March 11, 2014

Writing About: Ghosts (Part One)

I have written a couple of stories about ghosts and thought it would be fun to inform other writers how to write about ghosts in their stories.

There are two ways you can write about a ghost. The first method is to rely heavily on the paranormal element, and the second is to treat the ghost like a human character.

1.    Paranormal Ghost

This type of ghost is perfect for horror stories because they can be extremely frightening. The element of fear has to be present though for this to work. Your characters must show fear whether they can see the ghost or not.

If they can’t see the ghost, you need to utilize the tools the paranormal genre offers to make it clear a ghost is the culprit of the unexplained events. Some techniques you can use are: a gust of cold wind, the sensation of being touched, whispers, voices, screams and/or the sound of someone crying, items being thrown or moved, nightmares, messages scrawled in steam, and horrifying images that are there one moment and gone the next.

If your character(s) can see the ghost, or catch a glimpse of it, the ghost can be see-through or solid. A solid ghost can have pale or grayish skin as well as blood and visible signs of how they died. The trick is to get creative! A visible ghost can cause all of the same havoc as an invisible ghost.
TIP #1: Watch “The Sixth Sense” and “Gothika” (one of my favorite movies) for some ideas on how to write about paranormal and human ghosts.

2.    Human Ghost

Although the person is dead, he/she can still be very human. Going this route can be used for any genre: romance, paranormal, mystery, thriller and suspense. And the ghost should be treated as all the other characters you write about in your books. Meaning, the ghost will need a name, appearance, and personality. The fact he/she is dead is just another detail. The ghost will also need a story (a past).

I have used this technique in two different ways. The first is to have the ghost as the main character that no one can see. The second way is to let the hero/heroine of your story interact with your ghostly character.

Whatever path you choose, the ghost should be as human as possible, even if he/she is see-through. They won’t be scary or bloody, but the ghost can still try to scare the hero/heroine. And if you want, the ghost can have some not-so-nice motives such as revenge.
TIP #2: The ghost should have a goal (finding his/her killer or helping a loved one.)
TIP #3: If your ghost can communicate with other characters, he/she should do as much (or more than) the living characters.

At the end of the story, the ghost’s conflict should be solved, and maybe he/she moved onto the other side. If you used the paranormal technique and wrote about a petrifying ghost then the character who was being haunted should’ve found a way to banish the evil spirit. Or perhaps the evil spirit took over their body. Whatever.

But no matter what you do, or what kind of ghost you choose to write about, get creative and try something new!

SHARE: Your tips for writing about ghosts.

QUESTIONS: Do you believe in ghosts?

Have you written a ghost story? Tell me about it!


  1. I used to have an obsession with ghosts. I blame growing up with a cemetery as my back yard. I prefer my ghosts to be more human, although I have not written a ghost story for publication as of yet, I have an idea of one. A book for young children that I still remember to this day is "Stone Words" About a little girl ghost. There was a story recently published by a big name author featuring a ghost. I don't suggest using her method of having an overly pushy ghost that makes her goals the only ones that matter; forgetting that a human still has their life to live.

    1. I couldn't even imagine what it would've been like growing up with a cemetery in the back yard!

      That is a good point, Michelle. If the human ghost interacts with another character, the author should let the human character live his/her life, and the ghost can have its own parts to him/herself too.

      I am going to check out the children's book you mentioned.

      Thank you for commenting! :)

  2. I definitely believe in ghosts and it's funny you mention this because I have a paranormal element in my novel:) I love writing about ghosts or blogging about them especially in the Autumn months. Throw in some candles and pumpkins and even better! Great post and love your picture, Chrys!

    1. Too bad I didn't save this for October. Oh well. I have more supernatural/spooky themes coming up. :)

  3. Wonderful tips. I do believe in ghosts even though I've never had an experience with one. I've written about both types of ghosts. I do like twisting the typical ghosty rules too.

    1. Thanks, Christine! I believe in ghosts too. I've experienced some odd things before but I couldn't tell you if it was because of a ghost or not.

      Twisting the ghostly rules is what makes it fun! :D

  4. Ghost can be put in so many different lights. They can be helpful, or harmful. I do like your pics! :-)

    1. Ghosts can certainly be helpful or harmful. That's why they are so much fun to write about. ;)

      Thank you!

  5. Definitely very helpful! Thank you!

  6. I was just over at part two and dropped by. Great idea for the Halloween crowd. :-)

    Anna from Elements of Writing

  7. Karla,
    I saw the ghosts of two Victorian-dressed ladies cross the road in front of me, once. It was lovely.

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