A compelling ghost story

by Abida
(England)

Question: I am trying to write a young adult supernatural/gothic ghost story. But that's as far as my mind goes - a young adult supernatural ghost story. Might as well stop at young adult. Here's the thing, I was a teenager only three years ago and yet all my 'teenage knowledge banks' have dried up. I can't for the life of me write something genuinely 'teen-aged', 'scary' and 'supernatural' without sounding like the big ol' cliche monster coughing up pieces of half-read 'Twilight', 'The Summoning' and any teenage why-my-life-sucks series. And worst of all I feel that everything in the supernatural genre is cliche that I can't find the originality in vampires or aliens (my preferred choice of uncanny monsters - heck, even mermaids are on that list) that I have resorted to a choice (ghosts) that I can't seem to conjure well even out of pure interests. And now, my interest has dwindled. Any tips to fuel my interests and help with this?


Answer: Yes Stop trying to write a story like the stories you've read -- with all their cliches -- and write something that matters to you.

Try to find a character who you can fall in love with. Not a generic teen but a unique person with a personality that resonates with you. Perhaps make their age secondary. Don't give them cliched concerns. Give them concerns and traits that are theirs alone. Make their situation uniquely theirs.

Look for a story concept that you can feel deeply about. Write the story you wish someone would write.

Why are all these monsters in YA fiction interchangeable? Because they symbolize the same type of primal emotion. And yet, in the best stories, they are not interchangeable. The emotion behind a ghost is different than what underlies a werewolf or an alien. One writer's vampires are different from another's vampires because they mean something profoundly different to each writer -- because each writer has a different perspective and a different set of feelings.

You might try asking yourself what's wrong with all the cliched and trite stories you've read. Why do they fail to touch you deeply?

Then look for a story idea that does strike you as profound, that is completely different from anything you've read before, that you can connect with deeply.

Another tip: take the worst cliche you know, one that you absolutely hate, and try to write a story concept that completely reverses it or spins it in a new direction. See if that idea awakens strong emotions in you. If so, you may be on the right track.

Comments for A compelling ghost story

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May 02, 2016
ghost story
by: Phil Birch

I'm currently writing a story about a ghost from his perspective. How about looking at that possibility

May 04, 2016
Very helpful
by: Abida

You're right, I suppose I was too caught up in that sort of generic YA glory that I seemed to have forgotten what made my stories unique.

Thank you, I also find the tip very helpful and an interesting and hopefully effective take on writing a story - I am going to attempt doing that.

And good to know, Phil, I'm actually also trying the whole ghost perspective out.

May 14, 2016
Bummer
by: Kelly

Just started doing research on my own story idea from the perspective of a ghost. Extremely disappointed that it's not as original an idea as I thought!

Glen, I've searched the site so I know you've addressed this a few times and I apologize. In this ghost scenario, I want some chapters to be in first person from the perspective of the ghost - primarily so the universe where ghosts exist can be explained. He also has the most compelling goal and is the character I love the most; he's the one we'll be cheering for. However, there are two other characters who have separate stories from each other and the ghost but whose progress affects the ghost and ultimately the stories become intertwined. I don't want the other characters' stories to be in first person because the ghost doesn't know these things are happening or even who these other people are. I know your usual advice is that jumping between "person" is confusing for the reader. Please reassure me I can do this! Am I putting too much faith in book readers (hah!) by assuming they will be interested in knowing the other happenings or will understand that these things need to happen to help our ghost!?

May 15, 2016
to Kelly
by: Glen

Switching between POV characters doesn't have to be confusing, as long as you don't do it in the middle of a scene. It's best to switch only at chapter breaks.

You can change the style of narration (e.g. first to third person) for each POV character as well (it's one way to distinguish between them), as long as ...

1. It's clear to the reader what the POV is at all times.
2. You have a justifiable reason that makes sense in terms of your story.

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