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View Full Version : A question for ghost / horror genre experts



cyberwraith
10-25-2007, 06:39 PM
I've just gotten my manuscript back from a really great agent who, although she passed on the book, gave me excellent tips on what I need to do to improve it. While she seemed to have been happy with my writing (Thank God) she just wasn't as scared as she should have been reading a ghost story. Fair enough.

I did as she suggested and reread The Haunting of Hill House which made me realize something: I don't care for hauntings that might just as easily be psychosis. (In fact, being thought crazy is one of the things my character is struggling against.) I want my ghosts to be more real than that, not potentially the jibberings of a mind on the skids. I want my characters to be paragons of strength and sanity (within reason) who are tested, solve the problem of the ghosts (putting it simply) and live to quaff non-alcoholic pina coladas on the front porch when it is all over (this is YA, after all).

But do sane characters undermine the ghost thing? Should I be thinking horror then? Turn my ghosts into zombies (oh, now I'M scared!) and take it from there?

stormie
10-25-2007, 06:43 PM
Remember, that's just one agent's take on it. Don't write what you don't feel comfortable with.

ETA: Do weigh what the agent says and put the ms. aside. Go back to it and decide which direction you want to take.

Toothpaste
10-25-2007, 07:11 PM
I totally get what you are saying. And it is just one person's opinion.

BUT

The more well rounded a character is, the less frightening in a way they can be. What makes a character scary is when you don't know what they'll do next, that you don't know what they are thinking. I directed a friend in a play I wrote, where his character was slowly going crazy, the character was also brutally violent, and it would happen just out of the blue. Problem was, this actor was such a good actor that he was able to get across to the audience what he was thinking and his opinions on people without saying a word. This cut down on the tension, so I had to direct him to be so much more closed to the audience. He did it, and it was awesome.

What's my point? Well I latched onto the phrase that you said you wanted your ghosts more "real" than maybe something that could be thought to be just in someone's head. My point is the more tangible, and well rounded you make your ghosts, the less frightening they can be. So you don't need to make them some kind of psychosis, but keep them a bit mysterious. Keep your reader guessing. What is scarier for people is what they can't see, not what they can. Casper wasn't scary, not simply because he was a friendly ghost, but because you could see what he looked like.

Hope this helps. If I am way off topic, please ignore me! :)

cyberwraith
10-25-2007, 09:12 PM
Dear Stormie and Toothpaste,
And to think I hesitated for two weeks to post this question! Thank you so much for both of your replies. You have helped tremendously.

Funny, I think of myself as a pretty positive person but I think the agent's feedback (more work on a book that's taken 5 years to write) kind of deflated my enthusiasm. Now, with your responses, I feel I can chart a course for revision and do the right thing by my novel.

Much appreciated!
V

Southern_girl29
10-26-2007, 12:41 AM
I don't care for hauntings that might just as easily be psychosis. (In fact, being thought crazy is one of the things my character is struggling against.) I want my ghosts to be more real than that, not potentially the jibberings of a mind on the skids. I want my characters to be paragons of strength and sanity (within reason) who are tested, solve the problem of the ghosts (putting it simply) and live to quaff non-alcoholic pina coladas on the front porch when it is all over (this is YA, after all).

My Nano book is going to be like this, but no one is going to suspect she's crazy. I don't think all books with ghosts make out like the person seeing them is insane. I really liked "Bag of Bones," which is an excellent ghost story, and no where is his sanity questioned.

stormie
10-26-2007, 12:48 AM
So you don't need to make them some kind of psychosis, but keep them a bit mysterious. Keep your reader guessing. What is scarier for people is what they can't see, not what they can. Casper wasn't scary, not simply because he was a friendly ghost, but because you could see what he looked like.
Yep. That's pretty much it in a nutshell.