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