We only have two more #IWSG First Wednesdays in 2022. Can you believe that? I’m officially on break, so I wrote this post before I took off. But I look forward to my favorite holiday on October 31, and when I return, I’ll stop in to say hi to you and catch up on all that I’ve missed while I’ve been off exploring Sicily. In the meantime this post covers a lot of bases: an interesting monthly IWSG question, some thoughts on writing a ghost story, and an announcement of H.R. Sinclair’s new book. So let’s go!
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This month’s question is, as all of them are, optional.
What do you consider the best characteristics of your favorite genre?
Since I’m rushing to pack and find my passport, I’m going to skip this month’s question and let others have a go at it.
Some thoughts on writing a ghost story
It’s time for ghosts and rattling chains and cold, eerie nights. It’s time to pull out your Poe collection and read until you’re sufficiently scared and can’t turn off the lights. Maybe this is when you might think, “I’ll write a ghost story!” If that idea has crossed your mind, here are a few pointers for where to start.
This category of fiction seems to be divided into two major camps: the really scary and the “cozy” ghost stories. Between these extremes, I’ve sampled ones that are what I call the scary, but not-so-much ones, and I admit to liking these the best.
Most of us are familiar with Stephen King’s The Shining, and I haven’t found a book about ghosts that scares me more, so I’d rank that one at the top end of spine-tingling. At the other end of the spectrum, are books like Tall Tails Secret Book Club: The Secret Library Cozy Mysteries by CeeCee James or A Scandal in Boohemia by Gwen Gardner. These are slightly spooky and fun.
The first decision ghost story writers have to make is which type they want to craft. If they’re headed toward the Stephen King side of things, the ghostly presence can be of the paranormal ilk, seen or unseen (the scariest choice), it’s malignant and fear-inducing—the cause of the unexplained events. On the other hand, if it’s a story that warms your heart instead of chilling your bones, the ghost(s) become characters with names, a history, physical characteristics, and personalities.
Even with a story that has a medium scare factor, it might help to think about what scares you most when you set out to write a ghostly tale. For me, that’s when I’m alone in a dark space, especially when there’s something I can detect, but it emanates from some unexplainable source—a hint of fingers brushing across my back, a voice I sense more than hear…that kind of thing.
It’s also important to increase the creep factor as the book moves forward. Whispered words or a brush of chilled air in a first scene might introduce the ghost, but the next time there will have to be something more concrete–maybe a sighting.
Be sure to note the details about your ghost: when or if it appears, how it enters and leaves, the way it looks or how the character(s) react to it. Is there anything that signals the ghost’s arrival? Can your ghost move things? Does it float or walk? Pass through walls, open doors? Is there a specific time the ghost arrives or can it come at all hours? How did the person die? When did he/she die?
And then the setting. Here’s where you can explore all kinds of possibilities. Does everything happen on a wind-swept moor or in a New York townhouse? Is the ghost tied to a place or does it follow the fleeing person it haunts?
It’s always good to read some examples and get the feeling for what’s been done before, but then become creative. Just because there are traditions, doesn’t mean you can’t find something fresh for your story.
Here are two links.
I’m sure there are some writers here who might like to chime in with more suggestions about crafting a good ghost story, so check the comments.
And now for a new addition to the ghostly tales to enjoy.
Oscar the ghost dwells happily in his cozy cottage, where he hides from creatures that lurk in the dark. After a mysterious message arrives, he must find the courage to go out and discover what’s waiting for him. Will he be brave enough or will the monsters send him rushing back home?
About the Author
H.R. Sinclair is a left-handed hermit prepping for the squirrel apocalypse. She writes fantastical stories and visits cemeteries for inspiration.
Quote of the Month: “Be hole, be dust, be dream, be wind/Be night, be dark, be wish, be mind,/Now slip, now slide, now move unseen,/Above, beneath, betwixt, between.”
― Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book