Skip to main content

10-Minute Literary Halloween Costumes: Dress Like Your Favorite Character

Rather than dressing up as a pirate or a sexy nurse this Halloween, why not take a nerdier approach and go out as your favorite book character? Here are a few of our favorite literary Halloween costume ideas that you can pull off in 10 minutes. Got any of your own?

(Also, consider carrying a copy of the book with you for the uninitiated—it simplifies the explanations, and if you get trapped at a bad party, it's never a bad thing to have a copy of Moby-Dick to flee into.)

Don Quixote (Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes)
Fashion a ragtag suit of armor out of old junk you’ve got sitting around. (Hey, it worked for Quixote.) All you really need is a roll of duct tape or a stapler and some cardboard. Then, take the pole from an old shovel and fashion a lance. Spraypaint it all silver. The junkier and more DIY the costume, the better. Depending on how much you have to drink throughout the night, find and attack windmills.

Book Character Costumes for Halloween

Captain Ahab (Moby-Dick, Herman Melville)
Craft a DIY peg leg (or, well, limp, if you’re on that much of a time budget). Make a fake harpoon out of a dowel rod with a cardboard or foam tip, and attach a rope to it that goes around your neck. For added flair, bring a cup of Starbucks and mutter about damned dirty white whales all night.

Book Character Costumes for Halloween

Ishmael (Moby-Dick, Herman Melville)
Just get one of those “MY NAME IS” nametags and write “Ishmael” on it. (Courtesy of the brilliant Half-Price Books gift card … which you could always buy in the denomination of $1 and attach to your shirt.)

Book Character Costumes for Halloween

Hester Prynne (The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne)
Round up your finest colonial-looking dress, cut an “A” out of some red fabric, and you’re good to go. Bonus: You only have to wear the A for one night, versus the rest of your life.

Book Character Costumes for Halloween

Napoleon the Pig (Animal Farm, George Orwell)
Run to the Halloween store that has by now been pillaged and pick up a pig nose. Since you already wear clothes and walk upright, you can call it a day and go as the villainous swine.

Lady Macbeth (Macbeth, William Shakespeare)
Put on a dressing gown and sleepwalk your way through a Halloween party scrubbing away at an invisible blood stain. Say, “Out, damned spot!”

Book Character Costumes for Halloween

Lord of the Flies (William Golding)
Fashion a crown out of cardboard (or, heck, get one at Burger King). Then, drop by a Halloween or novelty store and pick up a couple bags of plastic flies. Hot-glue them all over the garment of your choice, crown yourself, and you’ve become the Lord of the Flies. (Yeah, missing the point, but we still like it!) For an alternate take, glue cheap plastic costume jewelry to your clothes and become The Lord of the Rings.

Naked Lunch/The Spy Who Came in From the Cold
And now that we’re pondering semi-cheesy symbolic book ideas … how about donning a flesh-colored body suit and putting brown bags/sandwiches over strategic locations? Naked Lunch. Or wear a suit, carry a fake gun, sprinkle some fake snow on yourself, and shiver a lot? The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. (Though admittedly this one has a high potential to just look like a spy with dandruff.)

Holden Caulfield (The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger)
All you really need is a houndstooth jacket, a red hunting hat, a pack of cigarettes, and the ability to deem everything and anything around you a phony.

Holly Golightly (Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Truman Capote)
Go ahead and rip off Audrey Hepburn’s classic portrayal in the 1961 film. Jewelry and a giant cigarette holder (available at costume stores) are a must.

Book Character Costumes for Halloween

The Narrator (Swann’s Way, Marcel Proust)
Drop by a boutique bakery and pick up a madeleine cake, which was immortalized in Proust’s famous series. Then carry it to parties, waxing philosophical.

Book Character Costumes for Halloween

Santiago (The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway)
Find a fishing pole (even though he didn’t use one—you don’t want to bring a harpoon and be confused with Ahab), and then drop by an appliance store (Best Buy, etc.) and ask for a discarded dishwasher box. Sketch out a giant marlin skeleton on it, and cut it out. Dream of lions.

Book Character Costumes for Halloween

Dorian Gray (The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde)
Buy two identical cheap 8x10 frames. Print off an 8x10 of yourself (in which you’re looking exceptionally handsome/beautiful), and an 8x10 of a monster in a similar pose. Frame both, glue the frames together back to back, and you’ve got Dorian Gray. Be as vain as possible for the duration of the evening.

Book Character Costumes for Halloween

Humbert Humbert (Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov)
Wear some dapper professor clothes, carry an American Girl doll. Done. (Yikes.)

Book Character Costumes for Halloween

Backup ideas: Go as your favorite author: Strap on Harry Potter glasses and an eyepatch for James Joyce. Dress in Victorian finery, add a green carnation, and you’re Oscar Wilde. Grow or fabricate a ginormous beard to be Whitman, Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky, interchangeably.

Book Character Costumes for Halloween

Happy Halloween. Have fun.

Zachary Petit is an award-winning journalist, and the senior managing editor of Writer’s Digest magazine.

Also, here's a note from Writer's Digest editor Jessica Strawser, concerning a contest she had last week:

Giveaway Winner + More Tips on Finding Inspiration

Huge thanks to all of you who read last week's post on How to Be More Creative and shared such interesting snapshots of the most unexpected places you've found story ideas. We loved reading all of your comments, which transported us everywhere from a haunted castle in England to a backyard horse stable—and served as a fascinating illustration of the adage that you really can find inspiration anywhere! (You can read all the wonderful reader-submitted tales of unexpected jolts of creativity here.)

The randomly chosen winner of our free issue giveaway is: Cre8ive. Cre8ive, please fire off a quick email to us at writersdigest [at] fwmedia [dot] com with your full name and mailing address, and we’ll get your copy of the November/December issue of Writer's Digest out to you right away!

And if you missed our post on How to Be More Creative (which included 3 Tips for Making the Most of Your Writing Ideas, fresh from the brand-new issue of WD), please check it out now! It's not too late to join the conversation.

Like what you read from WD online? Check us out in print, or on your favorite mobile device

PLUS! Are you going to take part in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this November? Make sure you’ve got everything you need to succeed! Check out our special NaNoWriMo care package.

Writer's Digest Interview | Marlon James Quote

The Writer's Digest Interview: Marlon James

Booker Prize–winning author Marlon James talks about mythology and world-building in his character-driven epic Moon Witch, Spider King, the second book in his Dark Star Trilogy in this interview from the March/April 2022 issue of Writer's Digest.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: New Podcast Episode, a Chance at Publication, and More!

This week, we're excited to announce our newest podcast episode, your chance to be published, and more!

David Adams Cleveland: On Truth Revealing Itself in Historical Fiction

David Adams Cleveland: On Truth Revealing Itself in Historical Fiction

Award-winning novelist David Adams Cleveland discusses the timeliness of his new novel, Gods of Deception.

Lisa Jewell | Writer's Digest Interview Quote

The WD Interview: Lisa Jewell

The New York Times-bestselling British author discusses creating thrilling plot twists and developing characters in her 19th novel, The Night She Disappeared, in this interview from the Jan/Feb 2022 issue of Writer's Digest.

5 Tips for Successfully Pitching Literary Agents in Person (That Worked for Me at the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference)

5 Tips for Successfully Pitching Literary Agents in Person (That Worked for Me at the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference)

Author Anat Deracine found her agent at Writer’s Digest Annual Conference. Now she’s sharing what she’s learned to help other writers become authors. Here are her 5 tips for successfully pitching literary agents in person.

Tips for Reading Poetry in Front of an Audience

8 Tips for Reading Your Poetry in Front of an Audience

Poet's Market editor and published poet Robert Lee Brewer shares eight tips for reading your poetry in front of an audience.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Strength Lost

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Strength Lost

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, let a character lose their powers.

Sharon Short | Point of View Quote 1

Managing Point of View: Mythbusting

In the first of this three-part series, novelist and WD columnist Sharon Short breaks down 7 of the most common myths about choosing which POV is right for your story.

Channel Your Inner Authorpreneur for Your Writing Labor of Love

Channel Your Inner Authorpreneur for Your Writing Labor of Love

As self-publishing continues to become an attractive and popular options for writers, it’s important to know what you’re getting into and to have the right expectations. Here, author and entrepreneur Tom Vaughan shares how to channel your inner “authorpreneur” to help your book find its readers.