Monday, December 14, 2020

Spooky Winter Writing Ideas

Winter is the perfect time to cozy up by a roaring fire and write some truly terrifying tales. Sure, Halloween offers some fun frights, but there's no spookier sensation than being snowed in on a long winter night. So pop some marshmallows in your hot chocolate and settle in for these spine-tingling snippets of winter inspiration.

Here Kitty, Kitty by Bats Langley

Do you know about the Yule Cat? According to Icelandic folklore, this massive feline lurks in the countryside, waiting to viciously devour anyone who hasn't received new clothes by Christmas Eve. Whoever said sweaters and socks make boring gifts better think again. 

Krampus greeting cards

We all know Krampus, the chain-wearing half-goat, half-demon, who hits naughty children with sticks, before stuffing them in his sack to be drowned, eaten or dragged off to Hell. Delightful. Of course, his greeting cards may not cater to everyone's tastes. But winter is the perfect time to give this murderous fellow a modern twist. Why not create your own winter monster to knock Krampus off his hellish throne?

Yuki-onna (ゆき女) from the Hyakkai-Zukan by Sawaki Suushi

The Yuki-onna is a spirit or yokai from Japanese folklore, often referred to as the snow woman. She appears on snowy nights, leaving no footprints, and can disappear into mist or a wisp of snow if threatened. Some say this beautiful spirit started life as a woman who perished in the cold. Now she uses her icy breath to kill unsuspecting travelers, lead travelers astray or occasionally suck the life force of weak-willed men. Variations and legends abound, but this powerful figure could certainly inspire a few shivery tales.

Figures of Grýla and her husband on the main street of Akureyri, Iceland

Forget about Krampus. Let's head back to Iceland to meet Gryla, aka the Christmas Witch. This resident of the hinterlands loves to steal misbehaving children to add a little spice to her winter stew. Gryla, which translates loosely to growler, has been described as Iceland's first feminist, doing whatever she wants, including eating her husband on one especially boring winter afternoon. Read more on Smithsonian Mag's website, and let Gryla serve as some gruesome inspiration for you this holiday season.

That's it for our stomach-turning tour of winter terrors. I hope you've found a little inspiration for your next spooky tale, or simply another reason to stay safe by the fire over the long winter months.


KIM VENTRELLA is the author of the middle grade novels The Secret Life of Sam (Fall 2020, HarperCollins), Hello, Future Me (Aug. 2020, Scholastic), Bone Hollow and Skeleton Tree, as well as a contributor to the middle grade horror anthology, Don’t Turn Out the Lights. Her works explore difficult topics with big doses of humor, whimsy and hope. Kim has held a variety of interesting jobs, including children’s librarian, scare actor, Peace Corps volunteer, French instructor and overnight staff person at a women’s shelter, but her favorite job title is author. She lives in Oklahoma City with her dog and co-writer, Hera. Find out more at or follow her on Twitter and Instagram @kimventrella.

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