Writing and Other Afflictions

"If it was easy, everyone would do it." –Jimmy Dugan, "A League of Their Own"

Monthly Archives: September 2011

Ghost Stories

Thinking about ghost stories recently. I was trying to come up with some common elements to them, and with the help of some Clarionauts, I think I have something interesting at least.

The intrusion of a ghost into a ghost story is an unusual disturbance. It signals that something isn’t right. Usually you have a helpless protagonist spurred to action by the appearance of the ghost, for whatever reason, and s/he has to solve the mystery of the ghost’s appearance, which will hopefully play into some problem s/he is struggling with in the present as well. Of course, many ghost stories end with an unsuccessful protagonist; they are horror, after all, and so bad things must happen. But there are good ghost stories too, and funny ghost stories, and I think all of them have those things in common: the puzzle, the protagonist facing a problem that will not be solved/clarified without the ghost’s appearance.

Peter Straub’s “Ghost Story” is an interesting case because I’m not sure if I remember exactly why the ghost was haunting them. It just seemed to be always recurring. But it’s an effective tale because the protagonist is helpless in the face of the ghost, and through research manages to defeat it and bring closure to his own life. In this case, the ghost is what caused his problem, but there are other issues as well.

Just thinking out loud here…