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Writing About Ghosts

Discussion in 'Café Life' started by AgentPete, Sep 5, 2017.

  1. AgentPete

    AgentPete Capo Famiglia Staff Member

    We shot this video yesterday, Michelle Paver making some interesting points about ghostly writing, plus readers' comments.
     
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  2. Katie-Ellen Hazeldine

    Katie-Ellen Hazeldine Venerated Member Founding Member

    Dark Matter was masterly suspense. Amazingly sustained middle section. Thin Air too, though for me it does not surpass Dark Matter.

    This article - see link below- agrees with Michelle re MR James (who neither believed nor disbelieved in ghosts) And this paragraph, I feel, is a crystalline summation of a bane in the 'modern' psyche:

    But gradually, inexorably, as Christianity became more formal and abstract, and science and technology gained power, all the unseen beings and influences, previously found in nature, were banished. So we were protected, but protection came at a price. Arguably, when we broke off diplomatic relations with the ghosts and demons, we were forced to lose touch with the natural wildlife life of our own minds, and maybe even to lose touch with the true nature of the universe itself.

    More Here
     
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2017
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  3. Marc Joan

    Marc Joan Venerated Member Founding Member

    Interesting, on several counts. You say 'we' shot this video; 'we' being Redhammer? Does this mean that agents are becoming marketers? (i.e. are they participating in marketing the book / author to readers rather than 'just' marketing the author to publishers? Or have they always done this?) And if so, does that mean that traditional publishers are withdrawing from marketing -- or is it that they are increasingly bad at it, and therefore agents/authors have to pick up the slack? And if that's the case -- given POD, etc -- how will the traditional publishers remain able to justify the low royalties they pay?
     
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  4. Patricia D

    Patricia D Venerated Member

    Interesting video. I'm inspired to think about writing more ghost stories. My last book had a poltergeist - or not. Some believe; some don't.
     
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  5. Katie-Ellen Hazeldine

    Katie-Ellen Hazeldine Venerated Member Founding Member

    Hah, they would if they experienced it for themselves, and others witnessed it, and none of the sensible explanations were satisfactory. What they are though, what they ARE and what's going on, -whole other can of worms.
     
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  6. Katie-Ellen Hazeldine

    Katie-Ellen Hazeldine Venerated Member Founding Member

    And as the northern nights draw in - Article re writing an effective ghost story
     
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  7. Rich.

    Rich. Guardian Staff Member

    @Katie-Ellen Hazeldine, top tips, lots of food for thought. I came across this article recently, where Jeff VendeMeer talks about how to haunt a novel when you're not actually writing about ghosts.
     
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  8. Katie-Ellen Hazeldine

    Katie-Ellen Hazeldine Venerated Member Founding Member

    Interesting, that. Thanks @Rich. He seems to be suggesting a kind of Magritte painterly effect...I don't remember the television with no cord in The Shining, but I'll all for the default of the limbic mind. Why is that termed 'reptilian', I wonder? It's just the ancient us, and it's filed more in our memory banks more than we'll learn in our lifetimes. It's the limbic system that'll save our lives -, assuming we act on its message - when there's present danger not as yet identified by the cognitive function. Get a bad feeling, don't know why, get out. Don't wait till you can prove you were right.
     
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  9. Rich.

    Rich. Guardian Staff Member

    Reptilian cos it's the bit that evolved first, I reckon – that fight or flight malarkey common to so many animals. But whether it be fear, wonder, joy or sadness, I'm fascinated by how a piece of writing can create an emotion that runs deeper than a scene or chapter.

    As for your bad-feeling-get-out observation, I'm inclined to agree – except for curiosity, of course, that powerful urge to know the unknown. There's a saying isn't there? Something to do with cats... I wonder what those first folk out of Africa would have made of that? [But then they were probably motivated more by hunger than curiosity. Hmm. We're back to the limbic system, aren't we?]
     
  10. Katie-Ellen Hazeldine

    Katie-Ellen Hazeldine Venerated Member Founding Member

    We were never reptiles though, despite the folk who insist the reptilians are amongst us. We might have been sea squirts. Heh. My mother, who is extraordinarily well up on natural history, refuses to be related to chimps, on the grounds that she detests them. Gorillas, fine.

    Curiosity. So true. Why do they always go down in the basement? God, why do they do it? You can yell at the screen till you're blue in the face, but they still go down. Or it would be a short film.

    And it might just be mice!
     
  11. Rich.

    Rich. Guardian Staff Member

    Sure we were reptiles; those sea squirts had to go through the growing-legs stage at some point. I like the sound of your mum. How does she feel about orangutans?

    Why do we persist in watching them go down to the basement? Why do we love it when they do, even as we scorn them?

    It's good when it's mice. Makes the real fright that much the bigger.
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2017
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  12. Katie-Ellen Hazeldine

    Katie-Ellen Hazeldine Venerated Member Founding Member

    giphy lizard.gif

    Hahahaaaa....

    OK, OK, I'll admit to a reptilian ear bone. Have some cake? Ginger or a fiendish fondant fancy? Not a patch on Robinne's, I'm afraid.

    Orangutans. No. We're good with those. And bonobos at least -sort of, despite all the...you know... Baboons, don't mess with them, but respect...
     
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  13. Rich.

    Rich. Guardian Staff Member

    Fiendish fondant fancy, I'll bet. This is a thread about ghosts after all.

    [I wrote aunt when you'd said mother. Silly me, corrected now.]

    Gotta love the bonobos. Baboons? It's a poutingly fine word to say, and I'm surprised those buns haven't won a Turner Prize, but non-hominoids... oh, now you've twisted my evolutionary tree.

    But we were talking about ghosts. The haunting of the human mind by the ones that went extinct. Angry Neanderthal spirits demanding forests be replanted. Two million years of human hands reaching out to claw back your bedsheets. And an ancient lizard crouching under the bed. And one of them should cackle. Yes. There should definitely be cackling.
     
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  14. Quillwitch

    Quillwitch Venerated Member

    Writing about ghosts is, in my case, is almost like writing a family biography. We´ve got them in all sizes and shapes!:D
     
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  15. Paul Whybrow

    Paul Whybrow Venerated Member

    We haunt ourselves every day. Monkey mind reanimates ghosts from our past while nurturing doubtful djins that hamper our current progress, then conjures up elusive will-o'-the wisps beckoning us into a future that may not be....

    I'm frit! :eek:

    You'll find me hiding behind the sofa.
     
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  16. Katie-Ellen Hazeldine

    Katie-Ellen Hazeldine Venerated Member Founding Member

    Those baboon buns...quite! Heh. Monkey, reptile...fish, stromatolite spore...we're bound to share something one way and another if we go back far enough. Even with the insects. I was just being stupid; I'm not invested in the hominids though Darwin, bless him, never claimed he'd got the story comprehensively sorted.

    Which reminds me of this movie....Dean Spanley.

    A clergyman who was a dog last time. Sometimes it comes back to him, and there is an unlikely reunion...

    TC Lethbridge who originally trained as an archaeologist, is well worth a read on ghosts. A small black dog, short haired with pricked ears, ran silently into the kitchen one day while I was cooking. I didn't mention it, didn't say a word, not wanting to spook my daughter who was still at home. Then a few days later, she came running to tell me she'd just seen a small black dog at the top of the stairs.

    What are your co-residents like @Quillwitch?
     
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  17. Rich.

    Rich. Guardian Staff Member

    @Katie-Ellen Hazeldine, I haven't seen that movie or read the book. I'll put them on the list. The movie has a cracking cast. As for stupidity and primates, I enjoyed it immensely.
     
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  18. Katie-Ellen Hazeldine

    Katie-Ellen Hazeldine Venerated Member Founding Member

    Mandrill bums. The ultimate evolutionary arse?

    Golden Lion Tamarins! Monkeys haunted by a common ancestry with, um....

    tamarin.jpg


    Which reminds me of a book I recently re-read, had me snivelling in no time. A lonely old lion, for love of a butterfly, dies and comes back as a sunflower.

    Ghosts. Oh lawd. It's set me off again..... :)

    Lion and Blue. by Robert Vavra.

    lion and blue.jpg
     
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  19. Quillwitch

    Quillwitch Venerated Member

    Well, my mother was very good at seeing and hearing ghosts and she had premonitory dreams that eerily came true, and she would always feel depressed or anxious when there was a "disturbance in the force"-- like before earthquakes. She hated those special abilities she had. But these abilities were inherited by my children, in terms of the premonitions especially.
    And on my ex-husband´s side, there are many many stories about people seeing things, especially as children. We´ve had 3 previous life memories resurface-- me, my son and a nephew.

    I´ve seen a few ghosts, but none at my house, thank goodness! Most have been at work, when I used to work for the Secretary of Culture and had to go to old theatres at odd hours, when there was no one there but me. I saw a full body apparition in 3d solid form at a friend´s house once--I was waiting for my friend in the living room and I saw an old lady come down the stairs, she had her head covered with a shawl and was not looking at me. She never turned to look at me, even when I tried to say hello to her, she went into the bathroom and never came out. After about 10 minutes I got up and knocked on the door because I was worried that she might have a problem. No answer, so I opened the door and the bathroom was empty ( there was no other way out). Later, when I told my story, my friend told me that it was the old lady that used to live there before them, and that many people had seen her in different parts of the house and that she liked to sit in the kitchen nook in the early morning hours. So, there you go.

    Many of our experiences have been proven by other people or by things that have happened after. I´m a believer, no way I can´t be.
     
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  20. Carol Rose

    Carol Rose Guardian Founding Member

    Premonitions, dreams that come true, that dread feeling when something is wrong (and it's always spot on, and about 24 hours before I find out what's bugging me!), sensing spirits, being touched by invisible ... not sure. Hands? Something. Something concrete, that's for sure. I completely believe in the supernatural. Totally. Too many first-hand experiences from the time I was small not to. :)

    I carry gem stones, I use aromatherapy, I read Tarot cards (only for myself), and I even have runes. I've experimented with spells, and I want a scrying mirror really, really badly. Will buy myself one, one of these days. :)
     
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  21. NickP

    NickP Active Member

    hmmm

    Key issues with ghosts is always who is being haunted, and why? Sometimes it's about who is doing the haunting. The old fashioned man/woman staying the night in an old place is just that - old fashioned. We don't really believe in dissociated evil that waits for innocent travellers - except when it's a psycho human.

    Nowadays we recognise that people are haunted by ghosts from their own pasts, not other peoples, and in stories that "ghost" is always something unresolved that leaves the character vulnerable, or lacking.
     
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  22. Katie-Ellen Hazeldine

    Katie-Ellen Hazeldine Venerated Member Founding Member

    We don't really believe in dissociated evil that waits for innocent travellers

    I do..or at least, I believe in the unexpected encounter with a deeply unpleasant atmosphere without any immediately evident association or cause. It's given me a fine fright in a few places.

    But you're right, memories are ghosts.
     
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  23. NickP

    NickP Active Member

    "I believe in the unexpected encounter with a deeply unpleasant atmosphere without any immediately evident association or cause. It's given me a fine fright in a few places."

    That's been the basis of many a story - usually the disbeliever scoffs and finds out the hard way that the devil exists. But I'm not sure it really works any more. Even the film of the Shining more than hinted the demons were as much in Jack Nicholson's head as living in the Outlook hotel.
     
  24. NickP

    NickP Active Member

    Which is, I suppose what is being said here:

    But gradually, inexorably, as Christianity became more formal and abstract, and science and technology gained power, all the unseen beings and influences, previously found in nature, were banished. So we were protected, but protection came at a price. Arguably, when we broke off diplomatic relations with the ghosts and demons, we were forced to lose touch with the natural wildlife life of our own minds, and maybe even to lose touch with the true nature of the universe itself.


    But personally, I don't buy the thesis - "the natural wildlife of our own minds" are not separate things, but things form the swamp of our own Ids. And those murky creatures will crawl out into the daylight, one way or another.
     
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  25. Katie-Ellen Hazeldine

    Katie-Ellen Hazeldine Venerated Member Founding Member

    I largely agree. My mother once heard Satan laughing at her, very nasty. She was in the dentists chair under general anaesthetic, in the days when they still did that. And she ain't a religious person, very anti church in fact. She doesn't believe in Satan but the fear was real. 'Influences' allows for plenty of wriggle room, and I agree that we've lost touch as a society...as a collective...with part of ourselves, what psychology terms the Id, which doesn't mean to say it's not just as alive as ever, and clearly, needs and demands expression such that it drives industries. One of my daughters works periodically as a scare actor on a farm that needs to turn extra cash. People pay to have a HORRIBLE time...in safety. With added cow poo.

    There are lots of lame horror stories out there, or films at least, same stuff done to death. Michelle Paver, who says she doesn't really believe in ghosts, where I do, but just say I don't know what a ghost is, writes frighteningly, brilliantly well in her novel Dark Matter, as per @AgentPete's posting at the top of his thread here.
     
  26. Patricia D

    Patricia D Venerated Member

    Memories are indeed ghosts that haunt us. But there are other ghosts, some we remember and some that seem to be strangers, and we wonder what they want with us. For years, I didn't believe in disassociated evil, but now I do. I'd like to try writing in this genre and am reading Dark Matter right now, trying to learn from it. Lesson #1 is the importance of foreshadowing.
     
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  27. Quillwitch

    Quillwitch Venerated Member


    Thank you so much for this! I finally got around to watching it. This has made me rethink my entire novel--and that´s a good thing.
     
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  28. Katie-Ellen Hazeldine

    Katie-Ellen Hazeldine Venerated Member Founding Member

    @PatriciaD ...am reading Dark Matter right now, trying to learn from it. Lesson #1 is the importance of foreshadowing.



    Amazingly sustained middle section, that novel. Not a lot happens, not as such; it's all about the horror of waiting, when you don't know what you're waiting for, only that it is terrible and that it will find you unprepared no matter what you do, but OMG, she doesn't drop the thread or lose the tension.
     

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