View Full Version : Settling Refugees

Taylor Harbin
06-25-2019, 03:23 PM
Im brainstorming a piece about ghosts; the scenario being Purgatory is overcrowded so lots of ghosts are being given places to haunt in our world till the backlog is under control. I need to establish a fictional authority/command structure that would determine who goes where and how to prepare the living locals for their new neighbors. Tried looking online but the articles were very vague.

06-25-2019, 05:08 PM
Something parallel to the UNHCR? Only for ghosts?

06-25-2019, 05:11 PM
In the US, I think a lot of that gets funneled through churches and other charity group, actually. I'm not clear on the specifics, though, sorry. Like, the paperwork and such is all a government thing, but the actual people connecting refugees to shelter, jobs, etc. is volunteers. I'd love to be proven wrong on this.

06-25-2019, 05:14 PM
Just make it up. Seriously - base it on hate and fear and it will be plausible. Nauru (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/10/a-short-history-of-nauru-australias-dumping-ground-for-refugees)? Manus Island (https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/jun/25/manus-island-asylum-seeker-who-set-himself-on-fire-to-be-charged-with-attempted-suicide)?

06-25-2019, 05:30 PM
It sounds like a comical piece. :) But the funniest things are funny because they're true... so try to anchor as much of the humor into what people who believe in Purgatory would expect. So the first thing you need to do is decide if you're doing a Christian version of Purgatory, or an Islamic version of Purgatory (Barzakh (https://www.al-islam.org/the-hereafter-maad-ayatullah-dastaghaib-shirazi/barzakh-purgatory-stage-between-world-and-hereafter)), or a Buddhist version (https://www.buddhisma2z.com/content.php?id=328) of Purgatory, or whatever.

For example--- from the Christian perspective-- Purgatory is a process, more than it's necessarily a specific place. The purpose of Purgatory is to rid us of the things that still separate us from God and prevent us from being in heaven-- because nothing unclean can enter Heaven. So you've got the pain of purging yourself of your attachment to wrong-- but you also have the joy of the knowledge if it being a temporary inconvenience, with something good at the end of it. From the Christian perspective, you get two judgments-- the first is after your death, where your heaven/heaven-but-first-purgatory/hell is determined (aka, being open to God's love/being open to God's love, but you need to break down your own barriers that are preventing you from fully accepting it/rejecting God's love); and the second one happens when time is finished, so that everyone can see the full repercussions of your actions that traveled beyond your own lifetime.

So, that said, it's very plausible to serve your Purgatory on earth, where you failed to do what you were supposed to be doing during your life. So, for example, a harsh and discouraging teacher might serve their Purgatory in their former classroom; or a neglectful mother might serve her Purgatory amongst her grandchildren who are now being neglected, because she never gave her own kids a good model for being a good parent. So if you think about it in terms of punishment-fits-the-crime, it should be pretty easy to figure out who needs to go where.

As far as preparing the living locals-- how much interaction do humans have with the supernatural in your world? Is it limited to just seeing ghosts, ho-hum, a new one has moved into our bedroom--- or are you throwing in other stuff as well? (Angels, demons, souls, etc.) If you're using a theological concept for your story, then it shouldn't be jarring to have it announced from the pulpit-- "Oh, by the way, you might be noticing an uptick in ghosts in the neighborhood... it's because blah, blah, blah, so make sure you blah, blah, blah, but don't blah blah blah..." And in the pews-- "Um, where did he get that announcement from?" Or perhaps there might be an odd advertisement run in the local newspapers, but no one quite remembers how it got there. Or pertinent people's cellphones might get spammed with a series of message blasts, and the FCC has no idea who sent it... etc. Lots of ways to spread information, but it depends on how you want the scene to play...

So, as far as the fictional command structure, going back to the judgment scenario, it's basically you + God in that scene (some say that your Guardian Angel stands by you as well). Jumping to the Purgatory part, some people say that your Guardian Angel will visit you in Purgatory, but mostly you're by yourself, working on fixing what's keeping you from being the perfect You. It should be easy to add in some middle-manager bureaucrats who get you to where you're supposed to go, some other bureaucrats who get you settled in, and some other bureaucrats who check your progress. Perhaps the interactions they have with the living give them progress in their path, and allow them to compensate for their shortcomings during their lives, or correct the repercussions of their own initial errors. Or whatever. But if you think of the positions as a combination of government org chart + hotel org chart + self improvement, that might do something.

Good luck!

Taylor Harbin
06-25-2019, 11:38 PM
Thank you everyone for the suggestions!

Lonestarlibrarian, yes, this will be on the lighter side, written from a Christian worldview (i.e. Catholic, even though I'm not a practicing Catholic myself), but there will be some heart-tugging and I'd also like to use it to challenge some of our cultural representations of ghosts (especially Hollywood movies). The idea came to me when I was reflecting on how many TV shows, books, and websites are dedicated to the study of paranormal activity. Ask anyone who works at a historic site and I guarantee someone has asked them about hauntings at some point. I thought, "Are we, in 2019, claiming to see more ghosts than in times past? If that's true, is there a reason for it?" Hence, the idea that there's an overflow.

I'm thinking the presence of ghosts turns out to be a big anti-climax for the living because the ghosts turn out to be rather harmless. I'm still ironing out the rules for their conduct, but since God himself is running the show, they're pretty reigned in. No possessions/attacks, flying, etc. The first scene I wrote revolving around this idea featured a priest sent by the diocese to prepare a small town for what's about to happen, only to realize they haven't received ANY of the advanced notices (bad internet, mail service, etc.). Somehow I want to include a scene where someone asks a priest what is Purgatory really like if Dante got it wrong, to which he replies, "Um...I--that's classified." Stupid joke, but it makes me chuckle.

You're comment about punishment-fitting-the-crime is something I hadn't considered before, and I'm very glad you mentioned it because I've been hurting for a personal conflict to entangle my MC. Thank you. That gives me a good direction.

The worst part about this process is that I could easily expand it beyond a short story. There's an annoying voice in the back of my head whispering "Why not turn it into a children's book? You've never tried that before." I hit the voice over the head with an iron spatula. Not sure if I'd be good at that sort of thing.

Kat M
06-25-2019, 11:53 PM
Hey. Write the story, and if you can't stop writing (or if you get more than one annoying beta reader demanding more backstory), then turn it into something longer. If it sits right as it is, don't make it longer. Do NOT negative self-talk until you have actual proof in the pudding, OK?

Pictured: something, perhaps proof, in pudding. :e2coffee:

Taylor Harbin
06-25-2019, 11:57 PM
Hey. Write the story, and if you can't stop writing (or if you get more than one annoying beta reader demanding more backstory), then turn it into something longer. If it sits right as it is, don't make it longer. Do NOT negative self-talk until you have actual proof in the pudding, OK?

Pictured: something, perhaps proof, in pudding. :e2coffee:

Sorry, bad habit. It's just the last time I wrote a book, even though I loved the story, I was so exhausted I wondered if I could ever do it again. But you're right! I shouldn't self-reject. I'm reacting more from a lack of familiarity with the genre as it is (most of the kids' books on my shelf are classics published before 1970; Lewis, Tolkien, Graham, White, etc.)

06-26-2019, 01:40 AM
Aren't refugees from Purgatory governed by the Purgatory Expatriate Act and managed by the Purgatory Relocation Council? Last I heard, all the usual spooky haunts, grave yards, abandoned asylums and so on were full and they were relocating them to tenement housing or cornfields. Seems that the Florida Panhandle is picking up a lot of them lately, as are the movie studios around Century City and the various locations used for filming Hallmark Movies.


06-26-2019, 02:16 AM
Seems that the Florida Panhandle is picking up a lot of them lately, as are the movie studios around Century City and the various locations used for filming Hallmark Movies.



The ultimate purgatory for certain filmmakers, I'd think, when they shuffle off this mortal coil.

Taylor Harbin
07-06-2019, 12:47 AM
I’ve come to realize that Purgatory is too limiting. For better world building, I’m going to research multiple takes on the afterlife and construct my own.

Kat M
07-06-2019, 01:29 AM
Have you seen Disney's Coco? It's a different premise but it uses one tradition of death/the afterlife (Da de los Muertos) to build this whole story, so you might find it interesting/helpful. Although pretty well researched, they did have to make some adjustments to the mythos of it, and I don't know if they did that respectfully or haphazardly.

07-06-2019, 09:31 AM
If you haven't seen it, Beetlejuice has a similar ghost relocation office type thing going on, might give you some inspiration. Another thought, since you are opening to other religions, maybe look at ancient China. Their Celestial Bureaucracy seems like it might work well for your purpose.

Taylor Harbin
07-07-2019, 11:19 PM
Kat M: yes, I thought it was a very good movie except for the, in my opinion, ridiculous murder plot element thrown in. To me, the moral conflict between staying loyal to one’s family and pursuing your dreams would have been much more powerful if that had been left out. Sometimes life does not presents us blatant right and wrong choices.

AWP Writer: thanks for the recommendation!

Siri Kirpal
07-10-2019, 09:52 PM
Sat Nam! (Literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

If you're thinking about expanding out of Purgatory into other religious reaches, you might consider combining Purgatory with reincarnation, which sounded a lot like what lonestarlibrarian suggested anyway. The punishment fitting the crime is basically the same as karma (when used in the negative sense).


Siri Kirpal