We are already at the letter ‘G’ for our new series of weekly creative writing prompts/exercises, so today we’re homing in on
Not necessarily in the modern sense of ‘ghosting’, which is when you stop communicating with someone for no apparent reason, although that’s a good enough start for a short story.
No, I’m thinking more of scary phantoms, restless spirits from another realm and all that jazz.
I’m fairly sceptical about the existence of ghosts by virtue of never having had an encounter with one, but I don’t deny there’s a whole topic here with plenty of convincing evidence and testimonies, so what do I know?
Well, I know the idea of ghostly goings on can make my skin crawl and set the pulse racing. Wouldn’t you like your words to have that effect on your reader?
Some popular novels have used ghosts as their departure point, such as The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders and more recently, Platform Seven by Louise Doughty. And of course, back in 1843 Charles Dickens wrote his novella A Christmas Carol featuring the memorable ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future.
But my suggestion today is to start with a short story. Read some chilling Gothic short story gems from Edgar Allan Poe here for inspiration. Unexplained bumps in the night, tricks of the light, the visible suddenly vanishing…
Follow the old maxim who, what, where, when, why, how, and begin your story with something creepy that will draw your reader in. The story needs to have a satisfying conclusion (it doesn’t have to have a happy ending!) although you can leave your reader guessing. But please don’t try that ‘and then I woke up’ trope.
You might like to consider your story’s point of view (POV) being that of the ghost. Among your characters will be those who can see the spectre, some who believe in ghosts, some who don’t. And what happens as a result of this belief/disbelief?
If you are struggling to come up with an idea, here are six more ‘G’ words to add to the mix:
Gold, Gap, Girder, Gallop, Game, Glimpse
Use all or some of them to spark some new ideas.
A short story can be anything from 1,000 words up to 10,000 (after that it’s a novella, before that it’s flash fiction). The Bridport Prize offers a first prize of £5,000 for a short story up to 5,000 words long. The closing date for entries is May 31st, so you’ve plenty of time to shape your entry!
Ok, you’ve got this far. But who you gonna call? Um, Ghostbusters, of course! You’re welcome.
Call back next week for another creative writing prompt/exercise. There’s a new one every Wednesday at 5pm, Dublin time. More about what this is all about here.