Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Ghost Stories

I have only one good ghost story and it's enough to make me believe in wispy souls who refuse to cross over until they get whatever they want, sort of like the angsty teenage version of the dead.

Now, let's just hope the ghosts in my neighborhood don't Halloween haunt me in retribution for comparing them to recalcitrant kids, ages 13 and over. And someday, I promise, I'll tell my ghost story. But today I'm going to talk about a different kind of ghost story.

What happens when you start a story and then it gives up the ghost, goes kaput with all the finesse of a bike tire slowly losing its air.

Most of my ghost stories don't do anything other than haunt my hard drive, but some of them, the ones I've made up for the kids in lieu of a traditional bedtime story, have taken on an ill-fated life of their own.

Last summer I created a story about a mother with four sons who were each given impossible tasks to complete before they could accompany her on a difficult journey. After we finished the third son's task of singing a beautiful song without ever opening his mouth, I lost interest.

The kids, however, did not. "Please mom," they begged. "What happens, what are they going to do on their quest."

"That was a vacation story," I told them, hoping that would buy me enough time so that they would a) forget it or b) I'd get reinspired to tell it, but sadly neither of those things came to pass.

"Time to finish the four sons and queen mother story," my daughter announced on our next vacation.

I tried to think of some way to wiggle out of it and failed. In fact the whole story was a failure since I ended it by saying something like "The mother was very proud of her sons and they all went home and had dinner together."

"Really?" said my daughter, a critic at age ten. "That's it. That's kind of a bad ending."

"I agree," I said. (Remember, NEVER argue with critics) "But I just gave up the ghost."

"Hmmm," she said, eyebrows knitted together, deciding if she was going to let me off that easily.

Fortunately for everyone she decided to give me a pass and demanded an actual ghost story, in lieu of the sad little unfinished stories floating around in my brain.

And so I complied. Happy endings all around!

Do you have ghost stories? Real or writerly. In the spirit of October share them below :)


Unknown said...

Do I ever know exactly what you are talking about! Oh my gosh, I have a werewolf story that I started writing with my oldest nephew. (I got him into werewolves age 5 when I showed him the old Wolfman from 1944. He was hooked!) We haven't worked on the story in years so it's haunting my hard drive. LOL I also have couple where I started strong, then they petered out or gave up the ghost so to speak.

jenny milchman said...

Ha ha, your daughter is wise--and so are you. I want a better ending to that one, too! Surely the fourth task was so impossible that...

I'm haunted by the possibilities of things that could've been...and I'm so desperately glad they weren't. You know what I mean? If I'd stayed in my first college, and hadn't transferred, I never would've met my husband. If my two friends hadn't gotten pregnant at those exact times and put pressure on me to do the same, I wouldn't have these children. If I had gotten published back when I would've sworn to you I was ready, but wasn't...

Those are my ghosts.

Angela Cothran said...

I want to write a ghost story. As a kid they were my favorite thing.

Julie Flanders said...

Come on, now I want to know the fourth task too LOL. ;) Your daughter cracks me up.

I actually love ghost stories and have a ghost in my WIP. I'm dying to hear your ghost story now! :)

Jenny S. Morris said...

I have a few. One in particular I know that I'm going to finish. It started out as a story for my kids. ;)

Johanna Garth said...

Melissa, we were talking about werewolves just this morning. Turns out they're a myth! Who knew ;)

Jenny, coulda, woulda, shoulda. Or couldnta, wouldnta, shouldnta. Whichever way, the possibilities are endless.

Angela, nothing like a creepy ghost story.

Julie, I know!! She wants to hear it too and I promsie I'll write the real ghosty story sometime. It's deliciously creepy.

Jenny, if you finish it then it's no longer a ghost story that haunts your brain or hard drive.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Sounds like you still need to finish it.
And hope you're hopping around the blogfest posts. You might be surprised...

Neurotic Workaholic said...

I don't have any ghost stories, because I am easily frightened and I tend to believe that what happens in ghost stories is real. That's why I can't even watch horror movies, because the few films that I've seen continue to "haunt" me.

Kristen Wixted said...

I am not a ghost story creator, but I make a mean milk-jug skeleton! Does that count?
Answer: Yes. Yes it does, Kristen.
I am not going to say anything about your favorite baseball team, lest I jinx the Tigers.
And it haunts me forever!

Nicki Elson said...

That's so cute your kids wouldn't let you weasel out of it so easily. Maybe you should tell them to give a real ending.

I do this thing where I'll come up with what I think is a great title or opening line for a story...and then I got nothin'.

Love your play on words - always so clever.

Carol Kilgore said...

I have a real ghost story that I'm trying to figure out how to turn into a writerly one. It's much too long to go into here. Love the photos here :)

M Pax said...

I did experience a real ghost. Never would have believed they existed otherwise. Still trips me out to think about it.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

I definitely have stories that "give up the ghost" and float away into the ephemera. But I hope I learn something from them, even if they never amount to anything but wisps. In many cases, I learn what *doesn't* work, but that's valuable, too, isn't it?

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

I don't necessarily believe in ghosts, but I do like scary fictional stories. However, since you got me thinking about it, I'm going to tell you a real life ghost story that was told to me by my mother's friend Nabuko who lives in Japan.

Before the tsunami that hit Sendai, there was another one that struck Hokkaido in 1993. Nobuko said that she woke up in the middle of the night and saw her mother standing at the end of the bed. Her mother was supposed to be on vacation in Hokkaido and it had been just struck by the earthquake. She looked at her mother and said, "I'm so sorry," and then the figure vanished. She knew at that instant that her mother had died.

They never found her body and assumed it got washed out to sea.

True story.

Botanist said...

I guess you could say my current WIP is about the ghost in the machine. And it's a bit of a ghost story in the sense you talked about, too. I started it, worked on it, then ran out of steam. Every time I re-read what I'd written, I loved it but just didn't know how to proceed. It took nearly three years to rekindle the love and start making progress again.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I have an idea for a novelette length story that involves a ghost.

The old farmhouse I grew up in was haunted and I remember hearing things move, strange knocks on the wall, and even saw a person one time. They all centered around the dining room.

Barbara Watson said...

Love the honesty of kids -- especially when they are our very own.

Morgan said...

Ooooo... I love spooky stuff! My book I just finished is a ghost story... and love the kid story! LOL. :)

Johanna Garth said...

Alex, thanks for the tip :)

Neurotic, some movies I saw as a kid still haunt me.

Kristen, all I can say is Go Yankees!!

Nicki, I'm a big believer in ideas are cheap, but execution is hard.

Thanks Carol. Sound like a great idea.

MPax...inquiring minds...!

Dianne, absolutely.

Michael, thanks so much for commenting with that cool ghost story. Creepy!

Barbara, kids, critics, kind of the same;)

Morgan, which book was it? I love a good ghost story!

The Bookworm said...

It does sound like you've got a clever little critic there :)

As for ghosts and things that go bump in the night, I do have one story to share.
When I was around 11 years old I was alone in my bedroom playing with my dolls, when I got the sudden urge to look out into the hallway. When I turned my head to look, I saw a black shadow 'walk' across the hallway and go through the wall. I say 'walking' but I mean it was the creepiest limp, like it wasn't a human shadow. I remember the sheer terror at the sight of that black shadow, and I felt it was bad. After a few moments of being frozen to the spot, I ran downstairs and was so shaken up I never told anyone until many years later. As an adult, I researched black shadows and it turns out they are referred to as the 'shadow people' and are wicked spirits. They tend to show themselves to children. I'm not even kidding! I still get the chills thinking of it.