NaNoWriMo Tips: NaNoWriMo Has Turned Me Into a Hermit

Welcome to the fourth post of my NaNoWriMo tips series. For other tips in this series, as well as a schedule for future posts, take a look at the links below. Today’s tip and my discussion of it can be found immediately below the schedule.



If you’re working on a novel for NaNoWriMo, there’s an experience you’ve likely had several times as a reader that you may well be living through as a writer for the first time. The way this experience presents itself is different person to person, however it usually begins with you finding a character that you really like in your story. From there, you start wondering what that character will do next, questioning what you would do in their situation, or developing strong opinions about the actions that character takes as they make them. Pretty soon, you’re yelling at the character, trying your hardest to will them verbally so that they don’t go into the scary room that’s totally full of of someone that’ll try to kill them.

By this point, you’ve likely become emotionally invested in your story — or at the very least, you care a ton about a character or two in your novel. Awesome! I completely understand where you’re coming from. In my work in progress, there’s a character named Abby whose story I’ve become quite fond of. It’s to the point where I very much want things to end a certain way for her, even though I know that for the story I’m writing to make sense Abby shouldn’t get (much of) what she most desires1At least not in this book. In a sequel, maybe? Abby has a lot of things she sees as moral gray areas, so in order for her to get some of what she wants in one part of her life, it’s likely that she’ll need to sacrifice what she wants in another part of her life. I swear I’m going to write more of this story soon.. So I promise I’m right there with you.

That said, your non-writer friends might not be right there with you. Some of your friends might be avid readers and can empathize with you to a certain extent. But if you try talking about this experience to someone who has never written and who doesn’t read much, there’s a good chance they’ll look at you like you’re crazy.

Additionally, if you’ve gotten really invested in writing your story, there’s a decent chance it’s been all you’ve done in your free time. Eight days into NaNoWriMo means that your goal word count is 13,333 words, but you might be at 20,000 or more words already. The only people you’ve seen in days are co-workers, those who live with you, and your pets. Even then, they haven’t seen much of you.

Again, I understand where you’re coming from and can empathize with you. In 2011, I had written 36,404 words through eight days. I crossed the 50,000 word threshold on day 15 and finished my book on day 21. And though I had some circumstances2Read: Being unemployed. that allowed me to churn out a couple of giant word count days to help me get to that point, I also became incredibly interested in my story. All I wanted to do was to write and to tell this story that I couldn’t get out of my head. During those first eight days, the only living beings I interacted with her my wife3Then long-distance girlfriend. and my friend Erin via text, my cat, and cashiers at Wal-Mart.

On day 9, I got a text from my college roommate — who I’ve talked to nearly daily for thirteen years now — asking if I was still alive. My grandma and dad called (several times actually) to make sure I was coming down for Thanksgiving, however I hadn’t responded to their voicemails. Aside from corresponding with a couple of potential employers via email, all I cared about was writing this story.

I talked a bit on Tuesday about how it’s important to take breaks for your own mental health, as well as for sake of maintaining the relationships that you have. Instead of reiterating that point in today’s post, I’m going to focus for a moment on the fact that when I was asked what I had been doing for days on end, I usually responded with ‘writing’. And that response led to several people wondering why, or even how, I could invest so much time into writing.

One of the most important things I learned during my first NaNoWriMo attempt was that the month goes by much smoother if you have someone else you’re writing with — or at a bare minimum, someone else you can talk to your story about. NaNoWriMo’s site does have the Writing Buddies feature you can use to connect with people on their Dashboard. Additionally, /r/nanowrimo appears to be a good community full of people who are supportive towards those participating in the project. In my mind, it doesn’t matter where you find your person that you can talk to your story about from4My friend Erin was my person to talk at during all three of my NaNoWriMo projects. We actually found each other on a blogging forum and didn’t even realize we lived (at the time) within 10 miles of each other.. Finding someone you can use as a sounding board for your story is an amazing help. If nothing else, it’ll let you have normal conversations with your non-writing friends.

Keep in touch with the outside world during NaNoWriMo. The family and friends can certainly help keep you sane, or even facilitate a small break from writing if you need it. Plus, you never know when a random talk with someone will serve as inspiration for a scene or a character in your book. That said, there’s no problem with taking a few days and just writing. Even if people don’t understand why you’d do that to yourself, it’s okay to care a ton about your story. Find strangers on the internet and share your excitement with them. Or, if worse comes to worse, tell your characters themselves about your excitement. There’s some psychology behind how that can help you think through complex problems. Who says talking to yourself can’t be beneficial.


Like my NaNoWriMo tips series? Have questions for me about the topics posted daily? Do you just want to talk about your story and have nowhere else to do so? Leave a comment and join the discussion.

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NaNoWriMo Tips: What if I Need a Break?

Welcome to the third post of my NaNoWriMo tips series. For other tips in this series, as well as a schedule for future posts, take a look at the links below. Today’s tip and my discussion of it can be found immediately below the schedule.



Welcome to day 6 of your NaNoWriMo adventure. If you’ve been working on your story since day 1, you’ve almost reached a full week of writing a novel. That’s pretty exciting. Regardless of if you’ve written every single day or if you’ve only written here and there since the start of the month, there’s likely a question that’s crossed your mind.

When can I take a break?

There’s a short answer and a long answer to this question. The short answer can be summed up in a single sentence. Take a break when you need to, so long as you’re mindful of finishing your story5If that’s your goal, that is. Which I assume it is if you’re six days into NaNoWriMo..

The long answer is a bit more complex. First and foremost, life happens. There’s going to be things that come up that keep you from writing exactly when you want to every day that you want to. Maybe you have a doctor’s appointment, perhaps there’s a work engagement, or maybe there’s an extremely important election that you should totally go vote in if you’re in the USA6Hint. Hint.. There’s going to be things that cause you break your writing schedule whether you like it or not. This is part of why I wrote the post about the importance of using your weekends effectively before I wrote this post.

The deep, dark secret to writing, and in turn to winning NaNoWriMo, is that you must realize it’s a delicate balancing act. One on hand, you draw from experiences to help you write your book. Even if your book takes place in a fantasy world, little bits of you and people you know will work their way into characters in the book. It’s just what happens. Without that, books can become hollow and meaningless as you write them.

On the other hand, NaNoWriMo is likely not the most important thing in your life. Your mental and physical health should be your top priority, even if you really want to complete a project like NaNoWriMo. Taking a day or two off here or there isn’t necessarily a bad thing in the project. It may give you some time to develop a fresh perspective on a scene you’re stuck on, potentially helping to end a bout of writer’s block7I’ll talk more about writer’s block later in the month.. You might just need a break to get some much needed sleep or some real life responsibilities taken care of. It’s okay.

If you actively plan to build in rest or mental health days into NaNoWriMo, that’s fine. Just be sure to adjust your words per day pace accordingly. Every day you write zero words means that there’s 1,666 words that will need to be written at some other point in the month. Whether those are split up or all tackled in one day is up to you. Just don’t drive yourself crazy trying to write your story. Trust me. The story you’re telling may do that for you without your trying8We’ll talk about that too…Thursday..


Like my NaNoWriMo tips series? Have questions for me about the topics posted daily? Do you just want to talk about your story and have nowhere else to do so? Leave a comment and join the discussion.

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NaNoWriMo Tips: Taking Advantage of Your Weekends

Welcome to the second post of my NaNoWriMo tips series. For other tips in this series, as well as a schedule for future posts, take a look at the links below. Today’s tip and my discussion of it can be found immediately below the schedule.



Welcome to your first weekend of NaNoWriMo! I know it’s unexpected, considering the month just started, but that’s the way the calendar falls this year. I don’t make the rules. It’s just science9I mean, it’s kind of science. The Gregorian calendar is a solar calendar and we do make adjustments like leap days to account for variance that occurs due to the Earth’s revolution around the Sun. With that said, calendars are not hard science. There have been a number of proposed reforms to the Gregorian calendar, not to mention some cultures that don’t use it. And don’t get me started on how weekends are actually a cultural creation, not a calendar driven one.. While the weekend is the time that most people kick back and relax after a long work week, weekends are a prime time for writers participating in NaNoWriMo to make some serious headway into their word count.

During my first NaNoWriMo, I was job hunting, so I didn’t utilize weekends all that differently than I did my weeks when it came to writing. That said, when I participated in 2015, I was working a full-time job that averaged 60-70 hours a week. Needless to say, having weekends to write became critical for me to finish on time. Here’s what my 2015 word count progression looked like.

 

As you can tell, I had quite a few writing bursts throughout the month, nearly all of which came on weekends. I averaged 1,142 words on work days in November of 2015 — which you may recognize as being well below the 1,666 word per day pace you need to hit 50,000. That said, my average weekend day word count was 2,854 words. If it wasn’t for utilizing my weekends effectively, I likely never would have finished my 2015 NaNoWriMo novel.

How exactly then do you use your weekends effectively as a NaNoWriMo noveler? While it certainly does differ a bit person to person, I have a few tips I think will be of benefit to those of you who are trying the project for the first time.

Use Your First Weekend to Plan Your Novel’s Path

As I shared in the first post in this series, I had short stories that I used as the basis for both my 2011 and 2015 NaNoWriMo works. While those stories gave me some basis as to what I wanted to do with those novels, there was so much more that I needed to plan out. What would the main plot of the novel look like? Are there side characters that need to be directly involved with the main character to advance my novel? How much research do I actually need to do in order for my novel to make sense10It’s both more and less than you’d think. Less during the NaNoWriMo period, more in the post-NaNoWriMo editing period.?

In both cases, I took part of my first weekend and spent a few hours plotting out what would happen to my main characters, my main conflict, and how I would get from the beginning of the story to the end. I’ve found that doing this was incredibly helpful for my consistency within the story, even if I wasn’t perfect in that regard. If you’re someone that had no pre-planning time before starting NaNoWriMo, this is a great use of part of your first weekend.

Even if you did pre-plan and pre-write, you can certainly use this time to take stock of how you’re doing in comparison to that planning. How’s your outline shaping up at this point? Are there characters that have come more (or less) integral to the story as you’ve written? Though you may not need to do additional planning, it’s still a nice place to have a checkpoint against your own expectations.

Just Write Without Editing or Researching

In what may well become somewhat of a theme in some of these posts, one of the most important things you can do with the extended free time of a weekend is to just write. Don’t worry about your story being perfect at this point. You need to get words on paper11This is in no way a pep talk to myself about my own work in progress. I have no idea what you’re talking about..

There are a ton of distractions that can keep you from writing. Let’s assume for a moment though that you’re great at avoiding distractions on the internet12Like this blog post. Get back to work after you leave me a comment., from friends and family around you, or even from your pets13Please pet your cat. They deserve it. My cat kept me sane during my first NaNoWriMo adventure.. There’s still a pair of potential major distractions that’ll keep you from writing — editing and researching.

The editing sinkhole is easy to fall into. You reread your last paragraph or two to get back into the flow of your story after using the restroom. You realize that one of your sentences sounds awkward. Suddenly, you’ve rewritten seven pages of your story and you’ve actually cut 800 words from your word count. Editing can come later. Get the story out first, then make it pretty.

While I feel like researching is a necessary step to writing a good quality story, just be careful while you’re looking up things as you write. Hank Green recently did a great video about his process to writing “An Absolutely Remarkable Thing” wherein he talked about the importance to adding placeholders in your work when you need to research something. I can speak from experience when I say that adding placeholders I the easiest way to avoid a two-hour long trip down the rabbit hole on Wikipedia or TV Tropes.

Set Different, Larger Goals for Your Weekends

The goal of a consistent, steady 1,666 words per day every day in November sounds great, but is rarely realistic. You’ll have days where you’ll have hours on end to write, along with others where you may only get a couple of hundred words written down. Use your free weekends to set larger word count goals for yourself.

Maybe you want to get 5,000 words done on Saturday because you know you’re going to have a hectic week. Set that goal and try to reach it. I’ve talked to a couple of NaNoWriMo winners who used their weekends as ‘double days’, wherein they set a goal of 3,333 words each day, that way if there’s some reason they couldn’t write at all one weekday, they’d have it covered. However you go about setting that larger goal, using a weekend day to achieve it is an effective use of that non-work week time.

Schedule Writing Sprints…If That’s Your Thing

This last suggestion is going to be completely dependent on how you go about writing. Someone gave me this suggestion during each of my three NaNoWriMo attempts and I found that it did not work well for me. I’ll get into why in a moment. But for others, this is an amazing tip that can be really successful.

Writing sprints are short periods of time — usually 30-90 minutes in length — where you just sit and write as many words as you possibly can. They often done in stream of consciousness style (though not totally, as you’re still telling a story), with the intent of getting as much of your manuscript on paper as quickly as possible. Don’t worry about fixing anything at all at this point, even typos14Unless they’re particularly egregious.. Just write.

As I’ve evolved as a writer, this tactic has worked less and less for me. Because of the amount of effort I’ve put towards story continuity, even within NaNoWriMo, I’ve found that writing sprints stress me out more than they help me, causing me to get less done than I otherwise would have. I find that I do best if I have longer, uninterrupted periods of time where I’m not trying to rush as many words on the page as I can. With that said, if you’re concerned about word count, or if you really want to get your story out of your mind and onto the page, writing sprints are an amazing tool tactic to achieve this.


Like my NaNoWriMo tips series? Have questions for me about the topics posted daily? Do you just want to talk about your story and have nowhere else to do so? Leave a comment and join the discussion.

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NaNoWriMo Tips: Choosing Your Topic and Starting Your Novel

Happy November! It’s time for aspiring novelists everywhere to begin writing for NaNoWriMo15Well, maybe. We’ll talk about that more in a minute.. While you might have heard about NaNoWriMo — short for National Novel Writing Month — from others who have completed the project before, you’re new to this game. You might have an idea what you’re looking to write about and might just be looking for some guidance. It’s certainly possible that you have no clue what you want to write about. You just know that you’re writing a novel and you’re going to get it done.

I’m here to help you with that, aspiring NaNoWriMo winner. I’ve officially taken on NaNoWriMo three times (2011, 2012, and 2015) and used it as a month to generate a massive multi-departmental professional development designing spree on a couple of occasions (2013 and 2016). I’ve completed NaNoWriMo twice in my three attempts. My 2011 novel was a mainstream fiction book that focused on domestic violence committed against teens, while my 2015 novel was a dystopian sci-fi novel that explored the dangers of religion and partisan politics16This novel wasn’t foreboding at all……. Even though I’ve only been part of NaNoWriMo three times myself, I’ve helped give advice and guidance to a handful of folks who have taken on this arduous writing task over the years.

Over the course of November, I’ll be posting new blog posts on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays17There will be at least one bonus post on not these days. aimed at helping first time NaNoWriMo participants complete their goal of writing a 50,000 word story in November. These posts will generally be 750-1250 words, though today’s post will run a little longer due to this introduction. For those looking for my normal content, new posts will go up on Mondays as usual. You can find a list of the NaNoWriMo topics — as well as links to specific posts if you want to jump around — below. Links will be posted as they’re written.



There’s a dirty little secret that many NaNoWriMo writers have that first timers don’t know about. It’s that for many, NaNoWriMo is not solely this 50,000 word writing marathon. It’s a culmination of weeks (or months) of pre-writing, storyboarding, and other planning leading up to a massive writing project.

I didn’t know this the first time I took on NaNoWriMo. I was unemployed and looking for something to kill a lot of the free time I had between job interviews and applying for jobs. I had written a handful of short stories and wanted to turn one of them into a novel. I chose arguably the darkest story I had written to that point — one about a girl who had died from domestic violence, with the only memory of her being the fact that her killer left a pair of shoes at her grave each year — as my starting point for my story.

Choosing such a dark piece of subject matter for my first NaNoWriMo attempt was ill-advised for various reasons. It was not a topic I was well versed in, nor was it the story I enjoyed the most. What it was, however, was the story I felt had the most potential to make for a good novel. What led up to the events detailed in the short story? What if she had survived? What went through the mind of this woman before she died? These were all questions that I wanted to explore — and was woefully unprepared to handle tactfully or thoroughly.

With that all said, my first piece of advice would be to pick a story topic that you both want to talk about and would be really excited to tell the story of. That’s not to say you have to pick an idea to talk about. Maybe you have a really awesome character in mind and want to tell her/his/their story. Awesome. Do that. Perhaps you have this awesome setting for a high fantasy novel and would love to see how the people and creatures in that world live. Great. Go for it. If you do have a really dark topic that you want to talk about and are passionate about, take that chance too.

When I look back on my two successful NaNoWriMo attempts, I found that I started them both the same way. I had a vague idea of what I wanted to write about, a short story to go off of, and that’s it. Hell, the one year I did to pre-writing in October is the only year I didn’t finish (though that had nothing to do with the pre-writing…life just came up). The most important thing when starting your NaNoWriMo project is just that. Start writing.

I tend to frequent /r/nanowrimo as a lurker and one of the things that’s struck me the most is how many people think they need a fancy story planning program like Ulysses or Scrivner to write their first NaNoWriMo story. And sure, if you’ve been writing for years — maybe you’ve even written a novel before — but this is your first time doing NaNoWriMo, writing software could absolutely be helpful. That said, you definitely don’t need that to start. My 2011 story was completely written as WordPress posts18This is by far my favorite method. I love when people blog their NaNoWriMo stories so that I can follow long daily.. Both my 2015 story and the 2012 project19When I did end up working on it in early 2013. were both written in Microsoft Word. I’m writing my current work in progress in Google Docs. The first draft of two of the stories I wrote for my book were handwritten. Just get your story down and start working on it. You’ll be glad you did.

So then. What should you be trying to do in your first 4,000 or so words20I’m using this as a cut off as to complete 50,000 words, you’ll need to average 1,666 words a day. Considering the next post will come out on Saturday, I’m going to assume an eager writer may exceed that number slightly.? I’d recommend the following items in some order.

  • Introduce your main character(s) – If you’re going to be focusing on someone (or multiple someones throughout your story), get them involved early. To get your reader caring about your characters by the time the climax of your book hits, you need time to build that relationship.
  • Give some context to the story’s setting – This is particularly critical in high fantasy, sci-fi, and dystopian literature. But even if you’re just telling a love story in a small town, the people and places your main characters will interact with help to define who they are.
  • Start planting the seeds for your story’s main conflict – To do this, I’d recommend setting the stage for what is normal for your main characters. A good story usually comes out of change from the normalcy a main character lives in. If you can define what a normal day in the life of your main characters is like, it will help make the events they have to overcome more impactful down the line.

Finally, if I haven’t reiterated this point enough yet, don’t be afraid to write. You will make mistakes during NaNoWriMo. You’re not going to be happy with something you write. You may have inconsistencies in your story or you might even change how you feel about the story as you’re writing it. These are all okay — and we’ll address those items in time throughout the months. But if you don’t start writing, your story can’t become a reality and you cannot improve as a writer. NaNoWriMo is a long process. Every journey starts with a single step.


Like my NaNoWriMo tips series? Have questions for me about the topics posted daily? Do you just want to talk about your story and have nowhere else to do so? Leave a comment and join the discussion.

Support my writing on Patreon by pledging at this link.

Another Haunt

This post is a response to October 2018’s mid-month short story challenge. Click on the link in the previous sentence to read the prompt, share your story, and read those written by others.


“Dale! Dale, hurry up!” yelled Marty.

“I’ll just be a few more minutes!” Dale shouted back.

“Dale, come on,” said Marty as he floated through the living room towards Dale’s bedroom. “It’s the busiest night of the year for haunts and you’re spending hours getting ready. The Spectral Turnpike is going to be crammed with spirits trying to get to Earth tonight.”

“I know,” Dale replied. “It’ll just be a few minutes.”

“It’s not like there’s going to be press there. All the celebrity ghosts are going to the party Frieda Kahlo is throwing. The spookarazzi will have its hands full. No need to bust out the couture.”

Dale cracked his door open and poked his head out.

“Spookarazzi?” Dale said. “Really? You know they’re still called paparazzi in the spirit realm.”

“I’m just trying to be festive,” Marty countered.

“Yeah, well if you want to be festive, go finish putting up your lights. Our block won’t win any awards if your only decorations are some fake spiders sprinkled in your shrubs.”

“Fine,” said Marty as he floated to the door. “I’ll be back in ten minutes. If you’re not ready, I’m leaving without you. Last Halloween we hit the thick of traffic and it took six whole minutes to get to Earth. It’s a thirty second trip! I’m not dealing with that again.”

Marty shut the door behind him, leaving Dale to dress in silence. He smashed together a sparkling dark blue powder with a wispy black mass, forming a midnight blue amalgamation on the dresser in front of him. Dale slathered the concoction on his black sleeves, the powder fading quickly into the fabric. He finished rubbing the powder into his top, grabbed a sheathed katana from beside his dresser, and made his was out of the house.

“Took you long enough!” shouted Marty as he dangled lights from his roof.

Marty floated down to the ground and gave Dale a look over before uttering a disapproving scoff.

“A ninja? Again?” said Marty.

“It’s tradition,” replied Dale.

“Tradition for what? You go, scare a bunch of kids for a few hours, then come back and go get blitzed off your supernatural ass with me and the misses. We’ve been doing this for ten years! Try something new.”

Marty pointed across the street at twelve of their neighbors who were organizing themselves into a six by six formation.

“You see that, Dale?” said Marty. “They’re going as a hung jury. Complete with nooses and everything!”

“I don’t do group costumes,” replied Dale.

“It’s not about a group costume. Yeah, you could be the cat to my rat. I just want to make sure don’t get stuck doing the same thing every Halloween forever.”

“I won’t.”


Dale and Marty arrived on Earth at Midland Cemetery in the town of Norton Mills, Indiana. For ten years, Marty and Dale had chosen this cemetery as the start of their Halloween haunts. Cemeteries provided easy portals between the spectral world and Earth, which was particularly useful as spirits couldn’t move as freely on Earth as they could away from it. Though this was a source of frustration for Marty, Dale accepted it as the reality of his circumstances.

“See you back here at 10pm?” Marty asked.

“Yeah. Same as every other year.”

“If you make the Jenkins kid piss himself again this year, be sure to remember every detail.”

“I will, Marty. I always do.”

Marty floated off into the woods behind the cemetery, while Dale ducked behind trees, dancing through the shadows as he made his way towards a suburban neighborhood. Trick or treating was nearing its end, parents and small children making their way back into their homes as teens began to take over the streets.

Dale ducked into a nearby oak tree as teenage twin boys dressed as Freddie Kruger chased their unicorn-clad younger sister down the street. Dale closed his eyes and summoned up a strong gust of wind, blowing leaves up into the face of the twins, slowing them down briefly and allowing the girl to get away. Though Dale disliked using his supernatural powers to control earthly things (even during a haunt), it did provide him a surprising amount of joy to mess with people who were acting like assholes.

As Dale rounded the corner, he floated up to the roof of a small yellow house, allowing him to overlook a similarly designed blue house next door. 38 Carmody Lane. Though Dale participated in occasional haunts wherever he (or Marty) felt like throughout the year, this was the location for his Halloween haunt for the last ten years. It would remain that way for the foreseeable future, if Dale had any choice in the matter.

Dale floated off of the roof of the yellow house, taking care to make sure no living human noticed him doing so. He drifted through a closed second floor window of the blue home, entering a room lit by a small desk lamp by the wall to his left. Dale made his way back into the shadows of the corner, trying to stay as far away from the light as possible. After twenty minutes, a boy — around sixteen years of age — entered the room and sat down at the desk. He fiddled with the lamp, pointing it away from the corner Dale hid in.

“Are you there, dad?” the boy asked, staring into the corner.

“Yeah,” replied Dale.

“Thanks for coming again.”

“I can’t miss Halloween, Kenny. I wish I could come more, but this is the only time there’s enough paranormal activity that I can show up and ghost hunters won’t be tipped off to the consistency.”

“I know,” replied Kenny.

“How’s your sister?” asked Dale.

“Marci’s good. Just started eighth grade.”

“Is she here?”

“Nah,” said Kenny, “her and mom went to Grandma Engle’s house. They should be back late tonight. But you probably can’t stay that long.”

“Do you think she’ll ever want a visit one of these years?” Dale asked.

“She was three when you died, dad. I don’t know how much she even remembers you anymore.”

“Oh.”

Kenny sighed and put his head to his chest.

“That’s not what I meant.”

“I know,” replied Dale. “You’re probably right though. You at least had me around for six years.”

Dale examined Kenny, looking him up and down from a distance.

“How tall are you now?”

“Six one,” Kenny said.

“Are you swimming again?” asked Dale. “Or are you trying basketball?”

“Neither. Lifting in the offseason for baseball.”

“I guess that’s good.”

“Dad?”

“Yeah?”

“Can I see you?” asked Kenny. “Not in costume, I mean.”

“You know I can’t do that, son.”

“I know. But I have more memories of my dad dressed as a ghost ninja than I do of you alive. All I can see is your eyes.”

“It’s not my rule,” said Dale. “If I could change how I looked, this wouldn’t be an issue.”

“It just sucks,” stated Kenny.

“Yeah. It does.”

The sound of the doorbell ringing downstairs put an abrupt end to the conversation.

“Gerald going to get that?” asked Dale.

“Mom and Gerald are separated,” replied Kenny. “Have been a few months. Besides, it’s probably Olivia.”

“Olivia?”

“Yeah.”

“Girlfriend?”

“Yeah.”

“Well,” said Dale. “I’ll leave you two be. Just be safe.”

“I will. I love you, dad.”

“I love you too.”

Dale made his way back through the window and down Carmody Lane and back towards the cemetery. He sat for three hours atop a fading tombstone belonging to someone named Thomas Dickinson. Dale never met the man, but he clearly had comfortable taste in burial decor. As the occasional passerby would walk near the cemetery gates, Dale would make the wind howl lightly, just enough to make the person walk with a bit more purpose in their step, but not enough to frighten them.


“Are you sure you want to change costumes before you come to the party?” asked Marty. “It’s kind of tradition you come as a ninja at this point.”

“I’m sure,” replied Dale. “Tell Courtney I’ll be over shortly.”

“Don’t be too long. All the good spirits will be gone. Or, wait a really long time and then it will only be us bad spirits.”

“I see what you did there.”

Dale entered his home and made his way into the bedroom, shutting the door behind him. He placed the katana down by the dresser, then made his way to the wardrobe where he kept his haunting attire. Behind a pair of ragged suits, he pulled out a box with a new outfit he had bought a few years prior. Dusting off the container, he opened it, revealing a new sport coat and dress trousers. Dale placed the box on the dresser, shoving the bronze centerpiece atop the dresser out of the way, and stared at mirror on his wall.

Through the ninja mask, he could see his own eyes — blue as they had been in life, though hollow and absent of being. His eyes were one of the few features in his life that Dale liked, so he was happy they crossed over with him, at least partially.

The unfortunate reality was that in addition to his striking blue eyes crossing over to the spirit world with him, so did the rest of the physical features that Dale possessed when he died. He removed the mask from his ninja costume, revealing a bloodied exit wound from his suicide. While such a feature wouldn’t get a second look in the spirit realm, Dale could never bring himself to go to Earth with it uncovered. Even beyond the stigmatization he knew suicide held on Earth, he didn’t want Kenny or Marci to see him like this. He removed the ninja costume’s top and began to change for the party. Maybe next year his routine would be different.

Maybe.