Thursday, January 17, 2019

Reading and Writing About Ghosts

I probably read at least four true ghost story books a year, sometimes (a lot) more, and sometimes less, depending on what I can find. I've been reading this material for so long that it can be difficult to find books with stories that I don't already know. For that reason, I now look for collections of tales shared by those who have experienced something paranormal, since those stories will be new to me.

Lately, though, I've been struggling to get through my beloved books, and I've been trying to figure out why. I think I might have an idea. If you have ever read any true ghost stories, you will know that they center around a place or an incident -- or even series of incidents-- that happened to someone. The story will include all the details that can make your hair stand on end or give you chills. That's the fun part! I think what's been on my mind is that most of these stories don't have any kind of resolution. Most of the time, no one ever finds out why this is happening. Why does this particular ghost haunt this place? Or person? Why does it disturb one special room, or do one specific action every night at ten o'clock? The details are always fascinating, but there are never, or rarely, any kind of explanation behind the haunting.

I think that may be why I write what I do: it lets me gather all the untidy and unexplained bits together and resolve them into one nice coherent story. By the time a reader finishes one of my books, if she or he doesn't understand the story behind the ghost, then I haven't done my job. 

I am currently reading a book of shared ghost stories that was put out by podcasters Tony and Jenny Brueski. Their podcast is called Real Ghost Stories Online and is centered around supernatural experiences that are called in by listeners. And the stories are both fascinating and frightening. But of course, for the majority of the tales, there is no explanation that can be shared. People move into houses and start experiencing unworldly occurrences, and who knows why that is happening?

The Dead Files, my favorite reality paranormal TV show, usually resolves the story, or at least a great deal of it, by the end. So did The Haunting of... with medium Kim Russo. And so did The Haunted Collector. Those shows are always at the top of my list and I think it's because they usually had some sort of conclusion. Don't get me wrong, though. I do still enjoy stories that investigate but do not present an explanation for what is going on in a haunted place. I liked Ghost Hunters and Celebrity Ghost Stories. I like Ghostly Encounters. And on a lighter note, I totally loved The Lowe Files! Those are sort of like "The-Journey-is-The-Point" kind of narratives and are fun in their own right. But I think that the ones that also have an explanation hit a different note with me, and so I go from "That was fun!" to "That was fun and really, really satisfying!" Since we're talking about the supernatural here, even I admit that sounds ridiculous, but there it is.

And so I guess I write my own stories so that there is a known beginning, middle, and end to the main haunting in my novel. (I qualify that because the ghost stories that my characters tell on Thursday night are closer to reality and frequently have no explanation.) But the novels I write will include a resolution to the ghost story. Cassie Valentine and Michael Penfield make sure of that.

And I guess that's the beauty of fiction. It lets me resolve, tidy, satisfy, and complete the story so that everyone goes away with a sense of completion. Unfortunately, life just isn't quite like that.

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