve a canine tooth instantly.

Not mine, though.

The kids scramble for wine gums, drumsticks, star mix, Tangfastics and more.

Jealous wife starts to mutter. She did this home-made stuff. She bought the Sainsbury’s magazine and did the whole mummified sausage pie and spooky Halloween cupcakes thing. She proffers it on trays.

The kids don’t give a shit. The home-made stuff goes untouched.

We watch them leave the house, their holey plastic bags filled with sugary content which will spill out on to the path behind them as they walk home.

Jealous wife stirs herself. “Oh! Aren’t they yours, those kids?”

I shake my head, cheerily. “Not mine! But the poor little things were wandering around all by themselves. I thought they needed guidance.”

Handsome husband nods his head. “Bloody hell! That was good of you!”

The next bit is delicate. You need to approach it with surgeon-like precision. “Gosh!” I say, “you two are so… well, I don’t meet people like you very often.”

Always, always tell people they are special.

Jealous wife has drunk her wine in double quick time. Her husband’s mouth is hanging open.

I stand up, and I hold my hands palms up in front of me. “You’re like…open-minded, yeah?”

Both of them nod furiously. Close-minded. It’s the worst thing you can be accused of, right?

“I like boys AND girls,” I purr, and they do too. One hand is clasped by handsome guy, the other by jealous wife.

“Shall we have some fun?”

Handsome man and now not so jealous wife speed me up to their bedroom so quickly, my feet barely touch the ground. Once there, handsome man pulls off his tee shirt, while his wife struggles in an undignified way with her jeans. In no time, they are both naked.

I get rid of my cloak.

“Aren’t you going to get…undressed?” the man asks, disappointment clear.

I shake my head and move in on him. In no time, my non-naked state is forgotten.

“Hey!” the wife pushes herself between us. “My turn, I think.”

Goodness. She IS enthusiastic. Years of bi-curiosity, I guess, coupled with a sexually useless husband if my seconds-ago encounter is anything to go by.

“CORDELIA!”

The three of us jump at that, the sound coming from downstairs. I recognise the voice, and I curse.

The man and the woman are scrambling around for their clothes.

I put a hand out. “I know who it is. Er, would you like a little more company? We’re all friends here, right?”

The wife nods, her excitement palpable. The husband is no longer so keen. Probably because the voice that shouted its way upstairs was male.

I move to the door and yell at Arnaud to come on up. Arnaud grins at me as he climbs the stairs. I grimace at him. I was hoping to keep these two all to myself, but here he is again, muscling in on my fun.

The wife stares at him, wide-eyed. No wonder. Arnaud makes her husband look run of the mill in the looks stakes. He’s dressed as a ‘traditional’ vampire, or what people conjure up in their heads when they think of Dracula – tux, cloak and a subtle sprinkling of blood on his white shirt.

Real blood.

He’s male cover model material. And doesn’t he know it?

“So, where were we?” he asks, untying the lace that holds his cloak around his neck. He pulls the wife towards him, caressing her bottom and burying his face in her throat.

Ah, yes… we blood-suckers get off on the smell of pulsing blood. It’s strongest there. Arnaud’s eyes close, but not before he shoots me an infuriating wink.

In retaliation, I pull the husband to me and do the same. Arnaud and I face each other, the man and the woman between us. He signals with his eyes, and we bare our teeth. Synchronicity is what you aim for in a two-vampire situation.

He holds a hand up behind the wife, two fingers bent down. Three, two…

The door opens again, and the four of us turn in astonishment. Stood there are two of the little shits that I brought here earlier, their arms folded and their eyes narrowed. The man and his wife are scrambling for clothes once more, no doubt fearful that the foursome story will make it all the way around the neighbourhood and back again.

“You put a hole in my bag!” the boy points at me.

Honestly! What a single-minded young man, coming all the way back here to shout at me for saving him from dental decay and obesity.

“And you’re real vampires!” the girl says.

Bloody hell, where did that come from?

Too late, I realise they are pointing guns at us. The model is the one that fires silver bullets. It looks as if this time, I was the one who let my guard down.

Great.

©Emma Baird 2017

 

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Confessions of a Former Pantser

Plotting out in advance? Bah, that’s for amateurs… so said me, and probably an awful lot of other writers. Why plot when you can allow for the pure magic of writing? Story developments suddenly spring out of nowhere, leaving you exclaiming to open air – ‘Well, where the heck did that come from?’

No, no, far better (and much more fun) to fly by the seat of your pants. Hence, the popular term ‘pantser’. And the totally unnecessary picture above.

Yes, I always had an idea of how a story starts and how it ends (and most of mine do so happily), but you could outline that planning in three sentences. ‘Student girl and boy swap bodies with a middle-aged couple. A scientific experiment they didn’t know about. They swap back,’* kind of thing.

Until a few weeks ago, that is. There I am, minding my own business, muddling through the messy middles of several books and wondering why my characters keep getting distracted from their real purpose when an email wings its way towards me.

Nick Stephenson is an indie success story who also teaches the art of writing and selling your own books. He is currently trying to persuade me (and others, I don’t get personal emails from him) to sign up for his Story Engines course, one of those write a book in a month type programmes.

The freebie incentive is a pdf that outlines basic plotting, showing how it works through demonstrating its application in popular novels such as The Great Gatsby, Me Before You, The Hound of the Baskervilles and Tripwire.

The premise is you first work out who is the hero, who is the antagonist, what’s the conflict and what’s at stake. Then, you set out a rough plan for a preparation phase, then a reactive phase, a proactive phase and then the end. Each stage is marked by a gamechanger.

I’m summarising. And making it sound formulaic. Not all great writing does this or needs this. There might be one or more heroes. An antagonist might not always be that way. Gamechangers can vary significantly in scale.

But when I worked out a two-page plan for three of the projects I’m working on, it was easy to see what was missing, what was in the wrong place and what was doing nothing for the plot and/or character development.

I’d argue that plotting is more straightforward to do once you are into a book. By that point, you know your characters well, and you know what will be a gamechanger for them. Start with your general idea, write about a third of your book and then hone. That’s my advice anyway.

Happy writing!

*And there you have it. The spoiler-free plot for The Girl Who Swapped.

The Girl Who Swapped

Preparing to write your novel with NaNoWRiMo 2017

Some great advice for anyone who wants to have a bash at those 50,000 words next month!

Caron Allan Fiction

I’m adding my voice to the current slew of advice posts aimed at anyone thinking of joining in the (Inter)National Novel Writing Month through NaNoWriMo.org in November this year. Whether you are a seasoned author or a newbie, this is a great challenge to give you a big push to writing a complete novel–though it could also be non-fiction if that’s your bag, baby–by taking the challenge to write 50,000 words during the month of November.

I’ve done it several times now, and still haven’t quite made up my mind whether or not to go for it this year, as I am revising my WIP ahead of publication this December. But I can say unreservedly that it is a great idea and I think also a valuable writing experience. If you’re not sure whether to do it, I say, give it a go, what have you got to lose? And…

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Beauty and the Vampire

Ten thousand words into a book and I needed matchsticks to prop up my eyes. And I’m the author. It’s not good when you’re boring the pants off yourself. It doesn’t bode well for a book.

I’ve wanted to write a decent YA novel for AGES. I’ve tried a few times, but not managed. I like one of my attempts, but a YA book it ain’t – more a coming of age thing meant to appeal to other people who grew up in the 80s/90s.

This time, I thought I’d try a tale about a girl who ends up a YouTube star with her make-up for spotty girls channel. It started off okay. I’d found her a boyfriend. I’d introduced them in the tried and trusted Pride and Prejudice way. I’d even injected a little social grit as my heroine had a little sister who was dying (she was using her channel to raise money to get her sister to Disneyland), and she’d gained a ton of followers online who hung on to her every word. Sometimes they were nasty to her, in authentic YouTube style-y.

And then…yawnsville. Darn it, the writing just slogged on, words clinging to the pages instead of dancing in the air.

Inspiration struck this week. I get a lot of my ideas while out walking. Keep her as a YouTube star, I thought, pacing out the steps to Asda, but change the world and make her motivation different. Let’s throw in vampires!

Now, instead of a YouTube make-up channel for spotty gels, she’s got another audience in mind—those who want to look like ordinary human beings, instead of bloodsuckers.

My heroine still needs to look after her little sister, as her family can’t afford the healthcare for vampire immunisation. Only rich folks can afford it, and that means I get to take a sly dig at Donald Trump too.

Always a bonus, right?

Throw in some Romeo and Juliet conflict via a potential vampire love interest et voila! Something rather more entertaining.

I might still bore it up. Wish me luck. And in a blatant attempt to direct you to my Wattpad account, you can read the first instalment here