Showing posts with label mood. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mood. Show all posts

26 October 2021

In the Mood to be Scared?


It's Halloween week, and what better time to talk about ghost stories? I had one published a couple of weeks ago. It's called "Wishful Thinking," and writing it was a lot of fun.

When I sat down to write a ghost story, I concentrated on mood. You want a ghost story to be scary, and what's scarier than ghosts you see? Maybe it's ghosts you don't see. The ghosts you fear are just around the corner. As my fellow SleuthSayer Bob Mangeot pointed out two weeks ago in a great post about Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House, the scariest thing of all is what we conjure in our own minds, what we are afraid is out there ... just ... about ... to ... grab us!

How did I create the spooky mood in my story? Here are some of the ingredients I mixed in:

  • A graveyard
  • An abandoned, supposedly haunted house overlooking the town, with dead trees surrounding it
  • An urban legend about a long-dead bank robber who haunts that house, forever searching for money he stole that was later hidden from him
  • Wind and thunder and lightning and rain and fog (why use just one when you can create a weather bouillabaisse?)
  • Another urban legend of missing kids who went inside the haunted house never to be seen again
  • Doors that creak open and slam shut on their own 
  • Unexplained screams

Weather is a great writer's tool because, in addition to setting the mood, it can push a plot forward, such as when heavy rain pushes four tweens to seek the house's sheltertweens who might have had second thoughts otherwise. That's just one of the ways I used the weather throughout the story to move the plot.

I also wanted to make my characters jumpy as the story went on, so I made two of them scared to go inside. Eleanor voices her fear but gets convinced that there's nothing to be afraid of (ha!). The other scared kid, Travis, who narrates the story, is too afraid to say he's spooked for fear of being called a wuss. They are easily reactive to things that happen, things other people might try to shrug off.

The other two characters want to go inside: Sean is a bully who wants to search for the missing money; Jinx is smart and logical and brave and curious. Like the weather, Sean and Jinx push the action forward. Sean proposes the idea of exploring the house. Jinx wants to stay when even Sean gets scared, determined to prove there is no such thing as ghosts.

Individually, every scary thing that happens in the story could have a logical explanationor so Jinx would saybut add them all together, using the right wording, with the right rhythm to the sentences, and even the bravest kids might come to realize that maybe ghosts do exist ... and one is inside that house ... and it's coming for them. 

"Wishful Thinking" was published by Wildside Press in issue six of Black Cat Weekly. It also was published individually by Wildside Press and can be purchased for your Kindle or Nook or other e-reader through lots of online bookstores, in the US and other countries.

I should point out that the character Eleanor was not named in a nod to the character of the same name in The Haunting of Hill House. She was named in honor of my friend Eleanor Cawood Jones, who loves a good ghost story. There's also another name in the story, a character named in honor of my fellow SleuthSayer Leigh Lundin. (Surprise, Leigh!)

If you're in the mood for a ghost story, I hope you'll check mine out.