It’s the spookiest time of the year again, and Halloween means Halloween short story contests. As I pondered ideas for a suitably spooky story, I quickly thought through classic Halloween characters and elements: ghosts, haunted houses, zombies, vampires—the list goes on.
I decided on witches, a personal favorite of mine as well as many others. The sheer number of movies, books, TV shows, and other forms of popular culture featuring witches proves their timeless popularity. The same can be said for the other Halloween classics previously mentioned. They pop up time and time again in ever evolving forms.
But does this create a problem? Is there an extent to which recycling these tropes puts a damper on creativity? Should writers branch away from these classics entirely?
Completely regurgitating an existing story certainly does not emphasize creativity, but using a trope or—in particular—putting a twist on that trope allows ample room for imagination.
There’s a reason witches, ghosts, and zombies fall into the category of Halloween classics: people love to see them again, and again, and again. The key is the twist. Each writer, director, or artist creates a new version of the classic idea. The witches of Hocus Pocus do not resemble that of Harry Potter, or Howl’s Moving Castle, or Beautiful Creatures. They each look different, act different, use different magic, and sometimes exist in different worlds entirely. Although they all cast magic, their similarities often end there.
Using such classics shouldn’t dampen creativity. Often times, it’s a perfect spark for creativity.
One way to brainstorm a story is to start with one base element: a witch or a ghost, for example. Then build your own unique story around that timeless classic. What makes your witch or ghost different? Do they exist in our world or another? Are they scary or nice? What is their purpose? Next thing you know, you have a story blooming.
Don’t shy away from recycling a Halloween classic or other tropes. Sure, they’re sometimes overused, but they can be great sources of inspiration as well as practice for story building. People have plenty more stories to tell about witches, and I can’t wait to hear them.
What are your thoughts? Do Halloween classics and similar tropes have a place in new popular culture?
I write YA fantasy and contemporary fiction. This blog is dedicated to thoughts and advice on writing and publishing, as well as various interests related to the world of Young Adult.