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October 19, 2015

Writing About: Ghosts (Part Two)


Last year I blogged about how writers can create a ghost character. In that post, I discussed supernatural ghosts and human ghosts, and how to treat both in your story.


Now I'm delving deeper into human ghosts. If you ever want to write about a ghost character, especially if you’re in his/her perspective, there are a few things you should consider to stay true to a ghost's physical abilites.

NOTE: These aren't rules. By all means, use what you want and create your own type of human ghost.


1.
Limited Senses


Ghosts can see and hear, but they can’t smell anything. Not the scent of fresh grass or their mom’s perfume. They also can’t taste (as a matter of fact, they don’t eat) or feel. Ghosts can’t feel fabric, skin, or objects with their hands. Nor can they feel the cold or pain.

Jolie, my ghost in Ghost of Death, misses the smell and taste of pizza.

2. Humans

No one can see or hear ghosts. Well, usually not anyone. Psychics can and even family members have claimed to see their departed loved ones. So while scores of people ignore your ghost, maybe one person can see and hear him/her.

3. No Reflections

Vampires aren’t the only paranormal beings who don’t have reflections. Since no one can see ghosts, and even if one special character can, they are usually transparent, so it makes sense that they wouldn’t have a reflection. In Ghost of Death, Jolie tests this theory out.

4. Doors and Walls

Since ghosts don’t have bodies, they can usually pass through objects such as doors, walls, and furniture.

5. No Physical Reactions

Ghosts don’t have heartbeats. They don’t breathe or cry. Nor can they develop tears, so don’t mention a racing heart, a deep breath, or teary eyes when you’re talking about your ghost.

6. More Limitations

On top of not having certain senses and physical reactions, ghosts also don’t sleep or get tired. They won’t be yawning or taking naps. Your ghost could go into a comatose state or disappear for stretches of time, though.


7 Signs You’re a Ghost:
1. No one can see or hear you.
2. You can’t smell anything. Not even a pile of dog poop at your feet.
3. Your hands pass through objects like mist.
4. You can’t cry. Try as you might.
5. When you try to take a breath, your chest doesn’t rise.
6. You feel nothing. No pain. No sensations. Nothing.
7. You’re standing over your dead body.


Excerpt from Ghost of Death:

With the sound of her mom’s grief wafting up to her, Jolie came to terms with her present state. I’m dead and now my mom knows it. She eyed the door in front of her. She hadn’t yet walked through a door, but if her hand could pass through metal then she knew she could move through wood.
If I have to be a ghost then I’ll be a damn good one. All across the afterlife I’ll be known as the Ghost of Death! And I’m going to start by walking through this damn door!
            She would’ve taken a deep breath to brace herself if she could have, so she mentally pumped herself up instead. You can do it! Easy-peasy. Nothing to it. And she took a step forward. Solid matter slipped around and through her form. On the other side, a familiar site confronted her: a black and white bed, the bright green shag carpet in the middle of the room, and a white desk.
            Stepping up to her desk, Jolie eyed her ancient desktop computer, the one she used before her dad gifted her with a laptop when she announced she was accepted to the local university. Wanting to send out the first ever tweet from the afterlife, she pushed the button to bring the device to life, but her finger poker straight through it. Resigning to her Twitter-less fate, she moved toward the full-length mirror hanging on the wall. She saw nothing. Not even a shimmer in the air hinted at her presence.
            Being a ghost sucks!

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78 comments:

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

This is wonderful information, Chrys. I've bookmarked it, because one of my books involves a ghost, and some of these things I didn't know. Thanks for the information. Have a great day.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

One of my current short stories is about a ghost but it bends the rules a bit.

S.A. Larsenッ said...

Great list! Gosh, I'd hate not to be able to eat anymore. I love food.

Yolanda Renée said...

I think bending the rules is what writing is all about - I'd bend a few myself. Have a pizza loving ghost haunt the pizzeria and eating the pizza of the unsuspecting customers or some such nonsense. LOL
Love your informative posts! Always!

Patsy said...

Having limitations makes sense. Whatever we decide our ghost (or any other character) can and can't do, then we need to stick with that. It's no good having them walk through walls, then trip over something on the floor.

Hart Johnson said...

Some people can see ghosts. I have an uncle who sees them all the time. He says they usually are surprised to be seen but he's never had one respond with more emotion than that--just the confusion at being seen. I thin it is like waves--that they are on a wave outside of most of our visual capacity to see but some people are tuned just a little different. My ghost story in a building with 60ish people 4 can see my ghost.

Pat Hatt said...

Not smelling things such as dog poop would be a huge perk haha

Lidy said...

This is great information. Even though they’re a lot of things to miss out on, the greatest perk is walking through walls and peeping. If I ever write a ghost story, I’m sure he/she will be one pervy ghost.

betty said...

I'm thinking I wouldn't like to be a ghost with all the things they can't do :) Good tips about writing about them :)

betty

M.J. Fifield said...

I've never written a true ghost character, but I think it could be a lot of fun to do so. I do love ghost stories. Great post.

Christine Rains said...

Awesome tips! Ghost stories are so much fun. I'd miss pizza too. :)

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I'll watch out for the signs that I'm a ghost. Passing through walls might be fun and save a lot of time.

Tonja Drecker said...

I'll keep the 7 signs in mind in case I feel ghostly. Loved your tips!

Chrys Fey said...

Oh, yes, I know some people can see ghosts. I truly believe it's possible. Not everyone can but some can. :)

Chrys Fey said...

I'd miss being able to smell somethings like fresh bread and flowers...but not dog poop. :P

Chrys Fey said...

I'm glad this is useful for you, Elizabeth! :)

Chrys Fey said...

Bending the rules is great. We get to do that with fiction. ;)

Chrys Fey said...

A pizza-eating ghost would be hilarious!

Chrys Fey said...

Exactly. Maybe a clumsy ghost who trips over its own feet and flies through the wall, perhaps. :P

Chrys Fey said...

So do I.

Chrys Fey said...

Haha! A pervy ghost is a fun ghost. ;)

Chrys Fey said...

I would surely miss a lot of the things they can't do. Thanks, Betty!

Chrys Fey said...

It is a lot of fun to do. :)

Chrys Fey said...

Just seeing pizza as a ghost would make me want to cry.

Chrys Fey said...

A time-saver it would be, indeed. :)

Chrys Fey said...

Yes, please do. :P Thanks, T!

Sarah Foster said...

Great tips! I would miss pizza, too, but definitely not the dog poop ;)

Arlee Bird said...

According to your parameters I guess I can safely say that I'm not a ghost. I suppose really there are no firm rules for writing ghost characters, but you've captured what most of us traditionally think of as ghost traits.

Arlee Bird
A to Z Challenge Co-host
Tossing It Out

Lisa Thomson said...

Great tips, Chrys! Something I thought of was in The Sixth Sense where the character (played by Bruce Willis) is a ghost but we don't know that yet, gets really angry and smashes a window. Other than that he certainly fills your description of a ghost. We don't see him cry. We don't see him sleep. He works tirelessly at his basement desk. I just love how they kept the audience thinking he was alive.
Ghost of Death was awesome! You did a great job of keeping Jolie a ghost and it must have been hard to write.

Chrys Fey said...

Haha! Same here.

Chrys Fey said...

Nope, no firm rules. Just guidelines. ;)

Chrys Fey said...

Yes! That ending for The Sixth Scene was one none of us saw coming. Surprisingly enough, it was easy writing about Jolie.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Chrys .. what great info - I have never thought about what ghosts might be able to do to - but you've set it out so clearly .. and yes it does suck doesn't it ...

Loved the post - cheers Hilary

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Good point that there would be no physical reactions.

Birgit said...

I have seen ghosts push things(in the movies actually:)) and my dad had a ghostly encounter where he was sleeping in a bed (in the 1930's) at his dad's place. His dad had a home and had boarders. My dad woke up to a man snoring beside him. he was an old man and when my dad tried to shake him awake, his hand went right through him! My dad said he thought he was dreaming and went back to sleep. The next day, his little brother (half brother) asked him why he slept in that room because people always leave that room. My grandfather bought the bed at an auction and found out an old man died in that bed.

Carrie-Anne said...

I have some ghost characters in my Atlantic City books, primarily the ancestors of my main family, Charlotte Lennon and her daughter Jennifer Lennon-Zargovich. Right now, Jennifer is having a marvellous time cursing and haunting her horrid thirteen-greats-granddaughter Daphne. The deceased loved one of another main family also periodically comes back, to help her dear ones and get even with people trying to hurt them.

Chrys Fey said...

I thought about it quite a bit for Ghost of Death because I wanted it to be "realistic."

Chrys Fey said...

You can't have physical reactions if you have no physical body.

Chrys Fey said...

Waking up to a ghost sleeping next to me would scare the crap out of me! YIKES!

Chrys Fey said...

Ancestor ghosts...I like that!

Jeffrey Scott said...

The last line from your excerpt was exactly the comment I was going to make.
That and, since it sucks to much, no wonder they are always moaning.

Anonymous said...

I had a ghost character I was writing and it was tricky when it came to his reactions because I had to remember I could use pulses or sweat or anything like that. It's a nice challenge. I'd recommend everyone try to write a ghost character reacting to something.

nashvillecats2 said...

Excelleeeent information and great to read.......I wonder if there are such things as ghosts?
Yvonne.

diedre Knight said...

Thanks for the great advice! I hadn't considered ghosts not having the sense of smell and will have to revise accordingly - unless you think ghosts cats are any different? Oh, and I just checked; I'm not a ghost - yet;-)

Chrys Fey said...

No Twitter is a good reason to moan.

Chrys Fey said...

"Write a ghost character reacting to something" would be a great writing prompt!

Chrys Fey said...

I believe there are. :)

Chrys Fey said...

Hmm...ghost cats. I'm not sure. Maybe with a ghost cat you can create your own rules. A ghost cat being able to smell does make sense to me.

Thank goodness! :P

cleemckenzie said...

So if I bake a luscious cheesy pizza, my ghost won't come down for a bite? That's a relief. :-) Thanks Chrys. Loved the post.

Chrys Fey said...

LOL! A ghost may try though. At least, I would. :P

holli said...

I love ghost stories!!! I just read a very interesting book called Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult. Very interesting twist.
My mom lived in an old mining town in Colorado and a ghost lived in her art gallery. She never saw it but it did unusual things often.

Liz A. said...

I had not considered the smell thing before. But of course a ghost can't smell.

sage said...

I remember your older post on ghost and good information here and I like your piece--I imagine being a ghost sucks, but sometimes I feel that no one hears or sees me... but then I can smell the poop!

Carrie Butler said...

Interesting! I hadn't considered some of these before. :)

Anonymous said...

It's interesting, the different takes on ghosts. I've read a couple of stories where the ghost becomes like a real person at certain times. I always wondered how that was possible.

Chrys Fey said...

That is a different take on ghosts. What's so great about fiction is that you can do your own thing. :)

Denise Covey said...

I went to a great masterclass on the supernatural which covered ghosts, vampires, demons etc, and the presenter (who is a huge success as an author/TV presenter/computer game compiler etc etc, so he had good cred to me, said you can write your story within reason, painting your own parameters for the reader, and can shift within those parameters. I thought that was good advice. So like all writing, there is flexibility as long as there is believability. (I put his advice to good use when creating my own vampires for my just-released novella! Exciting stuff for me!)

Denise :-)

Stephen Tremp said...

There is so much to our world we do not understand. Often I believe the unforeseen is far more real than what we perceive with our five senses.

Unknown said...

I like it! It's a cute interpretation of the world from a ghost's point of view.

Jax said...

These are great tips! I recently finished a book with a ghost character and I loved the way they did it. Her presence was there and was part of the mystery, but there was no interaction with the living.

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

Wonderful advice as always. I really enjoy ghost stories. Yours is on my list to read. Great excerpt. I've written a couple of stories with ghosts in them. Lots of fun.

Nicola said...

I'd never considered any of that, Chrys. Great tips if I ever venture down that route. I'm a bit of a scaredy cat :)

emaginette said...

I loved the excerpt. :-)

Anna from Elements of Writing

Anonymous said...

Good to know if I ever write about a ghost! It hasn't come up yet, unfortunately!

Chrys Fey said...

Working in a place with a ghost would be interesting.

Chrys Fey said...

:)

Chrys Fey said...

We hear and see you in the blogosphere, Sage. :)

Chrys Fey said...

Thanks!

Chrys Fey said...

And I believe that. Staying in reason is important, but getting creative is a must. :)

Chrys Fey said...

I agree!

Chrys Fey said...

A cute interpretation? I'll take that. :)

Chrys Fey said...

That sounds like a good book.

Chrys Fey said...

Thank you, Beverly! Reading ghost stories never gets old.

Chrys Fey said...

Maybe you can create a super friendly ghost. :)

Chrys Fey said...

Thanks, Anna!

Chrys Fey said...

Maybe one day a ghost character will haunt your mind until you write his/her story. :)

Romance Book Haven said...

Hi Chrys!

Great post on ghosts as always you hit the nail on the head. Thanks for this post.

Chrys Fey said...

Thank you so much!! :D