The local writers who competed in The Bulletin’s second annual Halloween Fiction Contest gave staff story reviewers quite the fright.

Authors who submitted entries offered a variety of short stories, including tales featuring murderous maniacs, indescribable monsters and supernatural characters. Limited to 650 words, these entries are never-before published, original work written by Central Oregon residents. The winner, Robert L. Perrine, will receive a $100 cash prize for his story, “Mr. Wolf.” Tamara Marnell, the second-place finisher, gets a $50 cash prize for “The Haunted Library.” And Emily Burnham earns honorable mention for “The Dog.”

First place: ‘Mr. Wolf’ by Robert L. Perrine

This is Perrine’s second year entering the contest. He snagged second place last year with the lyrical, candy-filled “Witch’s Delight.” “Mr. Wolf,” however, features a growing sense of dread, hair-­raising detail and supernatural surprises.

“‘Mr. Wolf’ is a bit more typical to what I write,” said Perrine, 37, whose other work has been published in various literary journals. “This one is still kid-friendly, but I definitely wanted something that was a little scary, like a real monster and some real danger to (the protagonist). … I want to emit emotion out of people and connect them to the work.”

Perrine said he primarily wrote “Mr. Wolf” for readers ranging in age from 8 to 12 — the same demographic for which he wrote his first novel, “The Bookshop and the Junglest,” which was released last year.

Working close to The Bulletin’s contest deadline, Perrine wrote the first draft of the story in an hour and revised and polished in another session. While some writers are “planners and plotters” who chart out where a story should go before they begin writing, Perrine is a “pants-er,” or someone who “writes by the seat of his pants,” he said. He wanted to write about a little girl, her stuffed animal, Mr. Bear, and a monster climbing into her room, but he didn’t know what would happen.

“I thought maybe Mr. Bear would save her,” said Perrine, adding that a childhood sock monkey named George served as inspiration for the teddy bear.

“Stories are ­rarely well-behaved things, and it wanted to pull in the direction of … maybe she is more of a dangerous monster than Mr. Wolf is. It was just what the story wanted. … I love seeing what these characters do.”

Second place: ‘The Haunted Library’ by Tamara Marnell

Tamara Marnell accomplished two firsts with “The Haunted Library” — it’s the first time she has published a short story, and the first time she has written horror.

“I tend to write romantic comedy,” said Marnell, a Redmond resident who is presently writing a modernization of Jane Austen’s “Pride & Prejudice” that she has set in Bend. She is also serializing the romantic comedy “Lizzie Bennet’s Diary” on Wattpad, an online reading and writing community.

“Writing horror was a stretch,” she said. “Usually my intention when writing romantic comedy is to make people laugh and feel good. This is the exact opposite — to make them feel creeped out and uneasy.”

“The Haunted Library” is about a fateful encounter at a campus library, but there is nothing romantic nor comedic about the meeting between the Killer Poet and the college student narrator, who’s ducked out from Halloween festivities by curling up with a book after-hours.

“Hey, pretty girl,” the Killer Poet says early in the story, wearing clothes that looked stolen from the “Titanic” wardrobe and ripped with dull scissors. “What’re you doing here all by yourself?”

Marnell, 30, said she didn’t set out to make the story a twisted, “Gone Girl”-style romance, yet the Central Oregon Community College librarian did want to set a spooky story in a library to amuse her co-workers. She also liked the idea of using a single phrase — “I like the quiet” — to bookend the story. “I thought it would be fun to write a story that is sandwiched by that line. I really love stories where there is a line where you think it means one thing but, after a few revelations, the exact same line has a completely different effect.”

Honorable mention: ‘The Dog’ by Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham, 33, reimagined a scary story she heard as a kid while growing up in England.

“It’s interesting how those kinds of stories translate,” Burnham said. “You have the same kind of scary stories we have in the UK, you just have slightly different changes to them.”

Last year, Burnham, who lives in Bend, joined a small writer’s group with her husband and a friend. Around Halloween last year, one of the group’s early writing exercises involved writing a story about a haunted house in as few words as possible, she said.

“I thought it would be fun if … I could give (the story) a little bit of a twist to see if it would hold that same fear as it did when I was a kid,” Burnham said.

When The Bulletin’s Halloween Fiction Contest returned this year, Burnham revisited the story which she titled “The Dog.” She added about 50 words and polished it. As the public relations and communications manager for the Council on Aging of Central Oregon, Burnham is no stranger to the editing process. Burnham also began working on a novel about a year ago that has morphed from fantasy to “dark fiction,” she said.

No matter the piece’s length, however, word economy reigns supreme.

“There is a tendency to think we need a lot of words in order to set the scene,” Burnham said. “I actually think some of the scariest writing is when there are gaps and silence left in the story to allow your imagination to wander.”

In the ending of “The Dog,” a revelation leaves the reader hanging.

“The real horror is what happens after you stop reading,” Burnham said.

— Reporter: 541-617-7816, pmadsen@bendbulletin.com

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