The Professor enters the air conditioned classroom.  He turns immediately to the white board and writes Writing 666: Q&A.  Those in attendance mutter to each other while sneaking glances at this man who proposes to be a beacon of education, yet looks like he’d be more comfortable at a Grateful Dead concert.  Certainly administration wouldn’t allow this long-haired, bearded maniac in a classroom.  Certainly he should be cast out to the fringes of society.  Certainly he can’t be the Professor.  Yet there he stands.

“Good morning.”  He rubs his chin and stares.  Many students fidget and shift.  The Professor smiles at this, enjoying their discomfort.  “I will answer one question and one question only.  Then I’ll leave because I’m tired, I don’t want to be here, and it smells faintly of nacho cheese in this room.  The person who asks the question will get an ‘A’ for the day.”  He pauses for dramatic effect.  “Everyone else gets an ‘F.'”

The students look at each other.  Obviously they don’t believe him, but they should.  A few begin to complain, but the smart ones raise their hands.  The Professor points to a woman with long black hair.  “You.  What’s your name?”

“Indigo Ravenwood.”

“Your question?”

She looks around at the other students, who are not happy.  She shrugs.  “Is it absolutely necessary for an author (or wannabe) to keep up a facade of niceness?  Not just for the blog, but future readers.  Or should we let our dark side out as often as possible?”

The Professor rubs his chin.  “So what, you’re a sociopath?”

“No, I’m–”

“A serial killer?  A nutter?  Sure sounds like it with all this ‘dark side’ talk.  Maybe I should call the police.  Maybe I should–”

Indigo jumps up.  “No!”  The other students watch enraptured.  This is better than texting any day.  “It was just a question.”

The Professor smiles.  “Sit down.”  She does so reluctantly.  “Okay, no cops.  But if you come to class with blood all over your clothes…”  His smile broadens; he doesn’t finish this thought.  “Now then, enough silliness.  The answer depends on what you mean by ‘niceness.’  For instance, no matter how deranged your dark side is, I wouldn’t recommend berating blog followers, or responding negatively (or at all) to bad reviews, or revealing that you’re a Nazi sympathizer.”

The Professor goes to the white board and writes But it’s okay to be a little crazy. “Readers will forgive a little dark insanity, especially coming from horror writers.  That’s an important point to note: who is your audience?  Horror readers might delight in a few dead rodent pictures on my blog, but Young Adult readers or Romance readers are less likely to find it charming.  If you’re writing Romance and find yourself desiring darker, bloodier, nastier things, you may be in the wrong genre.”  He goes back to the white board: Be true to yourself.

“Be yourself.  For the most part, readers appreciate an honest portrayal.  This doesn’t mean you have to get personal on your blog.  The things you put on the internet are there for anyone to see.  Don’t write anything that will come back and bite you on the ass.  But many times readers of blogs are also fellow writers and become something of an extended community or family.”

On the board, he writes, Develop your brand.  “Finally, some writers like to think of their website, their image, the work they write, as being a ‘brand.’  When they write blog entries, they are always thinking of this brand, how consumer perception will shift, and how it will effect sales.  You may not want to go that far, but it’s something to consider.  Writing is a business.  Your internet presence should never hurt sales, and if you’re doing it right, hopefully it will help.”

The Professor lets out a long breath and wipes sweat from his forehead.  The wall clock indicates he’s been at it for a full five minutes.  In other words, way too long.  He throws up his arms.  “I’m done.  Indigo gets an ‘A.’  Everyone else fails.”

The students are upset.  They grumble and complain.  The Professor smiles and nods as he backs out the door, closes it, and quietly locks them in.  Safe keeping until next time.

If you would like to attend the Professor’s next class, address your writing related questions to HorrorWriterContest (AT) gmail (DOT) com.  Make sure you turn the (AT) and (DOT) into what they need to be.